Why It Took Me 6 Days to Change a Tire

Hey, at least I finally got it done.

Yes, it took me six days to change the tire on my cargo trailer. But before I explain, let me give you a little backstory. (Regular readers of this blog should expect that of me.)

About the Trailer

I own two cargo trailers.

One of them is a little 4×8 trailer I bought to haul my bees around in the summer months. Lately, while my truck is in California, I’ve been using it to haul pavers and mulch and anything I don’t feel like shoving into the back of my Jeep. It’s a nice little trailer, but isn’t really suitable for hauling anything that weighs more than 600-800 pounds.

Cargo Trailer
This cargo trailer really came in handy when I moved from Arizona to Washington state and needed to haul an extremely heavy helicopter landing platform and 600cc Yamaha Grizzly ATV.

The other one is a big 8 x12 trailer I bought back in Arizona in 2000 to haul furniture and other things related to the rental properties I used to own. It has a wood plank bottom, low metal rails, and a drop down ramp. In the past, I’ve used it to haul just about anything that wouldn’t easily fit into the back of a pickup.

I should mention — only as an amusing point of interest — that this is also the trailer that got swept downstream in a flood when I lived in Arizona. A dry wash ran through my property there and, for most of the year it was completely dry. I used to park this trailer in it. Bad idea. This trailer was washed a full mile downstream one day. I needed my neighbor’s backhoe to pull it out of the sand. (I just spent 30 minutes looking for the buried trailer photo I know I have somewhere and came up empty. Ugh.) Years later, before I moved to Washington, I replaced the tires, had the bearings repacked, and repaired the ramp, which was damaged in the flood. The trailer looks beat to hell but it’s actually still very sturdy and useable.

Parked Trailer
Here’s the trailer right after I offloaded it and parked it on the west side of my home.

When I got to Washington and my building was completed, I off-loaded the helicopter platform that had been on the big trailer for about two years and parked the empty trailer on the west side of my building, out of sight. Somewhere along the way, it got a flat tire, which isn’t too surprising given the number of construction nails that were still scattered around. But I didn’t need the trailer for anything, so I just put the repair on my list of things to do and promptly forgot about it.

Over the winter, I decided to store some extra irrigation hose and wooden pallets on the trailer — again, to get them out of sight. So I moved everything onto it and secured a big, white tarp over the top. It was ugly from the road, but I didn’t care too much. Winter was coming and I was leaving town anyway.

When I got home from my winter travels and the snow melted and the land started getting lush and green and beautiful, I decided I didn’t want to see the ugly trailer and its ugly white tarp parked next to my home, even from the road. I’d been storing my little trailer on the far east end of my property, near my bee yard. I can see it from my home, but it isn’t in my face. I figured I’d move the big trailer out there with it.

But first I needed to get that flat tire fixed.

Removing the Flat

On Thursday, I figured it was time.

I started by pulling off the tarp and offloading the nice, dry pallets I’d stored beneath it. The extra irrigation hose was light and could stay, at least for now.

Then I used my ATV, which has a hitch on the front end (for pulling the helicopter platform) to pull the trailer out of its spot beside my building and into the driveway in front of the last two garage doors. (One garage houses my absentee truck and the other houses my boat, which isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.) It was a tough tow, mostly because of the way the land has been sculpted there by my earth moving guy, Jeff. There’s a bit of a dip that the very flat tire had to “roll” through. But the ATV, in 4WD, managed it.

I took the trailer off the ATV hitch and put it on its support wheel. Then I used the jack from my Jeep to jack up the trailer where the bum wheel was. I didn’t lift it much — I knew enough about changing tires to know that you loosen the lug nuts while the tire can’t spin.

I grabbed the lug wrench from the Jeep and attempted to fit it over one of the bum tire’s lug nuts.

And that’s when I hit my first (of many) hurdle: the lug wrench wouldn’t fit. It was too small.

I didn’t even bother trying the one for my Honda. Instead, I pulled out my socket wrench set and tried the largest one I had: 3/4 inch. That didn’t fit either.

I hopped on my ATV and drove the half mile to my neighbor’s house at the winery. They were in the middle of building a new tasting room and I knew they had tools. After a nice chat with Kathy, I headed back with three different sizes of sockets, from 13/16 through 1-1/4. 13/16 was the right size, but the socket attachment was 1/2 inch and the largest wrench I had was 3/8 attachment.

At this point, I figured I may as well buy my own socket for the tire as well as the attachment I needed to use it with my impact driver and/or drill. So I headed down into town with the little cargo trailer behind me. I bought the tools I needed at the local Ace hardware store, then went to Costco to buy eight bags of potting soil for my garden. One thing I’ve learned living 10 miles from town is that when you need to go into to town for one thing, you should take care of a bunch of errands at the same time.

When I got back, I set up the new socket with my impact driver and went to work on the lug nuts.

They wouldn’t budge. None of them.

I tried my drill, which I thought might have more torque. Same result.

I sprayed some lubricant on them. The only thing I had was silicone. No joy.

By that time, it was getting late and chilly and I decided to call it quits for the day. I left the trailer and jack right where they were.

