So, I’m driving along the other day on the New Jersey Turnpike — which is my favorite place to drive, because everyone stays out of the passing lane unless they have Maryland plates — and I hear this noise to the left side of my car that sounds like I’m taking machine-gun fire. You should’ve heard this noise. It honestly felt like someone had suctioned themselves to my door and was trying to gain entry with a claw hammer.
Naturally, I kept driving along like nothing happened.
But then, something did happen: My tire-pressure light turned on. It then became very clear to me what had occurred — the man suction-cupped to the side of my car had fallen off, and his claw hammer had punctured my tire. I exited the Turnpike and parked in the closest lot, which happened to be the Eastern Regional Office for Hyundai Motor America. I’m serious. I was surrounded by Tucson press cars with manufacturer plates. See the Land Rover Range Rover models for sale near you
Now, at the time all this happened, the approximate temperature outside was roughly 4.7 degrees DeMuro. I choose not to give a measurement in Fahrenheit or Celsius here because those numbers miss the point. The point is, it was freezing. But I know what I’m doing — I’ve changed a tire before, and I have a full-size spare! So I get out the jack and the tire iron, and I get to work. Just to be on the safe side, though, I started this whole thing by calling AAA. When this all started, it was about noon.
And thus begins the saga of the world’s longest roadside tire change.
So the first thing I do is get the tire iron up to the lug nuts, and they simply won’t budge. I mean, they won’t turn even slightly. And I wasn’t pulling any punches. On several occasions, I stood on the thing. It wouldn’t turn ANY OF THE LUG NUTS even the slightest, tiniest, teeniest little bit.
So I figured, fine, I’ll admit defeat and just wait for AAA. By now, it’s about 12:20.
The AAA guy shows up at about 12:45, and I’m thinking, "This is great; he’ll have the right tools and get me back on the road in 10 minutes." The timing was important, because I was heading up to film my video with the Aston Martin DB11, and I was still about an hour away — and this time of year, it gets dark here around 4:30.
So the AAA guy gets out, pulls out one of these fancy tire irons that looks like a plus sign and starts attacking the lug nuts. One by one, he gets them off, albeit with some serious tugging, and I feel like a little weakling. But then, he gets to the fifth lug nut, and it just won’t budge. He tries, and it won’t move. He tries harder — nothing. He tries some other tool, and it won’t come off. He stands on it. Nothing.
At this point, he calls his boss and lets me know that it’s not going to happen. He can’t get the lug nut off, and AAA doesn’t let their field-service technicians use air guns on the theory that it could damage the member’s vehicle. There will be no roadside tire change here, he says. I’m going to need a tow truck.
Hearing this, I suggest one final idea: He stands on one end of the tire iron, and I pull as hard as I can on the other end. After 3 or 4 seconds of standing, tugging, standing and tugging — and hoping — finally, the lug nut comes loose. Now, it’s 1:15 p.m. And remember, it’s 4.7 degrees outside.
Of course, at this point, I rejoiced. We’re done! It’s over! We can now change the tire and I can get back on the road!
It was only beginning.
The next step was jacking up my Range Rover to change the tire — and for this purpose, the AAA guy had a really simple floor jack, the kind that every shop in America has. So, we stick it in the jacking point, he starts raising it up, and my Range Rover decides it simply won’t have any of this. Rather than allow the wheel to be lifted off the ground, it goes into Suspension High mode and just lifts up the suspension more and more the further we jack it. At this point, there had to be an entire foot between the top of the tire and the wheel well — and the wheel simply wasn’t lifting up off the ground.
I tried to lock the suspension into Low mode. It locked — but then, the moment it felt the jack lifting up the car, it automatically "detected an obstacle" and shifted back into High. I tried to lock it into Low and turn off the engine, so it couldn’t change to High on its own. It did anyway. We tried several other combinations of Low suspension and the floor jack. I pored over the owner’s manual. Nothing. The tire simply wouldn’t lift up off the ground.
At this point, it’s 1:35 or so, and the AAA guy is once again talking about a tow truck.
Fortunately, I had the bright idea to call my local dealership, Land Rover of Cherry Hill, which is filled with the greatest, most helpful human beings I’ve ever encountered in any automobile dealership I’ve ever dealt with. After suggesting I lock the suspension into Low mode ("I DID THAT ALREADY!!!" I frantically screamed), my service advisor Chris told me to just forget about the jacking point and use the jack on the control arm. "Are you sure?" Yeah. It’s no problem. "Are you totally sure?" Yeah! It’ll be fine.
So, we jacked it up on the control arm, and lo and behold, it worked perfectly. Now, the tire was in the air. Once again, I rejoiced. We’re done! It’s over! We can now change the tire, and I can get back on the road!
We had the tire in the air, we had the lug nuts off, and we went to pull the tire off the car.
It wouldn’t come off.
This isn’t an uncommon problem, and there are a lot of tricks to get a stuck tire off a car. We tried them all. We hit it with the spare tire. We hit it with a sledgehammer. We kicked it. We pushed it. We rocked the car. We sat there for 10 minutes doing all these things. The AAA guy called his supervisor, who suggested to keep trying. We did. The tire wouldn’t move.
With the idea of a tow truck once again looming large — even after we had come this far! — the AAA guy told me something: "Man… I recently won an award for being the best AAA guy in the region! I was on the news and everything!"
I burst out laughing.
Actually, at this point, we were both laughing, because the situation was too ridiculous not to laugh about. I’d had my flat tire an hour and 45 minutes ago, I had all the right tools, I had a full-size spare, I had called my dealership, the AAA guy showed up with a truck full of tire changing equipment, and we still didn’t have the new tire on the car!
We went back to hitting, kicking, pushing and generally roughhousing with the tire, until finally — after an almost unbelievable time investment in getting an already-unscrewed tire to simply come off the vehicle — it came loose.
It was now 1:55 p.m. The AAA guy had been with me for an hour and 10 minutes. And we were only just putting the spare tire on the car.
We were done 5 minutes later. I gave the AAA guy a $20 tip — he initially refused and accepted only when I told him that after what we’d been through, he probably deserved at least twice that much — and I called the Aston Martin dealership to let them know I wouldn’t be coming up to drive the DB11 today. And so, I retreated back down the New Jersey Turnpike, having just experienced the single longest roadside tire change in history, pausing only to slow down for left-lane clogging Marylanders.
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.