I really drive a lot! Lets put it into perspective. I live 45km (about 40 minutes) from work. I work about 360km (3.5 hours) from the Johannesburg, a city I travel to frequently for work, Engineers Without Borders meetings and to see friends. I got my car in January, and in less than 5 months I have reached my first service (15 000 km)
This means that I spend quite some time in the car, and most of this time is spent by myself on rural roads, traversing the countryside, meandering along mountain passes and singing along to 5fm (which wafts in and out of signal depending on which mountain I’m behind). This can get quite lonely, and the roads are sometimes very bad, strewn with potholes and basically falling away at the edges. I accept this is part of my job, and even enjoy the peacefulness of it, but the reality is that it can also be quite dangerous.
Why you shouldn’t drive around alone at night:
Two Sundays ago, I was driving back from dinner with friends quite late at night and I somehow hit a crater with my left, front tyre. The tyre burst in two places. Luckily for me, my friends were not comfortable letting me drive home alone and insisted on seeing be back safe, so were in the car behind me when this happened. We managed to change the tyre, but the spare was a mini “mari biscuit” tyre and I was very eager to replace it. Typically, the tyre guys couldn’t find me the right size of tyre (for some reason I had very a very unique size of tyre) in this town or the neighbouring ones (or so he said) and had to order me one.
Note: a full-sized tyre is preferable, but if you ever plan to change a tyre by yourself, a biscuit might be a better idea. If you’ve ever tried lifting a full-sized tyre out of a car, you will know why I say that. Its simply huge! Also, its a good idea to know how to use a jack and where to place it under your car so that the load is balanced. You wont know how to do this until you’ve actually tried, so when you have a free half and hour, I suggest you go outside and practice jacking up your car!
Why you should have standard-sized tyres fitted on your car:
So this meant that I had to drive around for a week with a mari biscuit and no spare up and down the very dodgy, long roads between my house and work until the day I finally went in to get my new tyre fitted. This meant I had to drive extra carefully and was incredibly anxious about picking up yet another flat! I was leaving for Johannesburg that Friday morning, so I made extra sure that the tyre guy knew he had till Thursday to get me the tyre I needed.
Note: the size of your tyre can be found on your actual tyre. It goes something like this: 185 65 R15. The tyre people will ask for this number when you call in to ask if they have a spare. Make a note of this somewhere for your records.
Lo and behold, I pitch up Thursday afternoon at the workshop and I can instantly tell from the terrified look on his face that something was wrong. It turns out that the fool of a salesman had ordered me THE WRONG TYRE! I couldn’t believe it. It was almost 5pm and as far as I knew no town in the surrounding areas had the tyre I needed. After letting the salesman know exactly what I thought of him, I get into my car and take off home, (have a good cry) and call someone I knew who may be able to help.
Note: not everyone is always looking out for your best interests. Even though I may be a mechanical engineer, women are often taken for a ride by mechanics who think they can swindle you because you don’t know any better. It can never hurt to get a second opinion!
We know you’re a strong, independent woman, but sometimes its okay to ask for help…
“Uncle R” first chides me for not calling him first, then tells me to sit tight. 5 minutes later he calls back and tells me to go to a shop in the next town, where a brand new, rightly-sized tyre was waiting for me when I got there.
Note: Often when you have a blow-out or hit something, your car’s alignment will go off. This means that all four wheels wont be positioned right. This can cause worse problems if left unchecked, so get the alignment done as soon as you change the tyre. This costs around R225- R350 and takes about 30 minutes.
So in the end, somehow everything worked out. I do think I should be a bit more careful on the road though. As tough and independent as I’d like to think I am, I have to admit that certain situations are best avoided at all costs, and for others I will need my friends’ help. I don’t need to prove to anyone that I’m Super Woman – getting a flat tyre really put that into perspective for me, so I guess it was a good learning experience. And now I can safely say that I know how to change a tyre!