Only idiots don’t check their tires on a regular basis

Now that several years have gone by, the shame I felt about the incident I’m about to write about has dissipated enough to let me laugh hysterically about how much of a bonehead I was. Heck, I am pretty sure that I’m still a huge bonehead about a lot of other things in life – but not (anymore) about what I’m about to tell you about.

So what exactly happened? About three and a half years ago, my wife and I were cruising down the freeway in my 2004 Nissan 350Z. I loved this car, and it remains to this day my favorite of all that I have owned through the years. I took really good care of it (or at least I thought I did) so it was surprising to me at that moment when I started hearing weird noises and smelling something burning. We were cruising along interstate 5 here in San Diego, near La Jolla, about two miles from our exit. I thought nothing much of the burning smell, being positively certain that it was from another car and not by beloved Z.

We made it to our exit and continued 1 more mile down the road to our home. I pulled into our parking space, got out of the car, and was floored by the smell of burning rubber. You know that feeling you get when your stomach sinks upon the realization that something bad is just about to happen? Yep – those were my thoughts as I saw smoke rising from the right rear of the car.

I’m freaking out at this point (on the inside at least), thinking that my Z is on fire. I started looking for the source of the smoke, which lead me directly to the drivers side rear tire. Holy moly – it was nearly flat! I nearly smacked my forehead for being a dumbass and driving on a flat tire, but I was thankful that we made it home safely. And besides – I’d rather change a tire at home than on the side of a busy freeway!

This happened late on a Saturday afternoon, and since I had no plans for the next day, I decided to put the spare tire on in the morning in order to be able to drive it to the tire shop on Monday.

So what did I discover upon changing that tire? It was revealed to me that I was a HUGE idiot for not checking my tires (at all) for the entire 30,000 miles that I had put on that car to date. Both rear tires were beyond bald – they were so worn out that the steel belts were showing through and starting to shred into tiny little pieces. I was (and still am) so dumbfounded that I hadn’t noticed the condition of these tires, and I was just putting myself and my wife in grave danger by driving on them in such bad shape.

Yes, I’m laughing about it now. But right after it happened, I told NO ONE for fear of losing my man card and street cred as a car guy.

So why the heck did I write this? First, I think it makes for a pretty good story, and second – checking your tires on a regular basis is very serious business. For the sake of your safety (and not being an idiot like me), it would be a pretty darn good idea to check on the condition of your tires every once in a while.

steel belts showing through on bald tire

The tire was so worn down that the steel belts were showing through

negative camber wear pattern

The tire wear shows how much negative camber the 2004 350Z came with from the factory

steel belt close up

Close up of the steel belts exposed on the inner edge of the tire