Sunday, October 17, 2010

This is Your Final Warning

There may be some of you besides me out there who have meant to practice changing a tire on your vehicle, but just haven't quite gotten around to it yet. Others of you may never have located the tire iron, jack and spare on your newer ride and would be under some stress should you be called upon to perform this in the dark or under harsh conditions. Well, with the clock ticking on the remaining days of fall, those of you in the northern climes like me might want to put this task a little higher on the priority list. I'll tell you why.

The trusty Tacoma

Here's my trusty steed, the feisty Tacoma PreRunner. Circumstance forced me to confront my lack of preparedness one Saturday in September. I awoke to the reality of a flat tire on the rear wheel, driver's side. In the seven years I've owned this vehicle, I've never changed a tire, never even practiced the maneuver.

The tri-partite crank
I needed to consult the owner's manual to even locate the tire-changing tools that come with the vehicle and learned that they're behind the passenger side rear seat (I've got the double cab model). what I found is a 36" long crank device that's required to lower the spare from the chassis to the ground. The spare is held in place with a steel cable that you unwind to release it and wind to secure it. The tool that you use comes in three parts which are held together by two set screws when assembled. It's looks mildly clever at first, but is not intuitive to use and falls apart easily (at least it did for me).

The all-important hook
The hole
The business end of the tool is shaped like a shepherd's crook and needs to articulate with a screw head that's between the chassis and the top of the spare tire which is completely invisible to the poor sap who needs to see it (me). You have to insert the tool into the tiniest of openings just above the rear bumper.

The unappreciated spare
Still with me? OK, so I've got the device assembled, I've inserted it into the hole, and I need to crawl under the truck and get my head above the spare tire to see the place I've got to dock the hook. (I'm grateful that it's not 10 below and I'm not lying on snow and ice.) I lower the tire to the ground and find that I need a hammer to break the corrosive bond that has secured the bracket at the end of the cable to the spare's wheel. That step accomplished, I discover that the spare is inflated ! (always a concern in this endeavor).

I figure I'm now on the downhill side of this task. I jack the rear axle up and successfully remove the lug nuts, much more easily than I anticipated. An hour has elapsed and I'm nearly giddy with my progress since I've got about another hour to shower and drive to a musical gig that I'm scheduled to do five miles away. And just when I think I've got it in the bag I reach a stalemate. I cannot budge the wheel on the truck. I can't get it to move; it's just like it's been welded in place. If I pound on it or pull too hard, I'll probably pull the truck right off the jack, maybe onto me. Not a good plan.

In the end I had to call a taxi and Monday morning I had to have the truck towed to the shop to ask the pros for help. What a letdown. I did get more practice using the dreaded crank, though, as I had to put the spare back into its resting spot and stow the gear for the next time (which I hope doesn't come soon).

You might want to heed my advice on this one. I'm just sayin'.

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