Wednesday, February 26, 2014

You’ll Have Those Days!

We had another skiff of snow this morning—maybe ¾ of an inch. I got an early start and went the four-lane, just to be safer. I didn’t see anyone in the ditch like I did yesterday; there were three cars out of the road yesterday. ALL looked to be the result of folks being too heavy on the gas pedal. Things were going fine today until I reached the last overpass before my turn off. Soon after crossing it, it began to feel like I was driving on the railroad, but running on the ties, not the rails. There was no pull on the steering, so I knew it was a rear tire that was going flat. The knobby edges of the tread were getting quickly more noticeable. I tried to make it to the top of the hill, but it got too rough, and I was afraid I’d ruin a rim, even though I was driving very slowly by that time. Even then, I drove just far enough on the berm to get past the guardrail, so I could get further off the road. Of course it had to be the one on the side of the traffic, but at least I was able to get that side nearly six feet off the road. When I stepped out, I noticed that the tire was even worse than I expected, but the rim was still okay.

In the six years plus that I’ve had this truck, this was the first flat. Luckily, I’d looked over my owner’s manual the other day and remembered where the jack was located and the jacking points. The package that held the lug wrench and jack rod came out easily enough, but it took several tries of prying with the lug wrench before I was able to free the jack. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the jack and wrench provided (I never am), but it looked like they were probably up to the task. Then, I went to raise the tonneau, only to discover that the lock was iced-up. Keeping a lighter burning on a windy day, while you heat a key is an activity not fully appreciated until it’s been done. I put a small tarp down behind the truck for me to lay or sit on as I worked. The wind was such that I had to lay a cant hook on it to keep it from blowing away. It was 23 degrees; I have no idea what the wind-chill factor was, but it was substantial by the feel of it. After putting the little handy-dandy three-piece jack handle together, I used it to position the jack under the rear axle at the designated flat spot. Then I put the square hole in the lug wrench over the end of the rod, as was intended, and used the lug wrench as a crank handle to raise the jack (talk about “frugal”). As soon as I could see that the axle was actually beginning to rise, I stopped jacking and attempted to loosen the first lug nut.

Notice that I said “attempted” to loosen the first lug nut. Now, I realize that I don’t have the strength that I did when I was rolling logs by hand every day, but I ain’t no wimp yet! However, that lug nut would not be moved! Neither would the other four. Finally, I used my brain by using my blubber. Not being able to tackle the problem with main strength and awkwardness, I started bouncing my dainty 400 pounds up and down on the lug wrench. Even THEN, it was hard to get them loose. It was also a little bit of a concern to be putting my whole weight on a half-inch thick rod of tempered steel with traffic buzzing by within four to six feet of my person. My concern was that it would break, causing me to fall towards the traffic. Thankfully, the Lord really DOES look after fools and little children, and wayward child that I am, he took mercy on me and the wrench held. It DOES have a decided warp in the handle now, though.

Unfortunately, The problem THEN became one of getting the rim off the end of the axle. Apparently, the aluminum rim had seized on the steel hub. I pulled, I kicked, I whacked it with the cant hook, then the pole of a single-bitted axe. I was eying the eight pound sledge with glazed eyes when I came to my senses and decided to call in the cavalry. Nearly two hours after my frigid roadside aggravation started, a couple guys from my tire shop zipped up behind me, got out their tools, and had me on my merry way in less than 10 minutes. I had them take the rim with them to put on a new tire on it when they got back to the shop. (I have four brand new ones stored there.) I told them that I’d be by later to retrieve it and have the other rear tire switched as well. After getting my turn in at school, I asked the boss-man if he cared if I cut out early to get my tires and he agreed.

I had the new ones put on the front, and the front ones moved to the back. They all have to come off by tax day anyway, since you can’t run studs in West Virginia after that date. They had the spare put in its usual position under the truck before I knew it. I’d been carrying it under the tonneau since it would be hard getting it out, should you have a flat where the berm is severely crowned. Oh well, I DID get another handful of wheel weights out of the cracks in their concrete again. More muzzleloader balls!

Incidentally, as I lay on the tarp raising the jack, I literally prayed that some speeding idiot wouldn’t plow into me and my truck. As I waited in the truck for the cavalry, I counted (on paper) 100 vehicles passing in 15 minutes. Of those, exactly 50 moved to the far lane and 50 didn’t bother. It surprised me how many of the trucks didn’t bother, even though it was obvious that my truck was being held up only by the jack on that side. I guess that old “knights of the road” reputation is fast disappearing.

Also, one person DID stop to offer help—a lady. (And a good-looking one at that.) Guess she felt sorry for the old geezer. I thanked her and told her that I had it covered. Silly me! LOL! © 2014


Sunnybrook Farm said...

Glad it turned out good in the end. I don't think there is a garage around here that would come to help like that, well other than a tow truck. The old guy who worked on my stuff died last summer, I am kind of up the creek. So studs can't be on the road after tax day, guess I can't go to WV then. lol

Stephen said...

I know how you felt. Two or three weeks after my heart attack I attempted the same. Finally realized it was futile and called my road service. Great blog. Linked you at my place.

Ralph Goff said...

Sounds like the nasty weather turned a simple job into a real workout. Also I would say somebody seriously over tightened those wheel nuts. Most newer wheels are supposed to be torqued to a certain standard with a special wrench, no more, no less.

Chickenmom said...

An angel was sitting on your shoulder, Gorges! A flat tire on a busy highway in freezing weather is just the pits. Glad everything worked out ok for you!

Mamahen said...

Sorry you had such an unfortunate experience, but it makes a good story ;))

Gorges Smythe said...

We still have a few places that will do such things, SF. More so if they know you.

Yeah, Stephen, there are times it's best to know your limits. Thanks for the link.

Ralph, they told me later at the garage that lug nuts have a tendency to seize on aluminum rims. Besides being softer, I suspect that has something to do with water and the bimetal connection. They do hand-torque them.

Thanks, Cm.

Dern near everything makes a good story I've found, Mh. Maybe it's the BS factor in my DNA!

21shergar said...

Well done, sir.
You deserve a knighthood for that effort!

Gorges Smythe said...

Thanks, shergar! lol