What are the odds?

What are the odds of seeing, on the same road, within 1/4 mile of each other, two unrelated, different cars, both of which lost their left front wheels with no obvious cause (like pothole or anything)? Completely flabbergasted me today. One was a Prius, the other was some other sedan that didn’t look more than ten years old. Dry roads, no big branches in them either.

Not much. Did you buy the lottery ticket?

Explain. How did those cars lose their wheels?

We lost a wheel one time because the mechanic didn’t tighten up the lug nuts.

It’s quite possible and there could be different reasons why each vehicle was missing a wheel. Lugs left loose, broken ball joint, disentegrated wheel hub bearing, no spare and the vehicle was actually sitting on one of those lousy jacks while someone carted a flat off for repair, etc.

As to suspension failures and wheel bearing failures that can happen with clean late model cars with comparatively low mileage. Rough roads, cars driven in deep water due to heavy rain, etc, can contribute to premature parts failure.

I agree. Parts failures are mostly the result of fatigue and can seem to occur for no apparent reason. Maybe both cars spent the previous winter driving over Maine roads.

Maybe there was a non-obvious cause, like something in the road that you didn’t see?

Oh, That Makes Sense. I Thought You Were Going To Say Same Model, Same Color.
Some Kids Take Halloween Fun To A Higher Level.

Had you waited around, perhaps you would have seen more of them.

The odds are puny, probably lower than willing the lottery. Congratulations, you’ve “beat the odds”.

Actual math would require traffic count over the timeframe of the trip.

It could be a garden variety coincidence. Two unrelated flat tires. Coincidences happen a lot more often than people realize.

Or it could have been some large hard object, say, that fell off a truck, & was run over by the 2 consecutive L/F tires. The debris/large hard object may have been removed before you came upon the scene. There was more than just damage to the tires/wheels–the hub, wheel studs, lug nuts, tie rod, etc, may have been damaged, making it fruitless to install the spare tire.

Now you got me wondering. Hope I can fall asleep tonight!

A carpenter/roofer driving a pickup, but with compartments along the sides of the bed left some roofing nails on top of the left side compartments, which, when they fell off at speed, targeted perfectly the 2 L/F wheels. But wait a minute–why would 2 cars in a row get flats, & neither car had a spare. But now I’m assuming the 2 flats took place consecutively, IOW, within several seconds of each other. Maybe the 2 events were separated in time by hours or even days. But still, why no spare?

Hey, maybe the trail of nails/road hazards was so long that after installation the spare was flattened as well. Then the 4 tire & wheel assemblies were taken in vehicle(s) to the nearest garage/tire store to be replaced/fixed.


Maybe the former resident of 221b Baker Street, London, England could be of further assistance.

Opposite sides of the road, 1/4 mile apart, not TIRES but WHEELS fell off! I mean, the front ends were both smashed on the ground in the same way!! It was just too bizarre. I’ve never seen that once, let alone twice in the space of a minute or so.

I imagine the odds of a named driver seeing that on a short, chosen stretch of road would be pretty low. I imagine the odds of someone, out of the hundreds of millions of drivers who drove billions of miles this past year in this country alone, seeing this would be fairly high. This year, that someone happened to be you.

Caveat: I’m a humanities major, not a statistician.


I once did an analysis of the odds of a vehicle having 4 flat tires in a year and it’s 0.21%. That’s a low number, but considering that are over 200 million vehicles in the US, it’s a lot more common than you might think.

Think of the billions of time you didn’t see that happen. Not so sure you “beat the odds”.

Technically, AL, you’re correct. It’s actually impossible to “beat the odds”.

Or… one car had a flat and were already driving on the spare or stopped for some other reason, so there was no jack involved. The second car had a flat, went back to the first car, discovered that the wheel was the wrong size, but didn’t bother putting it back on because the car had been abandoned, and took their jack back to the second car, and put it in the trunk. You didn’t say if any of the tires were flat or not.

If you live long enough, you’ll see everything at least once…

Guys, these were NOT flat tires!!! These were wheels gone. OFF. The whole front driver’s side smashed to the ground. Broken. The SAME WAY. With no apparent common cause. It would NOT be interesting if it were only a couple of flats.

Neither car was abandoned; both had other cars with people helping them. The police had not arrived on the scene of either one yet, so both must have been pretty recent.

I wonder if there was some lackey at a nearby dealership that was not capable of tightening lug nuts properly!

Generally speaking, when you see an entire wheel assembly missing and the vehicle lying prone on the asphalt the cause is a broken ball joint. (Usually a lower ball joint.)

There are many vehicles running around out there with worn ball joints as the majority of drivers do not have the suspension checked now and then so it’s entirely possible that the law of averages presented 2 broken ball joints to you at once.
If you’re passing a vehicle on the side of the road that appears to have suffered this problem slow down if possible and look for any scrape marks on the asphalt leading to the damaged wheel well area. Scrapes or gouging means a ball joint gave up.

A few years ago a guy in a Dodge pickup approached me from behind while I was on the county highway one morning about sunup near my home. In the rear view I could see something odd about his RF wheel but I was unsure what the problem was due to the shadow, etc.
I’m at the posted speed of 55 and he passes me doing about 65. As he pulls out to pass I see the RF wheel canted in and I mean canted badly due to a lower ball joint that was flat gone.

I rolled the window down and as he looked at me while passing I waved furiously and pointed to his RF wheel. He had both hands on the wheel in a death grip but gave me a thumbs up gesture. WTH? I hit the brakes to get clean away from this guy and picked the speed up so I could tuck in a block behind him. Someone was going to have to call 911 when he rolled.

About 2 miles later it went. The RF wheel along with most of the upper suspension broke off, the pickup went gouging through the asphalt and off into the weeds in a cloud of dust, and the wheel/suspension flew into the barbed wire fence where the wire acted as a slingshot and fired the entire mess clean across the highway into the barbed wire fence on the other side.
It was just sheer luck that no other vehicle was approaching from the other direction and that wheel/suspension assembly did not go through someone’s windshield.
(No, I do not stop and help idiots so I just slowed down, moved over, and left him there.)

Were the cars facing in the same, or the opposite direction?