I barely felt it when the tire blew, but the sound was so much like a gunshot that I checked the windows to see if any had been shattered, then I checked the rearview mirror to see if I'd run over something. Everything seemed fine and the car kept on tracking normally until a few brief seconds later. I actually heard the telltale wobble before I felt it. Fortunately, I was still close enough to home that I could turn around and limp back here on the rubber-covered rim. I was not about to stop like a sitting duck on that narrow, two-lane, curvy, high-speed road.
My son-in-law stopped by on his way home from work and changed the tire for me, bless his heart. He's a good, kind man and always seems willing to help, but I'll bet he secretly wishes I'd at least try to find a healthy old man of my own to take care of jobs like this one.
The tire that blew out was only three days short of being five years old. I dug out the receipt when I got home and saw that I'd purchased this set of tires on June 22, 2009, a month before my retirement. (I re-tired right before I retired; go ahead and groan.) Before and after odometer readings tell me I've driven only 9,075 miles in all that time--about 35 miles a week. Whoo-eee, what a world traveler!
Did you know that tires dry rot? They do; Google it. The rubber rots faster in hot climates (say, here in Southeast Louisiana), and tires on cars that are not driven much rot faster than those with higher mileage. Go figure. The thick tread on my tires makes them look almost brand-new, but, according to what I've been reading, the inside layers are most likely crumbling. I suppose the spare tire that was put on yesterday is in similarly poor condition.
Spare tire marked "temporary use only."
I guarantee it'll be temporary.
Anyway, based on tire knowledge acquired yesterday, I think it's probably wise to go ahead and spring for a whole new set. Years ago I was driving when a front tire blew out and I had the dickens of a time controlling the car. That was an experience I'd choose not to repeat.
The rotting-rubber information also makes me wonder about belts and hoses that could be deteriorating deeper into the danger zone with each mile I drive--or each hour that the car sits in the carport. Have you ever opened a drawer and found rubber bands that have been in there for years? Hard, broken short pieces and longer pieces stuck firmly to other objects in the drawer? I presume automobile belts and hoses are made of sturdier rubber than that, but how do rubber years compare to human years? I wouldn't feel safe knowing my engine is being held together by parts in the same life stage as I am.
I was going to take the car in today for new tires and an overall rubber inspection, but my experience with young mechanics tells me they'll be rushing through their work today to make sure they don't have to work late on a Friday afternoon. Jobs that are rushed aren't always done well. My preferred tire company is closed on weekends, so Monday is the next earliest day I could go, but everybody knows not to get mechanical work done on Mondays when, according to urban legend, workers are nursing hangovers and couldn't give two s**ts about the quality of their work.
Tuesday. I'll do it Tuesday.