“Screwed”  Food for thought

We have become too dependent on “services” to rescue us.  Services which cost money and leave you at the mercy of said service.



In as many weeks, I have had two sheet metal screws extracted from my tires.  This time I had the windows down when it happened.  You ask, what does that have anything to do with it?


When you drive in an alley, the sounds emanating from your car bounce nicely off the fences on either side.  This is a great diagnostic tool if your vehicle is making any noises that it should not make.  At slow speeds with your windows down, you can hear not only squeaks and other sounds that you may never otherwise hear but also if your tires have picked up a rock in the tread, or, in this case, a screw you might hear it tapping away on the pavement.


Halfway down the alley headed toward my house I hear this “tap…. Tap…. tap, that should not be there.


Much like taps on one’s shoes, a screw or other hard substance that does not belong embedded in your tires possibly will alert you to its presence…


Why?  Why do I waste your valuable time telling you about screws in tires?


Firstly, try it.  When you are about to enter your alley or leave your home as most of us do, roll your windows down.  Yes, the allergens are there, and this is still Texas in the Summer. It is hot but, if something is going on with your tires, or maybe your brakes, you might hear that metallic scraping sound of the “feeler” telling you that you need new brake pads. If you have something in one or more of your tires, you might hear that too.  You could possibly hear that incessant squeak of your CV joint or U joint that is ready to leave you stranded someplace.

Ideally, your car should not be making any sounds when not in motion other than that of the engine.  On the move, there should be minimal sounds too.  Any metallic squeaking or tapping is an indicator of something that might need attention.

Like the insurance commercial with the stranded kids holding a crowbar asking if this is a lug wrench, it is a sorry feeling to have a flat in the middle of nowhere.  Even with Cell phones, you are still stuck!

I hesitate to ask how many of us these days would even know how to change a tire or where to place the jack or possibly where the lug nut key is or how to use it.  Are your kids driving?  Have you had them change a tire? Can you safely change a tire?  Does your spare tire have air in it?  Do you know where the spare tire is? Don’t laugh; many cannot or do not know.

We have become too dependent on “services” to rescue us.  Services which cost money and leave you at the mercy of said service.

Removing a screw in your tires immediately might save you a tire as in my case, one of these was too near the edge of the tire to be safely repaired, they would not have fixed it. Had the screw violated enough of the tire’s tread, it would have been $250 plus, shot to hell for a 5 cent screw carelessly discarded or lost which will mess with your attitude as well as your wallet.  Removing it before it hammered itself into the tire saved me that money, as well as the aggravation and lost time.

If you remove a screw and hear a hissing sound, you’re screwed.  Mark where it is before you remove it.  Listen for escaping air, if none then apply soapy water to the area and watch for bubbles.  If none appear, you are ready to go, if bubbles appear you will need the services of an NTB or Discount or one of those other tire places.

A can of fix a flat might get you to the next tire place but do not rely on that stuff.  Like any tool in your arsenal, it is a tool that might get you off the side of the road.

If on the other hand, that little light on your dash appears days later, then at least you know where to tell the technician to look for the leak.

What else might we do?


These types of screws are prevalently used by air conditioner type people, but any handy man might use them for something including the use of plumbers tape.

If you look at the picture, you will notice that the end of the screw is very sharp and indeed made to pierce sheet metal and make its own pilot hole.  That is why these types of screws are very good at flattening tires.

If you are having any home repair, of any kind, as a courtesy to your neighbors and as a favor to yourself, you might want to inspect the area where the person was working and, where they were parked.

A quick peek inside their trucks, you will most probably reveal something that looks a child’s closet with an unkempt pile of stuff, including boxes of spilled screws on the floor.  I once had a man show up in a truck to give me a roof repair quote where a half bottle of Gin “the large size” rolled out and hit the ground.  While the gin is another story, the roofing nails and other screws could not only ruin your day but your neighbors as well.


No, not upset or angry and this is certainly not a rant. 


I walked the alley this morning picking up yet another screw, pointing straight up, while looking for anything that might ruin someone else’s day.  This is a habit with me at gas stations, parking lots, frankly where ever I am walking. If I see something that might mess up someone’s tire, or perhaps their foot,  I pick it up and trash it.

On a recent trip, I stopped at a gas station in Raton.  This was the least expensive gas station in New Mexico, (per gas buddy) so it was busy.  In front of me were some border patrol agents getting ice and other supplies as well as gas.  Opening the rear side door to put the ice into a cooler, all sorts of “stuff” came crashing out of the vehicle onto the ground.  I pulled out of that lane and moved into another beside them.  I offered them a hand as they were scooping up the rest of their stuff.  My assistance was declined, and I went about getting my gas.

