Sunday, December 18, 2016

Why I Carry 2 Spare Tires

When I go off road in very remote places, I bring two spare tires.  

Years ago, I noticed that the National Park Service (NPS) web sites for some of the places I liked to visit suggested that visitors bring 2 spare tires.  At the time, I thought this was odd.  Now, I think it's a reasonable precaution.

This post is meant to explain my reasons.  I'm not baiting people into an argument.  Everyone has their own thresholds for stress and anxiety, and so each person will have a unique perspective and viewpoint.  That's fine.  I'm just offering my rationale to answer the obvious question that the average visitor to my blog would have: Why?

First let me describe what I mean by "very remote" places.  These are places with no cell coverage and so little traffic that it might be days before the next vehicle passes.  These are places where the roads can be so rugged that most vehicles (including tow trucks) cannot drive them.

I've visited Toroweap/Tuweep and Alstrom Point many times.  They're beautiful.  Luckily, the roads to these sites have quite bit of traffic in the summer.  More traffic than Death Valley area 4wd roads that I visit such as Saline Valley Road or Lippincott Road or Mengel Pass and Butte Valley.  Also, the minor roads in the Arizona strip have very little traffic.  If you break down there, it might be days before another vehicle passes.

I also like to drive the powerline and pipeline and railroad service roads that cross the Mojave desert.  Some of these are quite popular and you'll pass several vehicles on any weekend.  Others are very remote and are rarely driven by the utilities that own the right-of-way.  Also, the many historic mines in the Mojave desert result in all sorts of metallic debris lying just under the surface of the sand.  I've blown a lot of tires in the Mojave desert.

And then there are the popular trails in the Sierra and Inyo mountain ranges.  On summer weekends you'll always encounter other vehicles.  Far fewer people visit on week days.

When I visit these areas, I also bring camping gear and enough food and water to last several days, as well as hiking gear to hike to a busier road and/or cell coverage.  That's not a burden because I have that gear with me for planned camping and hiking on most trips.

Driving these roads means I go through a lot of tires.  More than anyone I know.  I have my tire shop on speed-dial.  I've called them from 450 miles away to order tires, so they'll be ready for mounting when I get back in town.  If you're near Pasadena CA, then I recommend this shop: Stanyer & Edmondson Good Year.  They'll get me any tire I want, even if they have to get it from Tire Rack.  And they always match or beat others' prices.  They never try to upsell extra services.  They're very good and trustworthy.  #tireshopplug

Here's my reasoning for carrying two spares.  It boils down to the incalculable odds of getting two punctures on any given trip.

If I have only one spare tire and I get a second flat, then I will need the following to continue my trip (or just to get to where a tow truck can reach):
  • tire damage that is repairable (many of my punctures are not repairable)
  • viable tire repair kit
  • air compressor
  • time / skill / experience

For some tire damage I might also need to remove the tire from the wheel to patch the tire from the inside.  For this I additionally need:
  • tire iron
  • knowledge / skill / experience to get the tire off the wheel and back on again
  • viable patches

If you don't have all of those items, then you are screwed.

I made the conscious decision to easily handle two flat tires by simply bringing a second spare.  The cost to me is:
  • wheel (~$220 or less)
  • tire (~$200)
  • spare tire carrier - optional (prices vary)
  • reduced volume for cargo (if I carry the spare inside the car)

I'm willing to pay this up-front cost in order to make my life hugely easier in a rare situation.  I think of it as an insurance policy.  A policy I'm willing to pay for.

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