2015 Audi A3: Best Blown Tire Ever
by Matt Jones, Senior Editor on September 16, 2015
While driving to my brother's wedding in the Bay Area this past Saturday, I blew a tire in our long-term 2015 Audi A3.
The good news is that I was only about 100 yards away from my destination when I heard the "BLAM!" that threatened to put a damper on what promised to be an awesome weekend.
The new Mr. and Mrs. Jones picked a beautiful restaurant in Oakland's beautiful waterfront Jack London Square to exchange vows. But Embarcadero West, the street leading into the parking lot, isn't nearly as beautiful nor is it in the best condition. I was doing about 20 mph when I hit a pothole and boom: damaged sidewall city.
With the ceremony slated to begin about 20 minutes after the tire blew, I didn't have time to deal with the flat right then and there. Instead, I slowly pulled into the secured parking lot, locked up the car, and headed to the nuptials.
With vows exchanged and toasts made, I texted Cameron Rogers for advice on how to proceed. I was worried that it would take a bit of magic to make things right. After all, this was after business hours on a Saturday and many tire shops are closed on Sunday. I felt this blown tire might become a longer problem.
I didn't want to be tied to my cell phone during my brother's wedding, so I leaned on Cameron to do most of the tire replacement-finding work for me. Thankfully he was more than willing to help out and, in fact, most of my worry was for naught. Cameron found a replacement tire at a nearby Big O location that would be open on Sunday morning. Score one for teamwork.
First, though, was the issue of changing the tire. Dressed in my wedding best, I didn't imagine changing the tire myself as a viable option. Besides, the only sweating I wanted to do that night was on the dance floor. I called a tow truck company for help.
About 15 minutes after the tow truck arrived, the driver had the spare tire on the A3 and I went back to the reception.
With the donut in place, I could get down on some wedding cake, knowing that after the reception I could drive to my mom's house, where I was staying for the weekend (hotels in the area were booked solid). I really didn't want to cab or Uber it 30 miles across the bridge to mom's house and thankfully, didn't need to.
The follow morning, I headed over to Big O for the replacement.
An hour or so later and $183 lighter, I was on my way. The total cost included the tire ($140), valve stem ($3), computer balance ($20), tire disposal ($6), and sales tax ($14).
Things could have gone a lot worse. In fact, I contest that this was blest blown tire ever, for a few reasons. I arranged to get the spare on without much hassle, there was a replacement tire nearby and, although driving to mom's house on the donut limited me to an excruciatingly slow 50 mph, there was really no harm done.
But the incident got me to thinking about how things could have easily been a lot more of a hassle — specifically if this A3 hadn't had a spare tire.
The A3 comes with a true spare, not a sealer kit found in some newer car offerings. Sealer kits are great (I actually used one more than a decade ago in my 1991 Camry), but I'm not convinced a sealer kit would have done me any good in this outage, as the violated area was the tire's sidewall, not its tread. This gash was also well more than 3/16ths of an inch. Take a look at the picture; this tire has a pretty good rip in it.
If this Audi didn't have a spare, I would have had a whole host of problems: How to get the A3 or the trashed tire to a repair shop the next day, where to store the car for the evening, and how to get to my mom's house. I dodged a bullet. I don't even want to imagine how things might have gone if I'd blown the tire on Interstate 5 in farm country without a real spare.
In my 20 or so years of driving, I've only had three flats. That works out to once every seven years or so. All times, I had a spare. In all three cases, I popped on the spare and went on my way. Three flats in 20 years isn't much.
My personal car is spare-tire free. I have one of those well-meaning sealer kits that would have left me high and dry this wedding weekend. My first inclination is to go spare tire shopping as soon as I finish this post. My second thought is I want to spend as little loot as I can on fuel and keep the spare out of my trunk to save weight.
I'm torn. I like having a spare. But not having a spare is likely going to save me some cash in gas charges over the next few years.
My question to you, Constant Reader: Spare or no spare?
Matt Jones, Senior Editor @ 17,860 miles