Sure, I know things about sports and I work in a male-dominated field, but on many levels, I am still a very girly girl.
I admit, here and now, that I know next to nothing about cars. I haven't the foggiest idea how they work.* I mean, yeah, I know there's a gasoline-powered engine and wheels -- but after that, I'm clueless. So I do all recommended preventative maintenance -- no matter how ridiculous it is. But if something goes wrong, I am left with two options: (1) Asking for help; (2) Paying for services that I don't understand -- and potentially don't need.
Anyone who reads this blog should have deduced by now that I am probably not so good with option #1. And, in all honesty, the males with whom I would consult about an auto-related issue are probably as clueless as I am, but are even more loathe to admit it because of their intrinsic male-ness. But nevertheless, I occasionally take this approach -- usually as a precautionary step to determine whether I'm over- (or under-) reacting.
The car -- my cute little pride and joy -- is six years old, and was just on the threshold of 30,000 miles. Over the winter -- 2500 or so miles ago -- I started worrying about my tires because of the age of the car, but I took the car in for maintenance, they said that the tires were fine. So I stopped worrying.
A couple of weeks ago, when my sister was visiting, my front driver's side tire started to look a little flat. I checked the pressure, added some air, and all seemed fine. It was still fine when I drove to Harrisburg (which was also the day the car passed 30,000 miles). Last weekend, the tire looked a little flat again. I checked the pressure, and it was very low. So I put air in it and went to Target. By the time I got out of Target, it looked low again. I figured that I must have done something wrong, so I drove across the street to the nearest gas station, and repeated the process.
When I went to go take the car out on Friday night, the stupid tire was low again. I emailed a friend to ask how I would know whether I needed new tires. He told me that I should check to see if there was a slow leak by inflating the tire to the right pressure, and then checking it again in a day or two.** I told him that I'd probably wind up taking it to a shop, out of laziness -- but with the knowledge that they would probably try to sell me tires even if I really didn't need them.
So, Saturday, around lunchtime, I took the car to put more air in the tire. It didn't seem to help, so I drove the car to the first tire place I came upon after leaving my house. But to be honest, I made this decision not just because of proximity, but because the place at issue had the word "Tire" in its name. I figured that, like with Dunkin' Donuts, if you advertise something in your title, it should be safe to assume that you're an expert at it.
Anyway, I told the guy at the desk what was wrong, and he went out to take a look at it. He agreed with me, that it looked flat, and that he could have it taken back into the repair bay, where they would charge me $30 to fix the tire, or, in the alternative, would let me know that it was irreparable, and that all of this would take approximately one half-hour. I agreed with this treatment strategy, signed the estimate, and waited in the lobby, where they had Star Wars Episode III playing in the background -- you know, the one where Hayden Christiansen goes from whiny and annoying Anakin Skywalker to crazy Darth Vader.
My car is ready about 45 minutes later -- just as Darth Vader takes his first awkward steps in the big black costume. The tire place goes to charge me the $30, but as I am fumbling around in my bag for my credit card, I ask a dangerous question: "What was wrong with it?"
"Nothing. We couldn't find anything wrong with it. There is no leak."
"Then why does it keep getting flat?"
Instead of answering, the guy starts printing out a new invoice. I have somewhere to be, so I annoyedly thrust out my credit card. He tells me not to worry about it, and he hands me a key, and an invoice that says "No Charge."
I walk out to my car, and the tire looks okay. I drive the mile back to my apartment, park in the garage, and look at the tire. It looks flat again. I am pissed. That afternoon, after various events, I have a friend look at the tire. She concurs, it looks flat. I tell my friend that I emailed earlier the story, and he tells me "You brought it to the wrong tire place."
I am even more pissed.
But, lucky for me, I have Monday off from work, which means one more day I can devote to car care. So, I went downstairs this morning to check the tire. It still looks flat. But according to my tire pressure gauge, the tire is fine.
So what do I do now?
*I do, however, know how to drive a stick shift, since I actually learned how to drive on one. I was never great at it, and I am probably way out of practice -- since the last time I drove one was back in the mid-'90s -- but I'm sure I could figure it out again.
**He also told me that after 30,000 or 40,000 miles I might notice that I'm not braking as well or taking wider turns, which would mean that the tread has worn down. But honestly, I wasn't so concerned about this, given the flatness of the tire. Not to mention that I don't think I could even begin to notice a subjective difference in braking or my turning radius.