Well, about ten minutes into my half-hour drive home at 11:30 at night, the rattle suddenly got much, much louder. It sounded like something broke off and was rattling around in the wheel or under my car. I had no idea what it could be, and even though I could still steer, brake, and drive properly through the sound, I decided to pull over and freak out and call my husband to rescue me. I drove at 25 miles an hour to the next exit with my hazard lights flashing and pulled off by a Safeway to wait. It only took him about 20 minutes to get to me, but it was a scary 20 minutes, because that area is really not a good place to be at night. I left the engine running because I wanted to be able to get out of there in a hurry – probably an overreaction, but when you have two cars pull up next to each other at the far side of the lot, windows down so they can talk and exchange things, it’s not good.
Once he arrived, we checked out the wheel, and the junk under the hood, with a flashlight, but nothing seemed obviously wrong. We drove both cars home, very slowly, with him in my car listening for rattles and me in his car alongside, watching to see if anything looked strange while the car was moving. Nothing looked weird, but we got the car into a garage as soon as possible (which turned out to be Tuesday) anyway. It was an inconvenience to be down to one car, because he had to drive me to work, but unfortunately there’s no reasonable public transit option around here, and nobody I work with lives near me to give me a lift, either.
Well, much to my delight, they did find something wrong. I would have been so mad to have them find nothing and make me feel like I was paranoid and hysterical. But no, I was right and something was wrong: in fact, the garage said that they had never ever seen this particular thing happen before. My tire was somehow unraveling from the inside edge and wrapping itself around my suspension. The tire was peeling like an orange in one long strip! So what I was hearing was the flapping of the free edge against the underside of the car, and the loud part was probably when the strip tore free from the tire. They excitedly brought the tire over to show me the damage. They weren’t sure why it happened – it’s possible that I drove over something that made a nick in the tire and weakened it, or maybe it was a defect in the tire.
So, I’ve got a couple of new tires and the repairs were done for a very reasonable price, meaning that we’ve found a good garage in the area for any future car troubles. I think the lesson here is to keep your car clean enough that you can recognize a funny sound faster and not assume it’s a spoon in the glove compartment.