September 7, 2015
I was at office when a phone call from Pushpa gave a shocking, sad message. We had to rush to Mysore immediately. I went home, packed our bags and started our journey around 1-00 pm. Distance between Hyderabad and Mysore is 700 km, around 11 hours journey. We decided to stop over at Bangalore and leave the following morning. We reached Bangalore around 9-00 pm. Morning we were up by 4-00 and heading to Mysore by 5-00 am. We were at Mysore by 7-30 am where we met a few relatives and friends. We all were here to perform the last rites of a close relative. The cremation was done by 5-00 pm. Pushpa and I left Mysore, reached Bangalore around 9-00 pm. We were tired to travel back to Hyderabad, we decided to rest a day and leave 10th morning.
Sept 10, 2015
As usual, we started our journey early, around 4-30 or so. While cruising on a flyover towards Devanahalli, we heard a screeching sound from the rear wheels. The noise would go away, and start again... this happened a few times. I normally drive between 80 and 100 kmph, due to the noise, I reduced the speed to 70 kmph. At one point the noise was too loud, I stopped and inspected the wheels, the left rear rim was hot. I thought the wheel bearings were gone, may be I can get them replaced at Anantapur. The journey continued... we were 80+ km away from Bangalore, a few kilometers from Bagepalli when the left rear wheel came off. Car was moving at 80 kmph, the rear left sank and scraped on the tarmac. Fortunately we were on a straight & wide stretch of the highway, the road was clear, no vehicles parked on the side, no vehicle behind us, and I was alert, I steered the car to the left and stopped just inside the side marker.
The loose wheel was lying on the side, its center on fire which I stamped out. The grease in the bearings had ignited due to heat caused by intense friction. The brake pads were exposed since the drum was still attached to the wheel. I checked the issue and guessed the axle tip had cut. No way I could refit the wheel on my own. What a mess.
I called mom and brother to let them know about the incident. Then called my friend Satish. After few rounds of discussions with brother and friend, I still hadn't decided the next step. Meantime, a man approached us inquiring about the incident. He was a farmer living close by, his field was a few minutes walk away. He knew a mechanic at Bagepalli, I spoke to the mechanic on the phone, he came down to inspect the damage. He suggested that the axle be removed, taken to Bangalore for repairs, get it back and refit it. That wasn't a viable solution since we would be on the road until the car was fixed. The other thing- these guys weren't Hyundai authorized mechanics... no guarantee on quality of work. Forget it!
Around 9-00 am I got in touch with Advait Hyundai service, requested for a towing vehicle. Then told by friend about us returning to Bangalore. Satish said he would be coming too. While we waited, the farmer took us to his fields and offered us tender coconuts. It was nice to be cared for.
The tow truck arrived by noon. The operator was efficient, he quickly attached the tow dolly to the rear axle, all firm and secure. Threw the loose wheel into the back of the truck. We were almost set to leave, Satish arrived in his car. We gathered our bags and stuffed them in Satish's car. We thanked and said bye to the farmer. Our journey resumed, in the opposite direction, following the tow truck for a few kilometers. My poor injured car, moving backwards on two wheels at 70 kmph. Crazy!
The following morning we traveled back to Hyderabad by a day bus. During the journey I was thinking of the incident... the mistakes made... we were just 40 km when the problem was first known. Even at that point the problem was obvious but I pushed on. Had I turned back and got the car checked, the issue might have been minor. May be the axle wouldn't be damaged to his extent. And, we were lucky when the wheel came off the road was clear. I said a silent prayer for keeping us safe. And my heartfelt thanks to Satish.
Lesson learned: fix issues when they are small, its a matter of safety, take no chances.