How to change a tire by Mike Baron

HOW TO CHANGE A TIRE

I ain’t the handiest guy in the world, but I know how to change a tire. A lot of new cars don’t come with a spare. If you get a flat, you’re shit outta luck. Better have one of those plug-in tire repair kits so you can hobble to the next service station. I also know how to drive a stick shift. Growing up on the flat eastern plains of South Dakota, my friends and I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel, so much so, that we would routinely “borrow” our parents’ cars late at night to get the hang of it.

It was a car culture. My best friend’s dad always had copies of Road & Track and Car And Driver in his clinic office. He was a successful doctor who also owned several hot cars including a Ferrari, which he let me drive once.

“I think eighty is fast enough, Mike.”

Doctor Delaney also had a Mercedes 300 and a humongous Dodge with a hemi.

I love shifting the gears, matching revs on downshifts, feeling the engine hit its torque curve. It’s a joy to feel part of the mechanical apparatus that moves you through the countryside, and the joy is greater when you ride a motorcycle, because instead of being sealed off from the land in an enclosed steel cage, you are part of the countryside.

I love the smell of gas.

These days, most cars have automatic transmissions, rear view cameras, devices that correct the steering if you nod off and fail to notice you’re about to rear end a semi. People refer to manual transmissions as millennial anti-theft devices, and there’s some truth there. A lot of kids are leery of driving and in no hurry to get their licenses, partly because of stupid propaganda demonizing internal combustion engines. All progress comes at a price. The internal combustion engine has been one of the greatest boons to mankind since the invention of the wheel. For every person who dies in a car crash, a thousand have been transported swiftly and safely to hospital emergency rooms for everything from pregnancy to heart attacks. Fresh water and medicine travel to disaster areas via internal combustion engines.

Those who want us to emulate Europe with mass transit don’t understand what makes America unique. Part of it is freedom. The freedom to hop on your bike, or into your car, and go wherever the hell you please. America is a huge country with vast distances, especially out here in the West. Mass transit works great in dense urban areas, not so much in the West.

Today’s risk-adverse yoot are not buying motorcycles. Scary! There used to be numerous monthly general purpose motorcycle magazines. Now there are two quarterlies, Motorcyclist and Cycle World, and neither has anything of interest. Motorcycle manufacturers don’t vomit forth dozens of new models each year as they did in the past.

But like the horse and comic books, motorcycles will never disappear because they have their enthusiasts. I hope they will make a comeback.

To change a flat tire, you loosen the lug nuts before you apply the jack. Jack the wheel off the ground, replace it, gently screw in the lug nuts, then lower the car back to the ground. Once it is on its full weight, you tighten the lug nuts.

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