I think my friend Louise and I were around 21 at the time and this was our first road trip outside of the UK. It was also the initial leg of our tour of Ireland and already we were hauled up at the roadside, in the middle of nowhere.
“Must be these country roads,” I can remember saying to Louise as I glanced back at the narrow, stony and potholed path that we had just zipped along without a care in the world.
Neither of us had ever changed a wheel before and I can remember we stood there for a bit scratching our heads. I looked at Louise, Louise looked at the tyre and the tyre still looked as flat as a pancake.
We decided that we had better consult the hire car company who had loaned us the car in the hope that they would send someone out to help us.
It wasn’t much use though because we were told that it would take around two to three hours to get somebody out to us, mainly because we were quite far out into the countryside. In fact we were a couple of miles from the most westerly point of both mainland Ireland and Europe.
Things got worse when, as if on cue, it started to rain. And I’m not talking about normal rain, I’m talking about Irish rain – the horizontal sort that lasts for hours.
Looking back this seems stupid to me now because really we should have just got on with it and started changing the wheel. I suppose we didn’t feel confident enough to do it at first because we were relatively new to driving and had never experienced a puncture before.
Also, if this had happened back at home we’d have asked our dads or the male members of our families to help us out. This is probably what many women would do and also why the majority of females don’t have great hands on experience when it comes to dealing with car parts.
Wheels in particular can be dirty, heavy and awkward to remove especially when wheel nuts are difficult to twist off so it is only natural to require the help of a strong man sometimes.
But here we were on our own in a foreign land and miles away from any major towns. There was only one option really: we had to ‘man up’ and change the wheel ourselves.
I’m glad I had this experience though because I learned how to change a wheel and realised that whether or not I have someone to rely on for car issues, it is still important for me to know the basics.
Yes, changing a wheel is messy and the wheel nuts can need a bit of elbow grease but it really isn’t an impossible task, nor is basic car maintenance like checking oil and putting air in the tyres.
It’s not a glamorous job but it’s also not just a man’s job and it is worth doing because if you can understand a little bit about how your car works and how to look after it then you should have fewer problems on the road, well, unless you happen to get yourself into some trouble in a hire car of course.