A Red Car, Four Strapping Lads, and an Exploding Tire

A Red Car, Four Strapping Lads, and an Exploding Tire

Do you remember your first car? Of course you do. It’s one of those things you never forget, right?

I always hear about kids being given their first car as a gift, like these teens meeting this milestone in this new ad from Michelin USA

That’s sweet.

It… totally wasn’t my experience though. No, I had actually to pay for my first car with my own hard-earned money.

A whole $50!

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s less than the cost of a car in 100 years ago! Are you a time traveller? Are you!?”

For the record, I’m not. I’m just super cheap. I was in the middle of pounding the pavement looking for a post-high-school job, and really needed a car to get me to interviews and then hopefully to work. My $50 (Canadian!) was added to the same amount from my brother, and together we purchased the most ugly, run down piece of junk I’ve ever had the privilege to drive. Our $100 got us a brown 1985 Subaru sedan, with a rusty, crumbling muffler that was more hole than metal, and was attached by an old wire hanger. It was loud, and ugly… but it ran, usually, and the price was right.

A photo posted by Chris Routly (@chrisroutly) on

I learned to drive standard on that car, and when I found a job I was able to use it for a whole 3 months… before the rear axle snapped in half on me, in the middle of a tight highway on-ramp, on my way to work one day.

It was finished, but it has served its final days nobly.

I still needed to get to work though, which is why I took the Very Adult Step of then buying my first “real car,” (a.k.a. Not Junk) which involved contracts and a cosigner and locking myself into years of car payments that I still think about and say a prayer of thanks are long past.

Car #2 was a cherry red 1991 Toyota Corolla, and there are two things I distinctly remember about the day I got it:  1) for reasons I don’t know, we got it from a Ford dealership, and 2) I remember my dad telling me that if I took good care of it, it would last me a decade.

A photo posted by Chris Routly (@chrisroutly) on

Dad was right. In fact, it lasted me even longer than that, but I have to admit that, well, I actually didn’t take very good care of it at all. 

Getting a first car is an unforgettable milestone in any person’s life. It bestows freedom and independence, but with that comes a great responsibility to stay safe on the road. And I learned that lesson the hard way.

It was September, and my older brother was getting married. I was still living in Canada, but the wedding was happening down in Washington State, and as the Best Man, it was my responsibility to drive myself, two other groomsmen, and a fourth friend the 3 hours or so south to the camp where the festivities were to take place.

We were “four strapping lads” as my friend Piet declared us, which was our justification for deciding (poorly) to stop along the way at Arby’s for lunch, and take advantage of their “5 for $5” deal and feed the whole car more roast beef sandwiches than we could manage for a mere $10. This isn’t related at all to my point, but it is a fond memory despite the stomach cramps that followed, so I include it here.

Anyhow, one element to the drive that the other guys were definitely not expecting was the bumpiness. As we sped south along I-5, the car vibrated. My steering wheel shook wildly, and it wasn’t because of the road. “Ah, it happens sometimes,” I explained, figuring it was probably simply due to the extra weight of having four large guys on board. “No biggie.”

No biggie, that was, until my front driver-side tire exploded.

I was able to pull over, and we were all fine, but it was a hard lesson in not ignoring the wear and the bulges on my tires. They were in terrible, terrible shape. Thankfully, we were able to put on the spare and get to a tire shop to get a replacement, and then make it to the camp in time for the rehearsal. (Okay, so we were late for the rehearsal, but I THINK my brother and sister-in-law have forgiven me for that by now, 15+ years later).

What’s this #FirstCarMoment thing all about?

So you’re probably wondering why I am sharing all of this stuff about my first cars, and my dangerous car maintenance. In a nutshell, it’s because with the arrival of summer we enter the period the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Safety Council refer to as the “100 deadliest days for teen drivers.”

leaningMichelin USA asked me to help them with their #FirstCarMoment campaign, designed to create a conversation about that milestone, and connect it to the importance of safe tires on that first car—or any car. The goal is to remind drivers that whether or not your first (or current!) car is in the best condition, your tires should be. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what kind of car you (or your teen) drive. What matters most is that your tires are safe.

Did you know that automobile accidents are the number one killer of teens in America?

It’s scary, but true. Also true is that 12% of the 2.2 million accidents that occur each year with inexperienced drivers are due to tire-related issues, roughly 264,000 crashes. 26% of those are attributed to low tread depth, and 32% are attributed to improper tire pressure. That’s a whole lot of lives that could be saved, and injury avoided, with one small focus on handling tires properly.

Checking your tire pressure with a pressure gauge monthly, and learning the proper way to check tread depth, are two easy tasks that can help you correctly maintain your tires and contribute to overall vehicle safety. Please be sure to check yours!

And be sure to join me, @MichelinUSA, and @LifeofDadShow for the #FirstCarMoment Twitter Party on Wednesday, June 24th 8PM ET!

Michelin V6

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Michelin for this promotion.  I have received compensation for my participation, but my first car memories are my own.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Facebook Comments