Changing a flat tyre in bad weather

By: David Cook, Photography by: David Cook

How a flat on the track can leave you going spare, especially when you're battling the elements.

Changing a flat tyre in bad weather
You just know that when this disaster occurs it’s going to be in the most inconvenient of circumstances. It might be, for example, in bulldust

You know, I’m (nearly) always impressed with my tyres. Well, not mine exactly, but the ones on my Pajero and those on the camper. Most especially, I’m impressed when I’m thrashing along having the bejeesus knocked out of the wife and myself on a gibber-strewn track somewhere. How can tyres live with that? How can I live with that?

I figure gibbers are the worst — especially when there isn’t much of a track that’s been worn by previous vehicles — because they tend to be lying around on flat surfaces where the wind blows the sand from the spaces between. It’s like driving over a field of cricket balls. Sand you can deal with if you lower your tyre pressures, dust is usually little more than a nuisance, and maybe only mud comes close to being an absolute nightmare.

It’s when you start bashing around on these back roads that you start to appreciate how important tyres are. There are some strict rules of tyres that I use: never have a tyre more than six years old on the trailer (they go brittle and can burst), never tackle a big trip on old or well-worn tyres and watch and manage your tyre pressures according to the conditions.

Dealing with a flat tyre

And don’t you just love changing a tyre on the track somewhere? Wherever it is, it’s bound to be inconvenient.

First off, it isn’t just a flat. Oh no. It’ll be a full-blown disaster, with bits of rubber hanging from everywhere and steel cords sticking out to threaten your skin. This is especially fun when you come to lifting up the shattered remnants of that once-amazing piece of technology on to the spare wheel carrier on the back of the car. You can wear gloves on your hands but locating a prickly mass of rubber and sharp wire chest-height on to three studs is not easy while your face is being lacerated.

Battling the elements

You just know that when this disaster occurs it’s going to be in the most inconvenient of circumstances. It might be, for example, in bulldust, so that even with a tarp underneath, you you’re going to get your clothes, hair, mouth and eyes full of the stuff.

Or, perhaps, it rained the previous night and there are pools of muck on ground so soggy you’ll emerge, jack(s)-in-hand from under the chassis, looking like a chocolate soldier. And this time when you drop the wheel nuts and accidentally tread on them, driving them below the surface, finding them will require a lot more effort than running your open hand through talcum powder.

Even worse is the presence of rain. The ponchos are buried at the bottom of the car somewhere but damned if you can find them. So you go through the wrestling process with the dirt and the mud and the dropped wheel nuts and climbing under the back of the car on your belly, while water falls all over you, except for that small part covered by your wife’s floral brolly, which she thoughtfully chose to bring on the trip.

Sand, too, is a pain, as any wind or similar activity gets the grit into your eyes, and gibbers make it almost impossible to find a flat surface large enough to even put down a jack. And just try lying under the car on a bunch of scorching hot gibbers in the middle of the day. It ain’t fun, let me tell you.

And even when you’ve endured the unendurable and swapped the tyre and rim for the spare, limped into camp and set-up in the dark, covered in dust or mud or sand, and fallen into bed exhausted, you’ll be shattered to know that it isn’t all over. You’re going to have to get up the next morning and spend time and no small amount of energy and sweat in removing the old rubber from the rim, and replacing it with that spare tyre case you thought to chuck up on the roof racks.

You did remember to bring one, didn’t you? Oh no!

Now, I grant you that all of the above might be deemed to be the worst of all possible outcomes in each scenario, but it is an absolute certainty that all or some of this is going to happen in your life, most especially if you go travelling in the outback.

One thing I can guarantee, however, is that as you sit there in the heat, the flies, the sand/mud/bulldust/gibbers, the gloom or glare of the Outback moon or sun, you will realise your wonder for the durability of modern tyre technology has taken a very distinct decline.

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Check out the full feature in issue #90 July 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.