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.