Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Weekend From Hell

In some, if not all respects anyway.

Last weekend was supposed to be busy but productive and take advantage of the last warm weekend for the foreseeable future. Knock off some lawn stuff, and meet my shooting buddy at the range. Shoot the postal match in a leisurely manner and grab a late lunch of something tasty served with an adult beverage.

Finish the lawn, load the guns, and notice a puddle on the driveway by the rear tire. Guess it's condensation from the truck bed and jump in. Start the motor and the dashboard begins flashing warnings that there's something wrong with the brakes and/or the ABS implying my demise is imminent if I attempt to operate the vehicle.

Check the puddle: brake fluid. OK so I've lost a brake cylinder seal. This is not hard to fix, but I'll be late to the range. Call shooting buddy who is on his motorcycle on his way to a spot famous for having no cell phone coverage and leave a message.

Call NAPA for a seal kit. Turns out there's only one in Colorado, but there's another in Indiana which can be here Monday. Price: about $6. Big help. They do have complete cylinders at $12/ea, cheap. Good, that's probably less messy than doing the seals. Grab the pneumatic wrench and attack the lug nuts. Nothing. The tire monkeys who put the rear tires on got the nuts so tight that my air wrench won't touch them. Get out the breaker handle and cheater bar. Push down and PING! the stud snaps off. Once is bad luck. Try again. PING! Now I'm down 2 studs. When I was in High School, Chrysler Corp put left handed nuts on the left side of the car. I didn't remember this being the case with the truck, but at that point my confidence was shaken. Besides if I'm wrong, the nut should move slightly but not loosen and I can change direction. PING! I guess not. Good thing I have 6 studs, no?

By 3 PM Saturday the only place that might be able to help me is the friendly local Dodge agency. I motor over there and they tell me they will inspect the truck and give me their opinion by 4 PM closing, which they do. As an aside, any diagnosis they do will involve removing and replacing the lug nuts using the industrial-grade air wrenches they have freeing up the rusted studs in the process, and if any more studs let go, they get to replace them.

They tell me I have a leaky brake cylinder and 3 broken studs (duh!) and that they will replace both rear cylinders for the modest price of $600.00. They also suggest a tune-up and a couple other minor items that would bring the bill to about 50% of what I paid for the truck. They also suggest that the lights on the dash can only be placated with their own HAL9000 diagnostic computer. The bill for this diagnosis is $60. I thank them and leave before I faint.

NAPA is right across the street. I go there and am told that the replacement cylinders are in a neighboring suburb. I go home, take the motorcycle and get the cylinders. Sure enough, the lug nuts now move. Get everything loose and go to remove the brake line only to find that the nut has welded itself to the line. Knock off for the evening.

Sunday: Go to NAPA and get the one remaining seal kit west of the Mississippi, and 3 new studs. Install seals, reassemble brake. The vehicle's computer being placated, all the lights on the dash are out. Attempt to remove broken studs from the rear axle using air chisel. No luck. Fall back to 2 lb hammer and punch. Swing and miss punch. Smash finger.

Monday: I am informed that the throbbing in my finger can be relieved by melting a hole in the nail with a hot needle. I don't have one but I do have some very small drill bits, smaller than most needles, that I can twirl in my fingers. This works. My desk looks like someone killed a chicken on it, but the throbbing begins to recede.

I stop by the tire place on the way home and complain about over-tightened nuts. The man is sympathetic, but says they have no one there qualified to replace them. Friendly local mechanic removes and replaces the studs using a 5 lb hammer and no punch for $20. I make note of his technique.

Axis Automotive in Littleton. Good work, reasonable prices. +1
Discount Tire in Littleton. Good tires, reasonable prices, workforce required some supervision. +0
Local Dodge agency. Pricy as all get out. -1
NAPA. They usually have any part. I need to check Hemmings. My Dakota must be rarer than I thought.


jed said...

Well, when it rains, it pours, I guess. I guess I know which Dodge dealer you're talking about, and I wouldn't mind at all seeing them slagged from orbit. I generally like Discount Tire, but I've had issues with their lug torque too.

I've done the hot needle thing too.

Cincinnatus said...

Dealer service agents should be tarred and feathered.