AutoMatters & More: Flat Tire Drama & “A Beautiful Planet”


The Tale of the Flat Tire

Flat tires rarely happen in convenient places and at opportune times. Compounding the inconvenience is the unfortunate fact that new cars increasingly do not have a spare tire. Instead, they either come with run-flat tires or a so-called tire repair kit, consisting of an electric air pump and a can of goop that will seal a hole in a tire (but the use of which may void the tire’s warranty). Neither no-spare tire solution will do you any good in the case of a catastrophic tire failure, if it is damaged beyond repair.

My story begins in Orange County, California where I was attending the four-day DisneyanaMania convention. My intention was to commute back and forth from San Diego each day.

Late on the second night of the convention I was nearly home when I stopped at an ATM to get some cash. I noticed something round and metallic in the tread of my driver’s side front tire. It was a very worn, Phillips head screw. I was determined to complete my trip, but as I drove the Tire Pressure Monitoring System’s indicator lit up. Nevertheless I kept going and made it back home, where I refilled the tire.

The next morning the tire was flat. I left the Prius at home and drove to the convention in my gas-guzzling Mustang V-8.

In Garden Grove I drove to the Costco Tire Center (#126) to inquire about tire repairs. To be on the safe side I also got two price quotes for new tires, since my tires – which had been on my 2012 Prius since that car was new — already had 65,000 miles on them and the tread depth was looking iffy. They open at 7am.

That night when I returned to San Diego I saw that the damaged Prius tire was completely flat again. I decided to refill the tire immediately before leaving in the morning and arrive at the nearby Carlsbad Costco Tire Center by 7am. I decided to leave my air tank at home, rather than risk leaving it in a hot car all day.

I arrived at the Carlsbad Costco Tire Center before 7am, but it was deserted. Their sign said they did not open until 9:30am. Now what?

If I waited, by the time the necessary work was done I’d be very late for the convention. I decided that my best option was to drive to Garden Grove and get the work done there. The problem was that my tire was steadily losing air pressure.

I phoned the Garden Grove Costco to make arrangements, headed out on the highway again and soon found a gas station. For 75 cents I refilled my leaky tire, in the hope that would be enough to complete my journey. It was.

Even though it was already a busy Saturday, by 9:00am Costco was inspecting my punctured tire. Unfortunately the screw was too close to the edge of the tread to enable a safe repair. The tire needed to be replaced.

Costco really came through by selling me four 70,000 mile-warranted Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 Plus tires for my Prius – including mounting and balancing, scrap tire recycling fee and Tire Pressure Monitoring System service packs – for only $416.27 out the door!

While I waited, I took photos and began to write this column. Then at 9:30, when the warehouse opened, I bought a berry smoothie and a chicken Caesar salad to eat later for lunch. By the time that I returned to the tire center my car was ready. I got to my convention by 10:00am. Not too shabby, considering all that I had accomplished already.

I cannot say enough good things about Costco’s wonderful customer service. I’ve been a loyal Costco customer (and before that Price Club) for decades.

“A Beautiful Planet” in IMAX

Narrated by Jennifer Lawrence, shot for the first time in space on digital cameras and projected on the giant dome of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park (, “A Beautiful Planet” illustrates humanity’s impact on our world through breathtaking views of Earth, as observed from the International Space Station. By day it is a beautiful blue world of water, vast deserts, jungles and melting glacial ice; dramatically transforming at night, as the lights of civilization reveal the enormity of mankind’s impact.

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Copyright © 2016 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #446