I miss the days when every gas station had a machine where you could pump up your tires for free. Not only free but where 99 times out of 100 the station had an air pump that actually worked. It’s an odd thing to wax nostalgic about I know, but a recent series of issues with my tires put me in that frame of mind.
It started with an oil change at one of those quick drive-thru places. The attendant asked if I’d open my driver door so he could see how many pounds of air should be in my tires. “Thirty pounds” I distinctly heard him say as he read the label. A few minutes later the familiar hiss of the air compressor sounded from the back of my car. My attention shifted to the game of solitaire I played on my phone while the attendant serviced my car. Once all the fluids were checked and changed and the bill paid, I made my way straight home.
Imagine my surprise the next day when I took my car out to go to a hair appointment and the dashboard indicator warned me that one or more of my tires were low on air. Pressing a few buttons to get a quick check of the readings revealed each tire contained only about twenty pounds. I got lucky. The first gas station I came to had a working air pump, no one in line, and didn’t cost anything to use. Since I didn’t have to pull out the portable compressor I keep in my trunk, I managed to fill all of my tires and get to my appointment just a few minutes late.
Two weeks later, on my way in to work, I got another message on my dashboard saying my left front tire was low. I had an appointment after work so I left a few minutes early intending to use my portable compressor to fill up the tire before I took off. I got the compressor from the trunk and sat in the driver seat pulling the cord out to connect it to the power outlet. Somehow, in the process I lost the inside of the plug making my compressor useless.
After a brief search for… for… well for something I had absolutely no clue about, I decided to try the gas station just a few blocks from my building. Did they have a pump? Oh yes. Did it work? No. In fact, it had so much yellow tape tied around it I wondered what heinous crime took place within the confines of a two foot wide by four feet high canister.
I decided to go ahead to the appointment and if I had time, I’d try the gas station near my destination. Traffic proved light so I did have time. I pulled my car up to the air pump. This one had no yellow tape wrapped around it, which looked promising. Then I saw it cost 75 cents to use. I had no quarters and no time to deal with trying to get change from the attendant, so I went on to my appointment.
When finished I started looking again for the errant innards of the compressor plug. I found a silver cap and a round plastic thing that looked like it should hold the silver cap in place. However, that still left a big hollow in the plug. After a little more searching, I found a fuse. Ah! Now I figured out how it went together. I quickly assembled things and, with some hesitation that I might short circuit my whole car, I plugged it into the power outlet. No sparks. No short circuit presented itself. Taking the compressor to the tire, I quickly filled it up to the required amount.
Now paranoid about my tires, I routinely checked the pressure indicators via the dashboard buttons. It kept showing the left front tire as low. I took out the pressure gauge that I keep in my glove compartment and checked the tire manually. The gauge indicated the tire held the required thirty pounds of pressure. Concluding that the dashboard gauge had an issue, I continued driving unconcerned until a few days later when I got a more severe message showing my tire as critically low. Working a hunch, I checked all my tires manually and found my right rear tire to be the culprit and not the left front as my dashboard had been telling me. I filled the offending tire up and eventually had it serviced for a slow leak.
As you may guess from the fact that I keep a portable compressor in my car, this is not the first go around I’ve had with tire issues and faulty air pumps at gas stations. It likely won’t be the last time either. So, I’ll stay wary of what my electronic indicators tell me, check my tires after oil changes, keep my pressure gauge in the glove box, and like an asthmatic keeps an inhaler nearby, I’ll store the compressor in my trunk for the next time my tires are ‘short of breath.’