Time for new tires — or why I’m glad we have an emergency fund

by Karen on March 25, 2009

photo by kalebdf

Last week Tony took the car in for an oil change and brake check. I wasn’t expecting the news he gave me when he came home. One of our tires had a bubble and needed to be replaced immediately. The other three were on their last legs and needed to be replaced as well.

Our car only has about 20,000 miles, so we weren’t expecting this for some time. There was a time when a surprise like this would lead to panic and, most likely, debt. I didn’t have $200-$500 available for new tires at any given time, so I would have charged it on a credit card (unless my cards were maxed out).

This time it was a surprise, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t prepared.

Every month, we save $25 for car expenses. We’d accumulated about $90 in that account since using it to pay for maintenance before driving to Indiana in December.

The $90 would help, but it wasn’t enough. If we replaced all four tires, it would cost about $450.

I wanted to be sure that it was necessary, though. After all, the tires only had 20,000 miles on them. We knew we needed to replace the damaged tire, but I wanted to make sure the other three really needed to be replaced before taking money out of our emergency fund. We did the penny test and discovered that the back two tires were still okay.

We decided to replace the front two tires. We’ll monitor the tread and condition of the two back tires to make sure they’re still safe, and try to save up the money to replace them within the next few months.

We called for quotes at three different places — AAA, Wal-Mart, and Firestone. Firestone was the cheapest by about $100. The total for two new tires at Firestone was $215 with installation and other fees. Because we save additional money for car expenses, we only had to use $125 from our emergency fund. No big deal.

This is the first time I’ve had to tap the emergency fund, and I can’t tell you how glad I am that we have it. Before our emergency fund, I lived in constant fear that something like this would happen (and it always did). Our emergency fund made a normally stressful situation much easier.

I also learned that we’ve been too lax about tire safety. Just last weekend I drove over 100 miles on those tires — and one of them probably already had a bubble. I’m so thankful that I didn’t blow a tire going 70 miles per hour on the highway. Yikes.

From now on, we’ll keep a closer watch on our tire pressure and tread and check for tire problems, especially before long drives.

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