Monday, October 24, 2011

Houston (err, Birmingham)... We Have a Problem!

We had dinner at a Denny's in a truck stop in Birmingham.  (Normally enough blog material in and of itself.)

We were making our way through Birmingham.  Our GPS was chatting away:  < insert bossy robotic British voice here > Exit I-20E on left in 2.2 miles.  Exit I-20E on Right in 1.2 miles.

No problem. Wizzing through Birmingham was a cinch.  I towed through Dallas the day before, and Little Rock... not to mention the other 1,500 miles in the past week.  (Was HALF of it through road construction with concrete barriers on either side?  It seemed like it.)

We had just navigated Birmingham's stay-on-I-20E labyrinth when it happened.  We were in the middle lane when we heard a noise.  I looked back to see a stream of smoke coming from the curbside (passenger-side) tire.  Something else was amiss.  The trailer wasn't level.  I thought "Oh my gosh!  Do I pull the brake controller? No! It's not swaying."  I pulled over. (My neighbors were happy to give me all the space I needed.)

We expected to change a flat tire.  But, nope.  We wouldn't be changing a flat tire.  There was no tire there.  None at all.... and no wheel. 

What to do?  We had a very tippy trailer.  The trailer was low to the ground on the curbside.  There was no way to get a jack stand under the trailer to level it.

We sat in a daze by the side of the road.  We started calling towing places.  We found a towing company that could handle our trailer.  Then the question came:  Where do you want it towed?  Well, crap.  We had no idea where to have it towed. (Not the Denny's.)  Finally, we decided the best thing to do would be to leave the trailer, go to a hotel, sit down with our computers, and figure out what to do next.  We needed some perspective.
I ventured into our slant-y house of horrors and filled a laundry basket with our essentials.  We were about to unhitch when someone drove up. 

Mr. Good-Samaritan had a car jack, mechanic experience, and a can-do attitude.  He whipped out his doctor's bag full of all the right tools. He and Brian went right to work with his jack to make the trailer level.  Dr. Samaritan looked at the wheel hub and quickly diagnosed the problem: our lug nuts.  He explained that our lug nuts weren't tight enough which caused our wheel to wiggle.  As a result, the entire weight of the trailer was on the wheel studs instead of the hub.  (Our trailer was just a little bit too heavy for those tiny wheel studs so all six of them sheared off.)

After pounding out the wheel stud remnants, Brian & Dr. Samaritan set off in search of new studs. Two auto-parts stores later they finally had 6 tire studs.  Also, a bonus!  They found our intact wheel with tire by the side of the road.

They worked to set the new wheels studs.  Thirty minutes of hard work later, they realized the wheel studs were too short.  Dr. Samaritan was just as disappointed as we were. At this point it was getting pretty late.  There wasn't any place open to get more tire studs.  Dr. Good Samaritan offered to come back in the morning with his jack to help. (Seriously?!  Wow!!!) 

We stablized our trailer as best we could.  Thankfully, it was level.  With a little tweaking Brian even managed to get the L-77 to lock.  We left our blinky triangle light behind the trailer and unhitched.  Unhitched.  Unhitched!  Did you catch that part?!  We unhitched and left our trailer, our BABY, by the side of the road for the NIGHT.  Alone!

At the hotel the kids were asleep before their heads hit the pillow.  Brian scrounged to find a place to get our wheel studs in the morning.

I hardly slept...I slept just long enough to dream about needing 5 wheel hubs and not being able to find them.  (Why would we need 5 wheel hubs?  What a strange dream!)

We got up when it was still dark outside.  The kids enjoyed a hot hotel breakfast (Brian and I were too anxious to eat a morsel... and wired enough we didn't need the coffee.)   We traveled to the other side of Birmingham where we waited for two different trailer parts stores to open.  Finally, we got some studs to try at a third trailer place.

With the wheel studs in hand, we texted Dr. Samaritan and he agreed to meet us at the trailer.

 It was some relief in the morning, to see our trailer still sitting by the side of the road in one piece.

Brian had the (perfectly sized) wheel studs pounded in before Dr. Samaratian arrived (with his even larger jack.) The two of them finished the job together.  We were hitched up and on our way in less than 30 minutes.  It was time to go find some breakfast.

We are so thankful for many things:
1) our personal safety & the safety of those around us during the incident
2) the safety of our trailer (both during the incident & the night alone)
3) the kindness of a stranger with the gumption we lacked
 4) being able to find the wheel studs the next day
5) having our problem diagnosed  (Giving us the confidence to get right back on the road... after tightening our lug nuts, of course.)


  1. OMG! I'm glad that everyone's okay and nothing/noone was seriously hurt! I was just talking to my wife last night about putting a TPMS on our budget for next year's east-coast trip (not that it would have stopped this, of course).

  2. Glad that turned out OK for you guys, Lynetta. Soon as the rain stops, I'm going outside to retorque mine.


  3. We had a tire blow out on our Avion in approximately the same place, coming out of Birmingham.The AAA guy that came to our rescue didn't even know what a hubcap was, yet how to change a trailer tire.You were extremely fortunate that your angel of mercy appeared. So glad that everyone is unharmed including your silver baby.

  4. WOW! Now you have a war story, and probably a new torque wrench. Glad you are all well. Sorry we couldn't stretch our trip another week to meet you at Mck. Al and Pat

  5. Oh my gosh! I was waiting for part two with baited breath! So glad everything worked out, I'd have freaked, it looks like a nascar accident when the tire comes off!!

  6. Oh my goodness! What a scary (but exciting) story. I'm so glad you guys and the trailer are alright. Boy, you Sanders sure know how to keep things interesting :-).

  7. OMG, that first photo of the hub with NO tire, how frighteningly close to an even worse disaster you were. What a horrible feeling. And then to leave your BABY alone on the road. I feel your pain.

    So good to hear that you are OK and that there are still Good Samaritans in the world. I've been rescued on a few occasions myself.