Sensors

I’m convinced that my car’s tyre pressure sensor has another sensor which senses when the man of the house (ie Ironman) is travelling for work, and as soon as he’s far enough away (as in at least an overseas trip), it decides to play up.

The first time it happened Ironman was going to be away for two weeks in South Africa for his 30th school reunion and running the Comrades marathon. From my point of car-trouble-in-the-winter-rain-while-running-kids-around-and-working-and-fulfilling-all-the-other-normal-required-responsibilities view it basically meant that I would be getting no help from him for two weeks, and I would be dealing with this particular little very inconvenient problem on my own.

Seeing as this warning message had never before come up, it obviously came as quite a surprise because I didn’t even know that the car had tyre pressure sensors! I took it quite seriously because my dad had taught me to listen and act on strange noises that your car makes and check tyre pressure and oil and water regularly (the warning message by the tyre pressure sensor makes a very loud beeping noise that’s actually impossible to ignore even if you tried and it certainly was strange the first time it happened). I’d actually noticed that one of the tyres seemed to be running a bit flat and had asked the man of the house, who takes responsibility for the vehicles and their maintenance, on a few separate occasions to have it checked to which the dismissive reply usually came that it was fine. There was no ignoring the warning message though: I had to check this out and as I got out the car and looked at the tyres one of them did look decidedly deflated, and so I set off to the service station to get some air into it.

Now seeing as Ironman sees it as his manly duty to take care of the maintenance of our cars – something which I had gladly left to him to take care of while I take care of the house, garden and kids – I hadn’t touched an air pressure machine for many years and felt nervous just at the thought of having to operate it because I didn’t have a clue how to! As luck would have it, the closest service station (I didn’t dare go any further because I didn’t know what this tyre was planning on doing, whether it was going to be flat within fifteen minutes and I wouldn’t be able to get home, or whether it was some sort of slow puncture) is a relatively small one but it was having a fuel special that day, so cars were lining up to get in and there was hardly any space to manoeuvre, but I managed to make my way to where the tyre pressure machines were, parked the car, got out and faced the machine not feeling very brave, in fact feeling very conspicuous and self-conscious as if it was obvious to everybody that I had no idea what I was doing (emotions I hadn’t experienced this keenly in about 25 years!). In my mind I could almost hear the kids saying: “you always tell us that it doesn’t matter what other people think, so why do you care?”, but you would expect a forty-year old person to be able to stride up to a tyre pressure machine with a certain air of purpose and confidence, set the required pressure on the machine, unhook the hose, attach it to the tyre, pump the tyre up, hang the hose back on the machine, get back in their car and drive away, all done with an air of self-assured efficiency and within a reasonable time frame. Simple.

My attempt was nothing like it. I stood in front of the machine reading the instructions (what forty-year old still has to do that?), then didn’t know what the correct air pressure was for my tyres, had to get back in the car and page through the car manual to try to find out what the correct pressure would be (after texting my husband and receiving a most helpful “I don’t know” answer), got out the car again and tried to see if there was any indication inside the door frame on the little plaque (there was none) and ended up googling these specific tyres on my phone to find out the correct pressure, and all this while cars are coming and going around me like it’s rush hour traffic.

If only the message looked something like this:

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I would at least have known which PSI range I was looking at, but the message wasn’t smart enough for that, it only said: “Check tyre pressure”. Yes, well I would have much preferred it to have said:

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I wish. Eventually I found an answer online, walked back to the machine, set the desired air pressure, unhooked the hose and walked to the car apprehensively, attached (or so I thought) the air nozzle to the tyre and started the process. Much to my absolute dismay though, I managed to DEflate the tyre even more, instead of inflating it, by which time I was just about ready to drop my bundle and have a meltdown because of course the little episode happened while I was in a hurry to get somewhere, as these things tend to do! Hilarious when you think about it afterwards, but not really so at the time.

I worked out how to INflate the tyre eventually, and got where I had to be, but every time I turned the engine on the same (by now annoying) message came up until I referred back to the manual again to figure out how to reset the message. After a couple of days the same message came on again, and seeing as the kids and I were going on a little road trip a few days later (with Ironman still away) I had to take it seriously and have the tyre checked out by professionals. This was becoming a bit of an issue! A few rainy day trips to the tyre shop later, backwards and forwards with the tyre coming off to be checked and the spare going on, and the offending tyre being put back on because the professionals couldn’t find anything wrong with it, and the beeping message coming on again after this effort and the professionals telling me I need a new (super expensive) tyre and my far-away husband being adamant that we’re not getting a new tyre, I had had enough of mid-winter tyre pressure issues and did the road trip with the tyre behaving just fine. There was no logic in the way this tyre was behaving – warning me that it’s deflated, then being deflated but when I took it to be checked out there was absolutely nothing wrong with it!

Only once has the tyre re-offended while the man of the house was around and it was, I’m glad to say, just as puzzling to him. Our conclusion ended up being that there is probably a problem with the sensor for air pressure in the tyre, hence the mixed messages. But the tyre did deflate on its own a few times (not counting the time I assisted in deflating it), so it was pretty much all quite confusing and frustrating.

Until the day after my husband left to go on his latest overseas trip. I got in the car in the morning and turned the engine on and there it was: BEEEEP! “Check tyre pressure”. Really?!? And my first thought was that the stupid thing had a sensor which sensed when the man of the house was away, so I had to deal with the illogical deflating/non-deflating/annoying message-sending-tyre on my own again. Surely it couldn’t be just another random act of tyre deflation! It’s not random any more when it keeps happening when the man of the house is away! And what happened when I got to the service station to put air in the tyre this time around (nearly two years after the first nerve-racking time)? I deflated it again!! I clearly haven’t had enough practice, and remembering how to perform this simple task is one little piece of detail my brain decided not to retain, seeing as it’s retaining so much other useful as well as useless information (like car registration numbers – ours & friends’, our old telephone numbers from a different continent, various dates of events over the past 18 years that are not important according to my husband, how much the wheels on his bike had cost, and that 32 PSI is the correct air pressure for my car’s tyres).

But despite all of that, I’m still convinced this tyre has a mind of its own, sending me random (or maybe not so random) messages at the most inconvenient of times, and deflating when (mostly) only I am around to deal with it, and behaving perfectly when professionals look at it, which makes me think that the message should rather be:

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