After they left, I noticed the sun glinting off of something still on the ground.  Walking over there while simultaneously stopping another customer from pulling into their spot were several live rounds of 38 S ammunition.  Can driving on top of live ammo set it off?  Probably not but, do you want to be standing next to it when several tons of pickup truck drive over it!  I picked it up and then tried to garner the agent’s attention before they pulled out onto the highway headed south.  No such luck.  If federal agents can be that lackadaisical about leaving live ammo on the ground for anyone to find or drive on top of, what does that tell us about the fastidiousness of two men and a truck handymen or air conditioner repair people?

About services.

I had my oil changed at one of those places not far from here.  They offer a free brake inspection and tire rotation.  Well, of course, their goal is to replace your brakes, but mine were not needing replacing.  Using my lug nut key to remove and replace my tires they neglected to return it.  Of course, I did not think to check for it, so weeks went by without it in my car.

Offering a friend a lift to Grand Prairie in the middle of the Texas Summer, I managed to pick up a large bolt in one of my tires on the return trip.  Broken down in the midst of summer on the side of the road is no place to be.   I jacked up my car.  Sweat is now pouring off me without as much as a bottle of water in the car. I then went to get the spare tire out. Making sure it was inflated now all I had to do is remove a half dozen lug nuts swap the tire and get to the tire store to get it fixed.

“No lug nut key!”

After tearing the car apart looking for it, I could only conclude that the bozo that worked on my car last did not replace it.

Calling the place that rotated my tires, the technician admitted that he had a “few” in his toolbox and one of them “might” work!

That is like saying I have a few keys on my key ring and one of them might open up your car.  Those are not generic they are keys just like the key that goes into your car or home.  Either it was made to fit my locking lug nut, or it was not.

Translated, he knew he had it among others and was rather crappy about calling and admitting his screw up.  They, of course, had no way to send it to me or get it to me on the side of the road, so I now needed “the service” which I paid for monthly.

Calling the service, they could not find a record of my account.  I ask them just to send out a wrecker, and we could deal with it later.  “Nope if you are not a customer we cannot help you! Click”

I was indeed a customer with “WAS” being the operative word but, the side of the road is no place to litigate with idiots.  Calling 411 getting a number to a wrecker service, finally, I had one on the way.  Five hours later a wrecker shows up.  Did I mention it was over 100 degrees and I was on the side of the road now for over 8 hours without food or drink!


What can we learn from this little story?  “A true nightmare endured by yours truly.”

When someone works on your car, always make sure that they replace the tire key.  Without it, you are screwed.  Carry water in your vehicle as even hot or warm water is better than no water.  Don’t depend on any service, as it is only as good as their employees, who as you can tell were not shining examples of intelligence.


Things that I should have considered are phoning a friend.  With all of the friends that I have, I did not want to burden them with my problems.  Had I any idea that a wrecker driver would take over five hours to show up, picking me up after six p.m. on a Friday night off the side of a busy freeway, I might have just left the car there, and phoned that friend.  I might have gone and picked up that lug nut key in person, which probably would have ended badly.  One should never deal with idiots when one is “upset.” Things tend to work out as they should and just possibly this is one of them.

As I conclude this series of short skirmishes with vehicular mishaps, I might also add that one should never ever under any circumstance argue with a cop when they are being pulled over.  “Yes sir, thank you sir, my hands are in plain sight sir,  I am not moving sir until you tell me!” All of this is with lights on inside the car.  The side of the road is no place to litigate your case with a cop.  Are they idiots?  Who knows.  Probably not but, what they are is anxious.  Their adrenaline is pumping when they turn on the lights.  They know who the car belongs to before they approach your window.  What they don’t know is who you are.

Once they have your information then they know something about you as in “no wants or warrants.”  At this point they are probably a little less tense as they know that you just messed up, and will take their ticket, maybe grumble a bit, and go about your business, and allow them to hunt for their next prey.

Now let’s say that you are not a model citizen.  You have been in trouble before.. You my friend need to even be more purposeful in complying with him or her and not giving them any reason to put their hand on that gun.  Again, yes sir or ma’am, with hands in plain sight not moving unless instructed to do so.  The side of the road is where more bad things happen! You do not want to be the reason an officer is on administrative leave.

Yes, I said prey.  Let’s face it, these people have tools that resemble ray guns from some Sci-Fi movie shooting invisible laser beams while hiding behind some bush or in some darkened bridge shadow while hunting their next victim.  If they cannot tell by visible looking, that you are driving recklessly and indeed need sophisticated technology to see that you are going a few miles an hour faster than the posted speed, that is just crap.  

Before they changed their radio technology to a scrambled or encrypted form of communication I would listen to them.  Young men and women bored I suspect made games out of “hunting” for their next victim.  It is kind of an adrenaline charged game to some of them.  These are people’s lives and a game it should not be.  

I get why some are upset with cops.  Some cops need to find another vocation.  They are there to protect and to serve, and anything else is not part of the job description.  It is a job like any other job however; at the end of their shift they deserve to go home and live life like anyone else.  Full disclosure, I have many friends who are cops or are first responders.


Have a great rest of the day.