MakeShift Challenge: Broken Arm in the Wilderness: Most Creative Entry

Stuart Conner’s Most Creative Winning Entry
by Lee D. Zlotoff
June 17, 2008

I must make two assumptions about the gone-fishing-flat-tire episode of MakeShift by Lee Zlotoff.

The goal is only to make it the 25 miles to the highway and flag down help and/or make a cellphone call.
The tire is still seated on the rim of the wheel since the wording used was “gone flat” as opposed to “separated and destroyed.”

First things first. In this case it’s first aid. Control any bleeding with direct pressure and some absorbent gauze from your first aid kit (a piece of clothing works too). The first item on your pack list for any outdoor activity should be a first aid kit. Never tempt Murphy’s Law. Make a cold pack with a sandwich baggie and some ice.

Keep your injured friend comfortably warm; if he’s cold, give him your jacket, it’s his for now. Shock may set in at any time, so keep talking with him, ask questions, keep him alert and calm.

Now about that front tire.

If it’s a front-wheel drive, move a rear wheel to the front position. If it’s a rear-wheel drive, just remove the flat wheel. With weight removed, the tire should resume its normal round shape even without any pressure inside. Bring it down to the stream and let it fill with water, securing it so it doesn’t get carried away.

In the meantime, whittle a plug from a piece of wood from the handle of a rod or net or even a downed branch from the surrounding trees. Make it tapered with grooves around the circumference to act as a catch or barb to keep inner pressure from ejecting the plug when inserted into the hole in the tire. You want the plug to be a tight-stretched fit to make a watertight seal in the hole.

With the wheel laying hole up, push your plug into the hole to seal the gap. Use your weight or even the jack under the bumper to get it pressed in past the carved barb. Cut off the extra length if the plug extends out more than a couple inches from the sidewall of the tire, to prevent it striking the fender or obstacles.

It would be near impossible to insert the plug and have no air inside the tire. Small amounts of air in the tire are OK, even good.

Put the wheel back on the vehicle and drive slowly and carefully. It’ll be a bumpy ride. The water won’t absorb the bumps like air would. Avoid rocks and obstacles; you may have to get out to move some from your path.

The water is in-compressible so it takes the place of most of the compressed air in a normally inflated tire. The air at the top of the tire will be compressed by the weight of the vehicle to a point where the tire supports the wheel with the rim off of the ground.

Constantly check your cellphone for service! The sooner you make a call for help, the sooner they can meet you with a fully enabled vehicle to get your friend to medical attention.

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