Living in Society

Blow Out on the Tollway

Illinois Tollway H.E.L.P. trucks.

20 miles east of DeKalb the right rear tire blew out and ruined it. There was a two-inch gash, most likely from hitting something laying on the Illinois Tollway. After the noise, we got off to the shoulder quickly and safely.

When I got out of the car an Illinois Tollway H.E.L.P. truck was already parked behind me with his flashers going. The driver waved me away when I approached the truck, pointing to my car. I got to work cleaning stuff out of the back so I could access the spare tire and tools. The driver said he had a jack and offered it. It was the kind one finds in an auto repair shop and just what was needed. Luckily the spare had enough air pressure to make it to the DeKalb oasis where I fully inflated it.

We made it home safely and Thursday I began calling around for a tire. Ours is a common size and I found one easily. There is a catch. The 2002 Subaru is an all-wheel drive vehicle and to a tire person that means just one shouldn’t be replaced, but all four.

I asked a large tire shop salesperson why all four needed replacement and he said only, “because it is all-wheel drive.” An unsatisfying answer to the former maintenance director of a fleet of thousands of heavy-duty vehicles. He quoted me on a set of Hankook tires, about $600. I told him I had to consider it more as I hadn’t planned on replacing all four. I didn’t like his response to my question.

The next call was to my local mechanic. He took the time to explain why I needed four tires instead of one, having to do with the diameter of all the tires matching when the all-wheel drive function is engaged. He doesn’t keep tires in inventory any longer yet he quoted me two options, including the same Hankook tires the large dealer offered at the same price. “We sell a lot of those,” he said. I scheduled the next available appointment.

It’s good to know as I approach age 70 I can still change a tire while parked on an Interstate Highway. The last time that happened, I was on my way home from work in the Chicago Loop. The Dan Ryan expressway during rush hour can be a scary place to change a tire. They didn’t call them H.E.L.P. trucks back then, but an early equivalent pulled up to alert drivers I was there. I don’t know how the tollway figured the budget for H.E.L.P. trucks yet I’m glad they are there.

Many thanks to the Illinois Tollway H.E.L.P. drivers.