A twist of luck – What Do You Reckon?

By: Glenn Torrens

After enjoying the lofty highs of a brisk Sunday drive, Glenn Torrens suffers a significant let-down. But it could have been far worse…

A twist of luck – What Do You Reckon?
"The tyre was at 9PSI instead of the 32 I'd put in that morning."

WELL, THAT WAS lucky! As I mentioned in Our Cars last issue, recently I had the metal section of a valve stem shoot like an air-rifle pellet from one of my 1990 Mazda MX-5’s wheels. 

PPFFOOOSSsshhhhh. One dead-flat tyre. 

But how was that lucky? 

Because about two hours before this happened, I’d been blasting my Mazda through the twisties on a nice winding mountain road.

So if this valve stem had failed while the Mazda was leaning on this left front tyre during a fast right-hander, I’d probably have binned it.

Usually when I’m out in my little Mazda, roof down, on a twisty bit of road on a sunny Sunday morning, I’m driving … umm… enthusiastically.

After enjoying this delicious piece of twisty road, I’d cruised another tree-lined highway for another half-hour or so before stopping at a cafe for a breakfast pie.

After that, while walking back to the car, I’d noticed the left front tyre was down. That was odd, as I’d checked all the tyre pressures that morning.

Obviously there was a problem; I felt around as best I could, investigating for a nail or screw but couldn’t find anything.

Just a touch concerning.

I limped the car to the nearest servo and pumped up the tyre again; by the time I’d arrived at the pump my tyre was visibly even more deflated – it was at 9psi instead of the 32 I’d put in that morning.

With the tyre standing up again, I carefully drove straight home and was in the garage using a core tool to check the valve when it ‘let go’.

It gave me quite a shock; not just because of the sudden unexpected rush of air, but with the thought of what could have happened earlier.

As mentioned, I’d been travelling some twisty roads - edged variously by thick stands of gum trees, solid sandstone cuttings and sections of safety railing - and unlike a slow leak, an instant tyre failure (such as a blowout) gives little or no time to ‘catch’ the car – especially midway through a corner.

Anyway, later that week, I had all the valve stems on my Mazda replaced with brand-new… And of course, this situation prompted me in to thinking about the safety of the hardware in and under many older and lesser-used cars, such as the typical H-plate/club cruiser, especially in the states that don’t have a simple annual safety inspection and instead rely on ‘owner diligence’ – sometimes by owners who have absolutely no mechanical training nor knowledge - to somehow blunder through ensuring the mechanical safety of their cars.

Anyhow, maybe that’s a topic for another time but crikey, was I lucky – and thankful – that I didn’t crash my Mazda that sunny Sunday.

From Unique Cars #483, Sept 2023

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