Last summer I took our minivan – a 2010 Grand Caravan with less than 100,000km on it, for the record – in for an oil change. Money was tight at the time, and so when the mechanic said we needed all new tires it was a major kick in the gut; we just didn’t have a lot of available cash.
So, we asked around, did some comparison shopping, read some customer reviews, and settled on Uniroyal Tiger Paw “Touring” tires, at a cost of $128.99 per. We knew they weren’t top of the line, but top of the line was out of our reach, financially speaking. The minivan doesn’t actually get much wear and tear, since it rarely gets driven during the work week, and we figured they would be perfectly adequate tires for a couple of years while we saved up for something better.
All winter, we didn’t really have any problems. They seemed fine. In retrospect I was putting air in them maybe more than is normal, but it didn’t raise any red flags at the time. I wasn’t crazy about their grip on very icy roads, but since they aren’t winter tires (yes, I know, Canadians should always have winter tires, don’t you judge me) and on those rare occasions when the roads are snow-covered or icy I don’t take a flock of kids out anyway… well, I figured I’d just avoid driving on those days. Plus our little car that Michael commutes in every day does have snow tires, so we had an option if things got bad and there was an errand or emergency that would drive one of us out of the house.
On the May long weekend, I loaded the kids into the van and went to visit my parents. While driving down the Trans-Canada at 100kph, the car started to make a very loud vibration sound. (You know the sound it makes when you hit resurfaced asphalt? That sound.) We were less than 5 kilometres from our destination; I immediately eased off on the accelerator and started The Drivers’ Prayer: please let me get there, let this not be expensive, let that noise magically go away, oh sweet jesus i don’t believe in you but please please please.
BANG! A cloud of black smoke blew out behind us and there was a terrible smell of burnt rubber. Harry immediately launched into full-on panic mode. I remained calm. “We’ve blown a tire, I guess. Let’s pull over.” And we did, and lo, we’d blown a tire, all right. Here’s what it looked like:
The sidewall had completely separated from the outer wall, and then exploded because of the speed we were driving at.
Did I mention this happened at 10:30AM on the Sunday of a long weekend?
My mom came and picked up the kids while I dealt with CAA, tow truck drivers, spare tire doughnuts, and discovering that even though Canadian Tire was open, and their auto parts desk was open, and the telephone IVR said that their auto service centre was open… it wasn’t. Left the van there, walked to a nearby department store to buy diapers and other necessities for the kids (we’d only been planning an afternoon visit, not an overnight.)
In the middle of the night, George spiked a fever. I had no children’s fever medication on hand, of course, because who in hell goes out for the afternoon and packs something like that? (Me, from now on, that’s who.) He didn’t sleep more than an hour at a stretch for the entire restless night, so of course neither did I.
Up early to be back at the Canadian Tire for 8AM, when they’d be opening for the day. Because I’d bought the tires from them at a different location, they honoured the warranty. Even better, they didn’t have any of that type of tire in stock, so they had to replace my Uniroyal with Goodyear. And you can’t have two different tires on the same axle, so I ended up with two brand-new, better-quality front tires for a mere $56 to cover pro-rating on the wear & tear.
(I did, however, have to put up with being patronized mightily by the dick at the service desk. He called me “sweetie” and “sweetheart” over and over again, and why didn’t I just say “hey, I don’t like that, my name is Hannah”? A post for another day.)
I eventually got back on the road, a mere 26 hours after blowing the tire. Turned out that George had pneumonia. OK.
Yesterday was our regular Thursday Chinese-takeout-and-bad-TV date night. The van needed gas, plus it was a gorgeous warm summery evening, so I cheerfully volunteered to go pick up the food. Got the gas, got the food, was heading home, windows down and radio cranked, when I heard an ominous vibrating noise.
Yup! Blew another tire. This time it was rear driver’s side. It didn’t blow right off, presumably because I was only going 60kph. Luckily I was less than 500m from the gas station, so I put on my hazard lights and limped to their parking lot.
Called CAA again. Got a nice fellow to put on the spare tire doughnut again. Watched him as he carefully examined the tire for punctures or holes – there was nothing, but the valve stem dropped right down inside the tire when poked, and air escaped all around the rim. Looks like the sidewall separated completely from the outer wall.
Anyway, I have an appointment tonight after work to take it back to Canadian Tire, where they will probably try to spin some tale about me driving over something sharp because god forbid we should say “hey, this tire is defective”. Then they will try to replace it with the same tire, and I will say “nuh-uh”, because never ever again will I drive on a Uniroyal tire.