I have always suspected that I am rather useless when it comes to car maintenance, a suspicion that was shamefully confirmed this week. Sure, I can drive a car. I can fill my car with petrol, I can just about deal with topping up the screen wash and the oil (although I rarely do it myself…). But when it comes to anything remotely technical, or indeed physical, I’m screwed. Luckily, being part of the Motability scheme means that I don’t generally have to worry about such things, I have several numbers to call with experts on hand to assist with all the mechanical madness. So when my worn out front tyres needed replacing I simply called a friendly Scottish lady who arranged to fly a rather amiable young man in to fit them right there and then on my driveway. The only difficultly I faced was being asked to provide the ‘locking wheel nut’, and, somewhat embarrassingly, to navigate my way around the awkward question, “When did you last check the tyre pressures?” I had no idea what a locking wheel nut was or where it was kept (in a small box in the glove compartment for future reference), or indeed how frequently I should be pumping air into my tyres (once a month, not once every 3 years, apparently).
Now in possession of a car with exceptionally round tyres I was back to pootling around. Unfortunately, however, my pootling was to be short-lived. Within days of having my front tyres replaced one of the rear tyres began to feel left out and decided to go on strike during the morning school run. Unloading kids, coats, bags, bottles and books out of the car I was aghast to see that my rear driver side tyre was flatter than a pancake that has been jumped on, run over and squished, squashed and squooshed to optimum flatness. I figured that it was probably flat before I had made the journey and could therefore manage to drive it home before calling my friend, the Scottish lady.
I’m painfully aware that I am not coming off too good here. What person in their right mind thinks it is safe to drive with a flat tyre?! Thankfully one of my mum-friends was on hand to intervene. Watching her rummage around in the boot of her car I was in actual awe of how well equipped she was to deal with any car / break-down / pancake-flat tyre emergency. She had EVERYTHING. Including an electric tyre pump, which she proceeded to connect to my wheel and force air into my stubborn tyre. This was clearly a real-life puncture situation, but we (she) managed to get enough air into the tyre so that I could safely return home and await rescue from the comfort of my living room.
My rescuers were not quite so efficient this time round, however, and I had to resort to calling on the RAC who, understandably, placed me at low priority. I should add here that I was offered all sorts of help in the meantime, including free taxis and chaperones, but no need, I have my parents for that. Skip ahead several hours and I was again standing on my driveway and being asked to provide the locking wheel nut. I smugly handed it over like the expert I had become. The next question wasn’t so easy, however, and my smugness wasn’t to last. “Do you have a spare tyre?” Such a simple and innocent question and yet I couldn’t answer it. The tyre-man immediately set about demolishing my boot and all the contents within until he triumphantly emerged holding a spanking new spare tyre, which he fitted ready for me to take along to my nearest Kwik-Fit garage at my convenience.
I feel like all of this could have been avoided if only I was better educated in car maintenance. I now harbour an ambition to become a mechanic; I have a tyre pump on order and am looking into courses. How hard can it be?