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Monday, November 07, 2005

Belt scare

My 1996 Toyota Tercel is nearing the end of its reasonable life expectancy. It's got over 247,000 miles on it and things are starting to wear out. I had to replace the battery last year and the exhaust system last week. I'm hoping to get through the winter without having to replace two other wear items: the tires and the brakes. (Neither item is something you should skimp on, really.)

Yesterday my cousin and her mother and my friend Darren and I went out to our church's Fall Festival. After exhausting everything that had to offer in about 15 minutes we saddled up our cars and headed out to the Penn State Lehman Campus for an arts & crafts show. (My cousin was disappointed with the show, but there were plenty of college girls there so at least Darren and I were entertained.) We took two cars so that if my cousin and her mom decided to, say, spend three hours shopping for shoes, Darren and I wouldn't necessarily have to tag along.

My car was one of the two that we took and I proudly pointed out the features of my new exhaust system (quieter ride, less poisonous gas exhausting directly into the cabin.) It was an unseasonably warm day for the most part, but as we pulled into a pizza place to grab a light dinner the wind began to whip up. (This was the leading edge of a storm system that had caused death and destruction in the Midwest some 12 hours earlier.) Leaves and debris flew through the air and pelted my car. And then, from the front passenger's-side wheel well, came a thwap-thwap-thwap noise.

Must be a stick, I thought, or maybe some leaves. Maybe a couple of acorns are caught in there. I didn't bother to check when I parked at the pizza place and we got out of the car - we were all pretty hungry and wanted to get inside.

After dinner the wind had gotten even stronger. I decided to head home and stop back at the Fall Festival to see who had won the Get Well Soon basket, and Darren decided to continue on with my cousin and her mom. He still had some stuff in my car and we were parked on the other side of the building from my cousin's car, so we both went to my car so I could give him a ride.

And it started again. Thwap, thwap, thwap.

I pulled into an empty space near my cousin's car. Darren and I both got out to check the wheel well.

"This looks like it's stuck in your tire," he said, pointing to a bit of wire about four inches long.

Oh no, I thought, I've broken a belt. My friends had always warned me about this danger ever since I got new tires a while back and was complaining about the constant rumble. I was worried maybe I had damaged my brand-new tires on one of Northeastern Pennsylvania's many, many potholes. Break one of the radial belts on your tires and you'll wind up with a big weak bubble just waiting to pop. If you suspect you've broken a belt, don't run your hand along the tire to find it. The metal is sharp-edged and will cut you.

I tugged on the piece of wire, expecting resistance that would indicate that this wire was actually part of my tire and yes, I had seriously damaged my tire on the one day when I would not be able to get new tires anyplace. Instead, the wire popped out easily. It was just stuck into the surface.

The wire looked mangled and tar-covered. It might have been a belt, but I don't think it was one of mine.

I checked the tire for any signs of damage or bubble formation but I haven't seen anything. So I think I'm good.

For now.

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