“Use your eyeballs!”
If I heard that command once, I heard it a thousand times from any number of old farmers who helped to raise me. It could apply to any number of tasks that needed my attention or to some very obvious risk to life and limb that was staring me in the face. One of the first uses for my eyeballs in agriculture was checking tire pressure on any vehicle or piece of equipment before setting off on the road.
Car and truck tires are so well made today that it is a rarity for one of them to fail unless they’re over five years old and 80,000 km. This is partly due to a massive recall and class-action lawsuit against Firestone 20 years ago that chopped 50 per cent off the company’s value. All manufacturers took a deep breath and a very careful look at the way they were designing tires after that and the industry standard improved. So it was with some surprise that I went out and found one of the tires on my 2011 truck almost flat. I’d just replaced them all last spring but the warning light on the dash stayed on even when the new tires were at correct pressure. I just assumed it was another failed sensor system but I couldn’t understand why a new tire would go flat.
So, I pumped it up and took it to my tire guy and he came back to me five minutes later and told me the tire sensors in the old valve stems had failed on all the tires. To replace them was going to cost about $350. He said the sensors only last five years now before the batteries conk out or the things corrode completely, letting the air out of the tires.
“What?” I said. “You mean the sensor flattened my tire?”
“Yes. Didn’t you see the light on the dash?” he asked.
I did. But so many mechanics have told me over the years that a warning light means a safety system has failed, not the system itself, that I don’t take them very seriously anymore. It’s like all those Globe and Mail pieces telling me interest rates are going up.
In this case, he explained that the light on the dash is not just a warning about low air pressure. It is also a warning that the warning system isn’t warning anymore. He basically told me to use my eyeballs and look at the dumb tires.
“Do they still have those two-dollar valve stems from Canadian Tire?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” he said. He threw the smart sensors in the garbage and put me back in the analog age in about twenty minutes for 65 bucks. So instead of keeping my eye on the dashboard I am using my eyeballs to check tire pressure, just like I always did.
The same week, I got a distress call from my daughter who manages a high-end Calgary restaurant. They had a small grease fire in the kitchen that set off the sprinkler system. A pipe on the third floor promptly burst and water cascaded down the stairs, doing far more damage to the building in an hour than three days of the Calgary flood. They are out of business till the New Year. The safety system that was designed to protect the building came pretty close to destroying it.
About the same time, the ‘smart’ windshield on my friend’s car got a stone crack in it and the dealership told him it will cost $2,500 to replace it and re-program it. Like me, he has decided to dispense with all the flashing lights and beepers that warn him he is too close to the curb. He found an old-style windshield from Apple Auto Glass and now he is using his eyeballs to look through his dumb windshield just as I am using my eyeballs to check my dumb tires.
My tire guy pointed out that I will still have that annoying warning light on the dashboard for the rest of my truck’s life. I said that was okay, because the light bulb that illuminates the dash has burned out and the dealership wants $300 to replace it. Thankfully, all the warning lights on the dash cast just enough light for me to see the speedometer, so it won’t be a problem.
OPINION: In these parts, we eyeball it
“Use your eyeballs!”