A little while ago, while driving to work on a dark, freezing cold, Tasmanian morning, I experienced a little car trouble. As I drove I noticed that the car was not handling as it normally did and it felt a little unresponsive. I suspected that my steering fluid might be a little low and I made a mental note to check this once I reached the next town. A couple of minutes later, still driving on the dark country road, I began to hear a terrible banging noise coming from the engine area.
“What the heck is that” I said to myself and a second later I realised what had occurred. My front tire had blown and I needed to pull over. I groaned to myself as I pulled as far to the side of the road as I could and hit my Emergency Light indicator.
I reached into my Get Home Bag and pulled out my little flashlight, before exiting the car and walking around to the side that was giving me the trouble. Turning the flashlight on, I was greeted with a feeble amount of illumination. I sighed to myself as I realised the batteries were about to expire. Awesome start to the day. Once more reaching into my bag, I extracted the spare set of batteries (expired in 2014) and a glow stick incase the batteries didn’t work. A quick battery change later and I was ready to go… happy to find that there was charge in the batteries, enough for me to get to work on the tire. I put my hand on the tire and recoiled quickly, burning my hand on some metal sticking out from the inside. I did note that the tires were badly worn on the inside edge, which was a bad sign of incorrect wheel alignment. Despite this, I was a little relieved to realise the trouble was something I can handle… I can change a tire without much trouble, and I should be back on the road to work soon. It was good to know that it wasn’t engine trouble, or something like that (my car is a little over the Service date so that is a risk… I will take it in as soon as I can).
Again, I reached into my bag and pulled out a rain poncho, which I lay on the ground so that I could change the tire without ruining my work clothes. What would I do without all these items? After that I set to work, installing the new spare tire (never used it before) and threw the old one in the tire well. Before I got back into the car I checked the other front tire and I could see (and feel) that it too was badly worn on the inside… yet not as bad as the other one that blew. I would have to get it sorted out as soon as possible.
During my lunch time, I went to the local Beaurepaires (where I usually go to get my tires) and I asked about getting one tire to replace the other worn front tire. This turned out to be an adventure in itself.
Upon arriving at the Hobart Beaurepaires , one of the men at the front office started to work out the price of a single tire. While discussing this another person, who claimed to be the manager, came and said I needed to get two or four tires, as it was unsafe to get one.
“I totally understand,” I said, “yet I have put on a new spare, and I need a new one to match it. I would love to buy more, but I can’t afford it.”
He proceeded to draw a diagram showing why it was important to match the two front tires. He went on to explain that the two front tires were important, and I would need to replace both.
“I understood this, yet I only need one new tyre as I have a new one on the other side already” I replied.
Confusingly, he then told me that he couldn’t sell me three tires (two for the front, and one for the back), as the back two wouldn’t match. I don’t think he was listening to anything I told him.
“I understand, but I can’t afford four tires, and I only want one.” I responded. This was beginning to get tedious.
At this point he said it was illegal for him to sell me one. I laughed (as I realised that this could not possibly be true… how could someone replace a tyre with a spare if this was true).
“I understand it might be not the best decision, but it is certainly not illegal.” As you may recall, I have had experiences in the past (such as my Solar Panels) where ill-informed people claim something is illegal to push someone into a bad decision. I am not about to fall for this trick.
He said he would give me the tire for free if it wasn’t illegal and invited me to walk down to RACT (an local insurance company) to confirm it (I have since checked it with employees of Transport Tasmanian, members of RACT, and I have read the legislation myself. It isn’t illegal to have two different tyres on the car if they are of the same type – e.g. you can’t have a solid fill and a pneumatic). I realised now that this guy was lying and trying to trick me into buying more tires.
“Thanks, I will think about it”, I said before proceeding to walk out of the shop.
He then called me back and went on to tell me that he could sell me two tires, but I would need a wheel balance too. I thanked him for his advice and said that I would consider it before I turned to leave again. He once more called me back and said he is happy for me to go elsewhere, but they will tell me the same thing, that I would need more tires.
“ I would love to buy more tires, yet I can only afford one.” I told him. He said he could sell me one, but I would have to install it myself. That was what I needed so I turned back to the counter.
“Ok, how much would that cost?” I asked, reaching for my wallet. He then said I would have to bring the car in, and he would need to see what I needed, so he could match it up as well as check the other tyres. I told him the type of tyre I needed, and he said he couldn’t just sell it to me and had to match it, as it was against the law to drive on different tyre models (it isn’t, as I mentioned, I have checked). This guy was just wasting my time and I now knew that I don’t want to take the car to him, I don’t trust him and I suspect he will screw me over if I take it to him. I thanked him for his time and said I would think about it. He then said that he strongly suggests I get 4 tires.
“As I said, I would if I could afford it, but I only have enough money for one. So what can I do?” He told me that I could start catching a bus. This last comment was very insulting, yet rather than say anything, I thanked him for his time and left.
I have since complained to the Beaurepaires company, yet have not received a response. I wasn’t too fazed by his behaviour. I immediately sensed he was crooked as soon as he started his spiel, yet I needed tires and I used to always take them to Beaurepaires. I do worry about how someone less confident in legislation, or more easily manipulated, would handle this. I could see many elderly people being pressured into buying tires when they did not yet need them.
In addition, and an interesting addendum. When I went into my mechanic to have the tires fitted (Autotechnic is always good to me), he told me that the tires were damaged as they were not balanced when installed. This was a surprise (yet I guess it shouldn’t have been, considering the experience I had at Beaurepaires), as I had requested, an paid for them, to be balanced when I bought them from Beaurepaires.
I hope this will serve as a reminder to people who read this… don’t accept someone’s statement that something is the law. Always check. Also, make sure you have spare batteries in your get home bag.