On Friday morning, I did some work on another project while I was smoking a rack of ribs on my Traeger. At lunchtime, I packed up the ribs and drove to my friend Bob’s house with that little trailer in tow. He was going to help me with a trailer wiring issue on my Jeep. We finished the ribs with sauce on his grill, ate them with some broccoli slaw I brought from Safeway, and took care of the Jeep wiring issue (which still isn’t quite right). Then he handed me a socket wrench with a 13/16 socket, a long handle, and a bar that fit over the handle.

I let him keep the leftover ribs and took his socket wrench home with me.

I gave the socket wrench/handle combination a try and it worked like a charm. It’s all about leverage. I loosened all the nuts, jacked up the tire a bit more, and removed the nuts with my impact driver/socket combination. Then I loaded the tire onto my little cargo trailer.

Fixing the Flat

On Saturday morning, I headed back into town with that little cargo trailer. I dropped off the tire at Discount Tire, then went to Lowes and bought 30 pavers and 30 edgers for another project. When I went back to Discount Tire, it wasn’t ready so I went home and got to work on other things.

Discount tire called later in the day to report that the tire was too far gone and would have to be replaced. Although the tire had been new when it had left Arizona in September 2013, it had spent more than a year sitting flat at the side of my building. What the hell did I expect? I told them to replace the tire and that I’d come get it on Monday.

The trailer sat there all Saturday and Sunday, jacked up on one side with my Jeep jack. I was glad I hadn’t parked it someplace where it would be in the way.

On Monday, I went down to town to fetch the tire. I left the little trailer behind; it still had pavers on it. I had the back seat out of the Jeep, so there was room there for it. They charged me $42 for the new tire, which I thought was quite a deal. Until the guy went to carry the tire out — it wasn’t my tire. It was a tiny tire, like one for my little trailer.

That led to confusion and a search. They asked me what size my tire was and, amazingly, I knew. They found one that matched, said it had been patched and not replaced, and gave me a refund for the $42 I’d paid for the wrong tire. Then they put it in a big plastic bag and loaded it into the back of my Jeep.

I drove to the local garden shop and bought eight lilac bushes that barely fit in back of the Jeep with the tire and drove home.

I did a bunch of stuff, then got around to putting the tire on. It was heavy. I rolled it over to the trailer, got the trailer jacked up a little more, and put the tire in place. Or I tried to. No matter how I positioned the jack, I couldn’t get the lugs lined up with the tire. I worked on it for at least 20 minutes, struggling with the weight of the damn thing.

The Correct Tire
I took a picture of the matching tire in case I had to show it to the guys at Discount Tire.

And that’s when I got the bright idea to look at the other tire.

And that’s when I realized that the wheels didn’t match.

Discount Tire had given me someone else’s trailer tire.

Fixing the Right Flat

I called them up and reported the problem. More confusion. They had to investigate. I gave them the make, model, and tire size of the right tire — I’d bought the two tires at the same time so they were a matched pair. They said they’d call back and they did about 20 minutes later. They’d found my tire, which had not been fixed. Again, I authorized the replacement and I told them I’d be back the next day.

On Tuesday, I went down into town with my little trailer and the mystery tire. I bought another 30 pavers and six bags of mulch at Lowes. Then I made the tire swap. I made them show me the tire before I settled up with them — it was the right one. This one, however, cost me $90. When I complained gently about it taking me three trips, they gave me a $30 off coupon for my next tire purchase. (Since all of my vehicles currently have new tires, I’ll likely never use it.)

Putting on the New Tire

I got home, parked the little trailer, and set about putting on the new tire. It’s amazing how easy the job is when you’ve got the wheel that lines up with the lugs. (Duh.)

I used my impact driver/socket setup to tighten up the lug nuts, then gave them an extra bit of tightening with Bob’s socket wrench. Then I lowered the jack and moved it out of the way.

I hooked up the big trailer to the Jeep and rolled it out my driveway and down the road. My bee yard is very close to the road down there. I found a spot clear of sagebrush and backed it into position. Then I disconnected it, lowered the front end to level it, and locked the hitch.

It only took six days to get the job done.

2 thoughts on “Why It Took Me 6 Days to Change a Tire

  1. “Give me lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world” (Archimedes, 287-212 BC)
    I carry a three foot length of scaffold tube to fit over my torque wrench and that will tackle most of those ‘garage over-torqued’ problems. If it is tighter than that, the stud will shear.
    That long trailer of yours is an unusual configuration. Why are the wheels set so far back? Must create a big down- load on the hitch. My car would be driving extremely nose-high with that on the back…

    • I need to get a pipe to use with my socket wrench set. Seems like a no-brainer.

      The trailer might be unusual because it was homemade by an old guy who built trailers on the cheap. Who knows what he was thinking? My truck can handle any tongue weight — it has air bags in the back to lift the tail up if necessary and plenty of towing capacity. My Jeep, not so much. I use the vehicle appropriate for the load.

      In all honesty, I don’t use the big trailer much at all. I almost sold it last year — the flat tire is what delayed me long enough to lose the buyer. I like having it and it’s cheap to keep. And I have plenty of room to store it. That’s one of the problems with having so much land and storage space: you tend to keep things you don’t really need just in case you might need them one day.

What do you think?