Driving around the sprawling, spiteful, eternal construction site that is Miami can be hazardous to your tires.
Just ask Manuel Molina, manager of the Midas repair shop at 2175 NE Second Ave. He keeps two glass jars on his front counter that are full of nails, screws, bolts and other assorted sharp objects that he and his mechanics have yanked out of customers’ tires. It’s the same type of ghastly collection a forensic scientist might display of pickled body parts in formaldehyde.
“What’s in those jars is just a small percentage of what we find,” Molina said. “It’s gotten ridiculous. I’ll see the same customers four or five times a month.”
Miami is plagued by a flat-tire epidemic.
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Construction debris litters our roadways and parking lots. We’re paying the price to repair and replace punctured tires.
“Look at this — it blew a hole in the rim,” said David Gonzalez, Molina’s service advisor, twisting a six-inch nail between his fingertips. “The strangest thing we found was a wrench inside a tire.”
The shop is averaging about 10 flats per day, double what it used to be.
Customer Stephen Wicker lamented the fact that he was making his third visit in three months. He lives two blocks away in Edgewater. He can count 12 cranes from the view out his windows.
“You’re constantly driving by a construction zone,” he said. “There are nails falling from every orifice. The workers aren’t cleaning up.”
He’s had flats in all four tires of his Scion XB.
“A nail even went through a previous patch,” he said. “This time, I came in expecting a $20 plug and I had to pay $350 for two new tires.”
Jessica Wade Pfeffer has also become a frequent customer.
“I live on the Upper East Side near Morningside and I work downtown,” Pfeffer said. “My entire route is basically under construction, even when I try to take other streets around it.
“In Miami, there’s construction everywhere you go. You cannot avoid it.”
“A flat tire in Miami is like taxes and student loans — it’s inevitable,” he said, shaking his head.
What to do?
“Take an Uber,” Gonzalez suggested. “Take public transportation. Or walk. It’s healthier to walk.”
For those who have to drive, beware the obstacle course.
“It’s all over South Florida,” Gonzalez said. “I worked at repair shops in Cutler Ridge and Dadeland. Same thing there. I live in Kendall and I get a lot of flats. It’s especially bad here. We’re trying to close and people are coming in desperate with flats, ‘Please help me.’ ”
Run-flat tires allow the driver to keep driving up to 50 miles at 50 mph until the tire can be replaced. But they are expensive — $280 up to $500, according to Molina — and usually have to be replaced rather than repaired. Regular tires cost $70 and up. A patch job is typically $20-30.
“With run-flats, if you pick up a nail you can continue to drive on it but often it cannot be fixed because you shouldn’t put plugs on them,” Molina said. “A puncture in the sidewall of a regular tire can’t be fixed, either.
“There’s not much you can do and most times you won’t notice the problem until your tire is completely flat.”
But it’s good for business, yes?
“It’s very frustrating for our customers, who are like family to us in this area. We’ve been here 30 years,” he said. “One lady with kids had to replace a tire. Then she came back in three days later to replace another one. I feel sorry for my customers who have to spend so much money on tires.”