Tire change on the Interstate
OK, so this is a little different than the typical tire change on the road. Driving down I-40 from Henry Horton State Park to our destination in Crossville TN started out as any normal day. I checked all of the tire pressures before we left. I don’t have a TPMS system yet, but it is on the list. However a TPMS system wouldn’t have helped on this one because my tire stayed fully inflated the entire time. As we were cruising along at 57MPH we just passed the exit 258 off ramp when I felt the RV shift behind me. It felt like we hit a rough spot in the road or went over a speed bump. I looked in the mirror and noticed my house was tilting to the right. I always monitor the rear view mirror and look at the level between the top of the tailgate and the door to the front basement storage. I use this as a give away since I noticed it the day we broke a leaf spring going down the road. That’s another post I have yet to write.
I immediately pulled over, still on the overpass from the exit, got completely off the road. This part of road thankfully has large shoulders that allowed my truck and trailer to safely get off the road. Lauren asked why we pulled over and I told her “the house is sitting crooked like before.” She thought we broke another leaf spring and went to check. She came back and told me we had a flat tire. I thought it was a blow out because the RV shifted so quickly. She went and looked again and said we LOST A TIRE. Now I am thinking we blew a tire and it peeled off the rim. I got out and looked, and none of my thoughts were correct. The flat tire she saw was the rear trailer tire that was squashed because it had the load of the entire right side on it. The front trailer tire and wheel were completely gone. I looked and ALL 8 lugs had broken off at the drum.
Backtracking, a month ago on moving day I had a flat tire on the right front tire. Jacked it up and put on the spare and torqued all nuts to 100ft/lbs. On the road with only a 30 minute delay. Re-torqued all lug nuts when we got to the next park. 2 parks later sitting outside I noticed that 1 of the 8 lugs on that same tire had broken off. No problem, I will fix it soon. 7 lugs will be fine until I can get it fixed. I still feel that 7 lugs would be adequate for traveling, but now I don’t have that option.
Now I am on the side of the road with the entire wheel and tire assembly GONE! I called Katie, she and Chloe were behind us because we still have the car and they pulled for a glass of tea and a bathroom break. I told them where we were and I was walking back to look for the tire and hubcap. I walked about ¼ mile back and didn’t see it. I started heading back to the truck and as I was going over the overpass I looked down at the road below, and there was my wheel/tire in the ditch below.
There was a local Police Officer sitting on the side of the road there too. I hiked down the side of the on-ramp to my wheel and picked it up. The officer looked at me and got out of the car as I started to walk by with my tire. He asked if I had AAA. No I don’t. He said he had been dispatched because someone reported a tire coming over the overpass to the road down below. He said he called the local AAA and told them he had a tire/wheel on the side of the road here in case they got a call. He couldn’t help me haul the tire up because he would have to go down to the next exit to turn around where I am and can’t go up the on ramp and back up to my broken down rig. I told him I was going to look at what I had going on, now that I had my tire back, and asked if there was an Oreilley’s near. He pointed me in the right direction to the O’reilleys 6 miles up the road, and if they didn’t have what I needed, there is an Auto Zone and Advance Auto parts a little further up. No problem, I put the tire on my shoulder and trekked up the hill to my rig. By now Katie and Chloe had caught up to us, as well as our friends we have been traveling with the last couple of parks, Chris and Heather Gebbia. They went on to the next off ramp to get out of the road and wait in case we needed any help. I assessed the damage to my rig to find that only the lugs were broken. The tire came off and didn’t destroy the skirting or fender flaps. I managed to pull over quick enough that I only drove on the brake drum for a few hundred feet so it and the axle were still completely in tact. Luckily this all happened on the door side of the RV so I am not sitting in the middle of the interstate while I work. However the controls for the leveling system are on the road side. I went between the truck and RV and peeked out for a clearing and had to open the side basement door to get to the controls. Let me just say that I absolutely love the 6 point hydraulic leveling system. We were not looking for it on our rig when we started shopping. It just happened to be on this rig and we love it. I lowered all 6 jacks, leveled it out a bit and lifted the rear of the RV up to get the right side tires off the ground enough for me to get to work.
Removing the brake drum was pretty easy, as the center cap came off with the wheel, and I didn’t recover that. I just had to take out the cotter pin, loosen the nut that holds it on, and off came the drum. That’s the EASY part.
I had Katie drive me to O’reilleys and the parts guy and I started to work. I have to say that the staff at the O’reilleys in Gordonville TN are top notch. They went far above and beyond what they had to do to help my family out and get us on the road as a VERY satisfied customer. Since it is a trailer, there are no specs as if it was from a specific model car or truck. Anyone that has done any work on their RV has found out that there is absolutely no standard anywhere in the industry and no parts list available. I got a mallet from him, and all we could find was a 3/8in extension to pound out the lugs. I got one out, and was struggling to pound out the rest. One of the customers, who reminded me of our son back in TX gave it a try and got 1 more out. We were destroying the extension, when the girl that worked there found a center punch, and he and I were able to get the rest of the lugs out. Took about 20 minutes of pounding with a 3lb mallet, wore my arms out. Unfortunately every lug broke off even at the drum, and there was not any threads showing, so finding a match was becoming impossible. I had Katie drive me back to the RV so I could get a lug nut off of the other wheel. Once back at the store, Damien, the sales clerk went to work finding a lug that would fit. All in all he went through about 10 trying to find one with the right length of threads, diameter, and would fit inside my drum. Got it finally. He helped me to install them by wrenching them in with a ratchet while I held the drum still on the counter. We got them all in finally. Now I needed to shop for other supplies. I got 2 sizes of cotter keys, just to be safe. I got a tub of axle bearing grease, and Damien got me 8 new lug nuts. $45 dollars in parts and we were headed back to the RV.
I greased up the bearing good, installed the drum, re-greased the bearing again and installed the nut and cotter key. Now since I didn’t find the dust cap or hub cap that came off with the tire, I had to remove the rear wheel and “borrow” the chrome hub cap from it to protect the bearing. I got the rear wheel back on and ready to go. Now at this point I thought I would put back on the original wheel/tire that went flat a month ago. I’ve had it plugged and have been carrying it in the bed of the truck. I put it on and found it to be under inflated when we came down off jacks. Jacked it back up again, put the spare back on and tightened all good. Lowered the RV back off jacks and continued tightening all 8 lug nuts and finished pulling the new lugs into the brake drum completely. Got my torque wrench and torqued all 16 lug nuts and in only 3½ hours and $45 in parts and $0 in labor and we were back on the road headed to our next destination.
Luckily we had this one planned as a short drive day so with getting out of the park around noon, and our delay, we still arrived around 6:30PM. It was dark, but we got set up good all the same.