Perhaps slightly inspired by Zach Bowman’s mega adventure or the memories of my own African safari adventure, my wife and I have decided on a family road trip into the great white north this summer. The plan is to pack up the trusty 4Runner and drive toward Portland, Maine, from where we will take the fast ferry to Nova Scotia, if it actually runs this summer. There we would basically just drive around, stopping in various places for a night or three. This trip would of course require me to properly prepare the 4Runner, which is to say I’d have an excuse to perform unnecessary mods to it just because I could sort of justify them. I was planning to upgrade the lighting, perhaps get new tires, and some kind of a cargo management. I would also add stuff that I should already have in the vehicle such as: a first aid kit, flashlight, emergency tools, shovel, perhaps an air compressor, fire extinguisher. Little did I know that a simple trip to New York City would show me just how unprepared I was for a real road trip. It was a sunny, if a bit chilly, late Saturday morning. I was in the middle lane of I-90 going around 75mph. My son was vast asleep, my wife was watching something on her iPad with headphones on, and my daughter was reading. Suddenly I heard a pop, as if I ran over something and it hit the bottom of the car. It wasn’t loud, sort of like running over any kind of road debris, but enough for my daughter ask what it was. Wife and son were unfazed. Then I realized that that I have gotten a flat tire. The vehicle didn’t change direction, didn’t become unstable, or anything dramatic like that. The right rear seemed lower and more wind/tire noise started coming from there. It was not a blow-out but rather a simple flat. I pulled over onto the shoulder where the road was a bit wider due to an ending of a long on-ramp. Left tires were about a foot off the white line and the right tires about three feet off the guardrail. Right rear tire was completely flat, as pictured above. This was far from an ideal place, especially since just days before a Massachusetts State Trooper was killed not far from there when his cruiser was, which was stopped on the shoulder, was rear-ended. But I had nowhere else to go as the next exit was miles away and I knew that there wasn’t many other places to stop and safely change the wheel. AAA was no help as they don’t service interstates. They transferred me to the state police and they came just as I put the spare on. Few observations:
- The procedure to drop the spare from the bottom of a 4Runner is rather complicated. It requires an assembly of an extension wrench about three feet long.
- Then there is the jack that has to be put under the live rear axle and raised using the same three foot long contraption of wrenches and things.
- Assembling the said contraption was rather challenging, especially for someone who has never done it, especially on the side of the road, with the whole family in the car. It would make for a great 24 Hours of Lemons penalty.
- The whole thing sure as hell made me a little uncomfortable, I wish I practiced it before.
- There are six really big lugnuts on each wheel. That actually gave an appreciation for this vehicle.
- Why do I even have locking lugnuts?
- The 265/70-17 BFG A/T tire on an 17×8 alloy wheel is damn heavy, felt like 80 pounds heavy.
- I didn’t even attempt to put the flat tire onto the under-car pulley contraption on the side of the road, I just jammed it into the trunk.
- Cars were zipping by in the right lane at 80mph plus.
- Drivers were completely oblivious to me on the side on the road, under the car, just a few feet away. Many were yapping on phones.
- People merging onto the highway were even worse, I actually waved at a few to move over.
Once we were back on our way, about half a mile down the road, I noticed a Jeep with a flat tire. I assume the same debris on the road got him, possibly from an earlier accident. The hole in my tire was rather large, perhaps a quarter inch in diameter, which is the reason why the tire went flat so quickly. I brought it to have it patched at Ciro’s Auto Repair, where the mighty-ish Lada currently is, and they showed me the internal tire damage and suggested that I buy some new tires. Given the planned road trip, I was thinking of replacing the tires anyway as they are six years old and have about 40,000 miles on them. Now the typical questions were:
- What tire do I get? Everyone seems to LOVE the BFG A/T KO2 but they’re pricey.
- What size do I get? 265 or do I want to go 275? 275s look cooler, raise the truck a bit and fill in the fender gaps nicely, but lower gas mileage, possibly effect handling and are heavier.
- Paint the existing wheels? I don’t love them but perhaps they would look nicely painted gun metal gray?
- Get new wheels? The 4Runner TRD Pro wheels look super nice (pictured above), are kinda affordable but are oddly half an inch narrower. I nixed after-market wheels.
- Stick with alloy wheels or get steel wheels? Steelies look cool, are stronger, but heavier. But they also look kinda cheap and I already have one of the cheapest cars in my hood.
After much research I splurged and ordered a set of BFG A/T KO2 tires. The old ones have been great and I keep hearing how much better the KO2s are. And I ordered them in the stock 265 size because they’re already over-sized. And I am sticking with alloy wheels because they are lighter and nicer, but I just don’t know which wheels yet, or if I get ’em painted. In the future I’ll write about what other mods I am planning for the trip.