Dangerous tyres

My company car had a service last Friday and when the car was returned I was told in no uncertain terms that three of the tyres were illegal and the fourth was not far off. I was given the number of the mobile service and given the message from the leasing company to use that number or get myself to a Kwik-Fit (which they prefer to use for tyres rather than letting the service garage do it).

The service was a little over due, but I have been busy. The leasing company had advised that many services were delayed because of problems with tyres and they suggested that anyone booking a service should get their tyres checked before hand. I had not bothered. Now, somewhere, in the back of my mind, I knew my tyres were not in good shape. Historically, I am pretty obsessive about this. I like to think that comes from starting out as a motorbike rider where one was perhaps very more concerned (and the tyres were rather more easy to check). However, despite the clear evidence over the last couple of months of the car slipping around above and beyond what it should have done on ice and snow, my conscious mind kept overriding. This was on the grounds that I had had so many tyres replaced last year because of pot hole damage, I could not believe I needed yet more tyres.

So, knowing the state of my tyres, you would think I would have called the mobile tyre service, but I prefer stationary tyre services so the follow morning, I drove very carefully the six or so miles in excellent conditions on good roads (am I overdoing this?) to the nearest Kwik-Fit, conveniently located next to a greasy spoon I like rather more than I should. Just as I finished my hearty breakfast, I got a call from Kwik-Fit to tell me they could not get most of the wheels off because of problems with the locking nuts.

I waddled [it was a big breakfast] around to the work bay and had the problems with the obviously cheap, nasty, and largely worn locking nut key (as supplied with the car by Ford) demonstrated to me most carefully. There is of course only one locking nut on each wheel and they had managed to free only one of them. When all else had failed, I was then asked to witness the attempt to remove them with an air gun (no, not shooting them out). It was suggested to me that the servicing garage had probably used air guns when they should not have done so and had damaged the key when they put the wheels back on after the service. I thought this unlikely as the leasing company had used, at my prompting, a local dealer with a good old fashioned, experienced mechanic who I had been at school with and whom I had witnessed many times solving mechanical problems that had defeated many a “highly trained, high qualified, specialist” in the swankiest franchise dealers.

Kwik-Fit do not keep any master keys and have no way of removing the wheels without the key. I find this amazing. You would think a specialist tyre outfit would have tools that would allow them to get around this problem. I was told that I would have to go to Ford. They called the local (4 miles) franchise dealer for me who said they would take a look that morning if I could get the car over to them. That is the car with the illegal tyres if you remember. I declined Kwik-Fits offer to replace the one tyre they had managed to get at (I had visions of breaking hard and only that one tyre gripping properly).

Ford were as helpful as ever. They did not have any master keys, did not have one of that particular key in stock, would have to order a replacement which would take about 5 days, or would have to weld nuts to each locking nut so they could grip and remove them. The latter they could not do then, it would have to be booked in for some time during the week.

I decided I should probably leave it all to the leasing company to sort out and decided to head, carefully, for home. I did call the general purpose leasing company number, but quickly realised that the problem did not really fit into any of the weekend cover arrangements as I had not technically broken down, certainly did not have problems with the window screen, and already knew that the “partner” dealing with tyre problems could not deal with my tyre problems.

On the off-chance of a bright idea, I popped into my local dealer where the service had been done. In an amazing stroke of luck, the mechanic was in doing some stuff for himself but he happily agreed to take a look at the problem. He also mentioned that for the service done on my car the previous day, it had not been necessary to remove the wheels.

It took him less than 10 minutes to remove the three remaining problematic locking nuts. There was lots of adjusting, and tapping, and levering. But he did it. Without damaging the wheels. He put standard nuts on and I returned to Kwik-Fit.

Sadly, I had a long wait at Kwik-Fit as I was now at the back of the queue.

It was a relief to eventually return home with a complete set of new tyres. Whilst I had returned from Swansea early the day before, I had not then known, consciously at least, that my tyres were unsafe. Driving around when you do know they are unsafe is stressful. Stupid boy.

Leave a Reply