RACINE COUNTY — It’s construction season, which also means it’s flat-tire time for some unlucky drivers.
Besides normal summer tire repairs, the winter’s bumper crop of potholes has brought even more business for auto repair shops, some in the industry say. That includes repairing and replacing tires, sometimes bad rims, and various front-end problems.
“The past winter put significant stress on suspension and steering components,” including shocks, struts, ball joints and tie rods, said Travis Hagen, part-owner of Goold Automotive Repair & Service Center. His shop at 1501 Goold St. started seeing those kinds of problems during the winter, and they began increasing in about May, he said.
Brett Matschke, owner of Richlonn’s Tire & Service Center, 5418 Washington Ave., estimated they’re seeing about 20 percent more of that type of front-end business this year, which has much to do with
Potholes can even be linked with the nails, screws and other items that puncture tires, said Kyle Kempka, a service adviser at Racine Automotive Group, 6940 Washington Ave.
“The winter was incredibly bad,” he said. As road crews repair potholes, Kempka said, they normally divert traffic toward the shoulder. “That’s where all the road debris gets built up.”
And if crews build frames for concrete work, they can leave screws behind, Kempka said. “Once it gets into construction season, we see a lot more nails. Whatever gets covered up in the winter, now it’s ready for the tires.”
Richlonn’s averages about eight tire repairs a day, according to Matschke. “There’s just a lot of junk on the roads,” he said. Matschke thinks a good portion of it falls off the various work trucks roaming around from job to job.
“That’s our theory.”
Many different ways to get a flat tire
Richlonn’s keeps a large pickle jar for the odd assortment of objects they extract from tires including screws, nails and semi-sharp metallic objects.
“We have pulled some very odd things out of tires,” said Hagen of Goold Automotive. His own car got a flat tire from a piece of wood about 5 inches long by 2 to 2 ½ inches wide. “I have no idea where I hit it,” Hagen said. “I have no idea how people drive over some of this stuff.”
He added: “Some of our clients work in the construction industry, and they drive in that environment.”
The worst influx of flat tires Jeff Nelson, manager at Auto Excellence, 3701 Durand Ave., ever saw was years back when a vicious hailstorm plowed through Racine, slamming through shingles. That drew a migration of sloppy roofers from somewhere in the South.
“We pulled a lot of roofing nails out of tires,” Nelson said.
Kempka of Racine Automotive said what they extract from tires most often are “tiny black screws. I don’t even know what they’re used for.”
But they’ve also removed a bicycle brake caliper, razor blades and screwdrivers, he said.
Bryan Hince, manager at Firestone Complete Auto Care, 1122 N. Main St., also mentioned screwdrivers.
“I have had a lot of people ask, ‘Does it look like this was intentionally put in my tire?’ ” he said. But what can happen, he explained, is a front tire hits something like a screwdriver, tosses it around and then it punctures a rear tire.
Hince’s favorite flat-tire story is about a woman who came to him saying what a bad day she was having: She not only had a flat tire, but she couldn’t find her house key and was locked out.
“We found her house key,” Hince said. “She ran over her house key, and it got stuck in the tire.”