Friday, February 23, 2018

Bad news / good news

There always seems to be a silver lining.

Wednesday evening, after work, I attended a CERT Class on the new Code Blue initiative in New Jersey that calls for opening "Warming Centers" for the homeless when weather conditions dictate the need. After class I went to the parking lot, got in my car, started it up and I noticed the little tire warning light came on. This happens from time to time when one of my tires loses pressure - it lets me know I have to add air to get the pressure back up.

This was not that.  This time as I put the car in gear and started to pull away from my parking spot, I heard that distinctive "whump, whump, whump" sound that immediately sent the message to my brain - flat tire!

I pulled to the front of the County Fire Academy building, pulled into an empty slot and got out. Sure enough, the rear driver side tire was flat.  This was no leak, this was a full out breach!  The magical air had fled the friendly confines of the tire.

I got out the jack from the back and after a few minutes, figured out how to get it apart and working. The lug wrench part of the jack doubled as the crank for the scissor jack.  Of course there were no instructions, other than a few vague pictures, and since I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, it took me a while to realize that I had to crank the jack a few turns with my fingers in order to let the handle loosen up so that I could pull it away from the jack body and use it.

A fireman who was there taking a course helped me by making sure the jack was positioned correctly under the part of the car that is reinforced to handle being lifted. Soon he had to go inside, so I was on my own.  This is not the first time that I've been to this rodeo. I've changed my share of flats before, but believe it or not, this was the first time I've ever had to do it at night. For whatever reason (I guess that it's harder to see what you're doing when it's dark) that increases the difficulty factor X10.

Got the flat off, and as I'm sitting on the ground, putting the donut (el cheap-o spare tire that they give you) on, it starts to rain.  No, make that, it starts to pour.  So by the time I got finished, I was soaked. My glasses were wet from the rain and the humidity and I had nothing dry to wipe them on. All my clothes, my jacket, everything was water logged. I wiped them off with my fingers the best I could and made it home, slowly and safely.

Yesterday morning, after I dropped the kids off at the school bus stop, I headed to my local Goodyear Tire Center, which is about 2 miles down the road. I explained what happened and the Service Manager said he needed to go out to check the tire size. When he came back in he said, "I have good news and bad news. You need four new tires, not one. They're all worn to the point where you need new tires. I don't have them in stock, but I can get them here for 2:00 PM, so we can get this done for you today". What are you going to do? The car needs maintenance to keep it running, so I agreed. I knew that this was probably going to be the case in advance, as the tires are 4 years old and have over 50,000 miles on them.

I had planned to take only the morning off; but ended up burning a vacation day, as it didn't make any sense to go into work for only an hour or two. The good news in all of this was that while I kept myself occupied at home with various chores while I waited for the tires to arrive, I also got the opportunity to set up the KX3 on the dining room table, alongside the magloop.

And, on the first try, I was able to snare John Laney K4BAI who was signing as PJ4/K4BAI on 20 Meters. John must have been down on Bonaire for the ARRL DX Contest. It still amazes me that my 5 Watts from my dining room table was able to traverse all the way to just about South America using an indoor compromise antenna not 3 feet away from me! And if it works for me - then there's no reason on Earth that a magloop can't be a viable solution to those who have to live under situations where antennas are not allowed or are severely discouraged.

That definitely made the day much. much better! Even later, as I was forking over the $$$ for the tires, that DX QSO brightened the whole day.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


  1. Ah! Flat tyres always happen at inopportune moments. My last one was when I had a private aircraft hire booked and I was within five minutes of needing to be at the airport! At some later point, I even had a flat tyre on the nosewheel of the aircraft on landing. Keeping in 'tyre changing' practice is a good idea, because it is so rare and we forget where the tools are in the car - or whether they are in the car at all!

  2. ...and I agree with the sentiment that magloops are worth using.

    Have a look at this, if anyone is in any doubt:

  3. Good morning Larry, I have a flat tire story for you......I drive an IQ which is Toyota version of a smart car. I too had a tire light come and heard the same noise as you did BUT I found no jack or lug wrench!! It was not that it was missing there was not suppose to be one or no spare tire either! There was a medium size can of what called goop and it was to go into the tire but it gets better. There was a small 12 volt tire pump there as well that the can of goop somehow had to be hooked up too. I got the instructions out no words just pictures and every other picture showed two ways to do things, one way was the proper way the other way showed something exploding!! I finally got it all ready to go after checking and double checking as my end result I wanted not a boom but a filled tire. It did work and go me to the garage but as with you Larry it was pouring rain and dark as well.
    So about the Magloop antenna I have been using one here for years in my condo in Toronto and I have been amazed that with 5 watts I have been able to make contacts all over the world. Sure I'm not the first guy the DX hears or for that matter I may just have to move on until a pileup slows down but I have not been disappointed with the Magloop it does the trick for me.
    Sorry for the long winded comment.

  4. Anonymous11:54 AM

    Larry - get yourself a full size lug wrench ( make sure it fits your car ) and a decent headlamp to keep in the car this way you can work hands free at night - you should probably have one of those as part of your CERT / portable amateur kit anyway! - DE N2DV

  5. John, The lug wrench actually worked well, once I figured it out how to detach it from the jack. That was not the problem. The headlamp is a great idea - never thought of that. I did use the tactical flashlight from my CERT backpack, but it would worked best if I had three hands. W2LJ