Thursday, September 1, 2016

This Jack Ain't Jack!

On Sunday, one of our visitors approached me with a problem- she had a flat tire and didn't have any roadside assistance plan, would it be possible for me to help her? Being the sort of person who enjoys an occasional mechanical challenge, I told her that I would do my best. I went to the parking lot, accompanied by the visitor and one of our weekend cleaning contractors, an extremely nice gentleman from Peru. The woman's car was a late-90's/early-oughts vintage Volkswagen sedan, a car that I had no experience with regarding basic maintenance. First things first, though, I had the woman open the trunk so I could size up the equipment provided for tire changes. The jack looked so flimsy that it passed beyond 'scary' into the category of 'comical'. Oh, well, work with what you have. I rummaged in my own car for my 20" cruciform lug wrench because tire irons are totally inadequate to the task of removing tires.

Looking at the lugs, I was momentarily stymied, because they looked like they needed to be removed with some sort of specialized 'star fastener' remover, though a brief examination revealed that the lugs were covered with ornamental rubber doodads, which were easily removed with a screwdriver. Upon cracking the lugs with the lug wrench, I encountered something I'd never encountered before (having no experience with Volkswagens)- the bleeping things were lug bolts, not lug nuts. WTF? They came out easily enough... By this time, we had acquired a small audience- dudes like to kibbitz whenever they see other dudes doing dudely things. We were all hanging out, joking about the jack- I dropped a comment about how I'd have felt a lot more comfortable using a three-ton hydraulic jack, whereupon one guy bemoaned the fact that he had three of them at home (being a commercial driver by trade), but that he didn't have room in the car for them because it was filled with his baseball gear.

At this point, I was confronted with the next obstacle- the damn tire didn't come off. The last time I had been involved in a tire change, we had a similar problem, solved with a sharp blow with a post driver, with a wooden board used to cushion the blow. Yeah, the subtle approach tends to work. Not having such a precision instrument at hand, a bunch of us took turns kicking the tire, which made me cringe when I looked at that flimsy jack. I excused myself so I could obtain a can of WD-4O so I could spray the wheel in order to loosen the tire hub. By the time I returned with the can, one of my Chuck Norris emulating comrades had loosed the hub with his mighty foot. Now, it was time to put the new tire on- because of the bleeping lug bolts, it was impossible to simply place the new tire on the wheel and then fasten it- I had to hold the damn tire and try to align it while one of my tire-changing buddies inserted the bolts. Once we accomplished that, it was an easy matter to hand-tighten all of them and then 'crank them down' with the lug wrench. I can't imagine how much of a pain in this ass this would have been if I hadn't have had help.

We then gave the woman some pointers about driving on the spare- it was rated for 50MPH, so she had to take it slow. Unfortunately, it being late Sunday afternoon, none of the local tire places was open, so she had to dive all the way home to Queens. She wanted to give us money for our help (buy yourselves a beer) but we refused to take her money- she needed it for the new tire, and we had fun doing the job and socializing. Every once in a while, a guy's got to do guy things in a guyly fashion. Thank goodness, though, that it was still light out, most of my tire changes have taken place after nightfall.

One lesson I learned (besides avoiding Volkswagens)- this being the second tire change in a row that required some sharp blows to remove the old tire, I went out and bought a dead blow hammer to keep the lug wrench company. Our busy season is coming up, and additional tire changes may be in my near future. Regarding the jack situation, I think I'll have to deal with the shit jacks that aren't worth jack shit- I doubt I can get approval from my department head to buy a decent hydraulic jack on the company dime.


M. Bouffant said...

Wretched Dep't.: I remember when the "spare" tire was a regular old tire, just like the other four, & one could continue on one's cross-country journey (or whatever) w/o further worry until a civilized outpost where another tire could be acquired was reached.

I was thinking this was going to end w/ someone actually lifting & holding at least the corner of the Függsvütten while someone else put the spare on.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I prefer to keep a full-sized spare tire. Those donuts aren't worth a tinker's damn.

Unknown said...

You are a very kind man to do that. I have had to change a tire along the road before and managed well enough. But it was probably just good fortune, because when I've tried to help others, I've been completely ineffectual.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

You're a good egg, B^4.

mikey said...

Donuts are so passe. My Fiat has no jack or spare tire whatsoever - just a can of that Fix-A-Flat stuff. Factory supplied and Fiat labeled, of course.

I remember back in the mid-eighties, deep in my amphetamine addiction, I had been out all night (again) and was just tooling around Sacramento's suburbs on my Scoot as the sun was coming up. I thought a cup of coffee would hit the spot, so I pulled into a coffee shop parking lot. There was a gorgeous redhead there standing next to an old Ford Maverick with the hood up. I pretty much ignored her - I'm not terribly mechanically gifted and I figured there was nothing I was going to be able to do. Shockingly, she came right up to me and asked for help. You gotta picture it - petite woman comes up to big biker in leathers, black gloves, leather thong holding his hair back, belt knife and smiling, asks for help. Didn't see that coming.

I said I'd take a look, so we walked over to her car. She showed me that the problem was the gearshift lever (it was the old 'three on the tree' configuration) was stuck. It wouldn't shift at all. With the hood up, I could see that as she tugged on the lever, the linkage on the other side of the firewall moving, so I grabbed the rod from the gearshift linkage down to the transmission and gave a violent back n forth tug. The gearshift immediately released and worked fine. She was ecstatic and I felt pretty good about myself too. She said she worked as a housekeeper, and didn't have enough money to pay me - I said don't worry about it, but she insisted that I come back to her house and let her thank me horizontally in her bed. THAT was payment I was happy to accept...