Highways July 2006

Relying on Others

When you have a blowout on your towed vehicle, you need a little help from passing motorists - By Ron Epstein 

jeep-125.jpgI don't travel as much as most of you do, but I spend a lot of time on the road just the same, covering stories, attending RV shows and driving on vacation. Last week I was driving behind a motorhome pulling a light-duty pickup truck on a Southern California freeway. Traffic was moving a little under the 55 mph trailer-towing speed limit, and this motorhome was keeping up just fine.

 Then the left front tire on the pickup blew out. I heard a loud pop, as if a gun had been shot, then a big piece of tire rubber flew past my car. I'm sure this isn't a unique event to many of you who tow, nor was it to me. But I quickly realized that while the truck's rim was grinding away on the freeway, and as concerned drivers around the motorhome were waving their hands out their windows, that the driver of the motorhome didn't have a clue. 

I was one of those who pulled out from behind the truck, sped up to the driver's side of the motorhome and tried to get the driver's attention. I didn't see anyone in the passenger's seat at the time, otherwise I would have maneuvered over to that side. But I couldn't get the driver to look my way, and I'm sure he didn't understand why I was waving my hands and pointing to the rear of his vehicle. Within a minute or two, I think he saw the sparks and smoke through his mirrors, or figured out what the other motorists were trying to tell him, and he pulled over safely as the rest of us continued driving along the freeway.

This whole thing reminded me of how important it is that we're constantly aware of our vehicles, especially since we often can't see the back of them. It goes without saying that you should be glancing in every mirror while continuing to drive safely, but don't discount the help fellow motorists will give you. 

I know there are frauds out there. There's a guy in the Southwest who's been making a living by claiming to be a mechanic, telling out-of-state RVers that their rig has a problem with its tie rod and then charging $118 cash to "fix" it, while really doing nothing. But generally speaking, people aren't that callous. In fact, most can be trusted. 

Still, the burden of being safe is on us as drivers.

Remember this? In July 2002, a motorhome pulling a car had one of the tires on the car blowout, but the driver didn't know it and apparently no one was around to alert him or her. When you're towing a relatively small car or truck, losing a tire may take a few minutes before you notice that the vehicle isn't pulling as smoothly. In the above case, those few minutes were marked by sparks, some of which ignited brush alongside the road and 
wound up becoming a huge fire in national forestland. . 

The same thing happened in Idaho in 1992. An RVing couple from Pennsylvania was vacationing there when their towed car blew a tire and the sparks started a fire. About 6,200 acres were burned. 

Is this irresponsible? Hardly. But it's unfortunate, no matter which way you look at it. 

As we all know, there's often no sign of an impending blowout because you never know when you're going to run over something sharp in the road, or do something else that could cause a blowout. But you can be more aware when you drive. Check your mirrors more often. When you stop for a rest or for the night, check the condition of the tires on all your vehicles. You may be lucky and catch a sign - a cupping or bubbling tire - that may save you. And be alert to drivers around you trying to get your attention. If nothing else, it's worth pulling over in a safe manner and in a safe (and well lit) place just to check everything out. 

I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you that the Good Sam Club RV Emergency Road Service is here to help. They'll come replace a tire, fix a flat, bring more fuel or tow your vehicle(s) whenever you call - and there's no mileage limit. Visit or call 888-566-1496 for more information. 

Our ERS will come help you after you run into trouble, but do what you can to avoid reaching that point.

Article - Courtesy of Highways magazine, July 2006 issue.

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