Thursday, June 23, 2011

This Wheel's on Fire

Like most working class lads, I spent some time in my teens fooling with cars. I wasn't very sophisticated about it, sticking with oil changes, shock replacements, radiator flushes and the like. I did replace a muffler and exhaust line once, and decided that would be the last time I did that. Some people I know did much more with cars--my brother and a friend completely rebuilt an engine.  I'm not sure that it ran afterwards, but they did it.

Then, of course, cars changed.  They became computerized and fuel-injected.  I think most of these changes (except for thinner sheet metal and the dreaded "doughnut" spare) were for the better, although the gentle art of manipulating a manual choke is long lost. (Ask your grandmomma.)  On the whole, cars are safer, more environmentally sound and more sophisticated than back in the day. I know, they don't have the soul of your '59 El Dorado, but they are better in so many ways. You just can't work on them like you used to.

Changing tires is something that can still be done, especially by fathers shortly after Father's Day, so when my daughter Amy told me she had picked up a screw in the tire of her Mazda I told her to bring it over, take one of the other cars we have, and I would put the doughnut on and we would get the stricken tire to the shop to have it plugged. Or so I thought.

I jacked the car up with the world's worst emergency jack (the metal kept deforming as more weight piled on it), took off the lug nuts and tried to pull the tire off.  I say tried because, unlike any of the perhaps 100 tires I have changed, the tire didn't budge.  It seemed frozen to the hub. In fact it was frozen to the hub. I pulled on it for a while and then I pushed on it.  I stuck my legs under the car and kicked the tire from the inside. I sprayed WD-40 on it and waited for that to work.  I pounded the assembly with a rubber mallet.Nothing seemed to help.

After an hour and a couple of skinned knuckles, I gave up.  I told Amy she would have to call AAA and have them use their expertise.

I was telling my dad about the stuck tire and he said, not entirely humorously, "Get a bigger hammer." When the AAA tow truck showed up, the driver couldn't get it off either. He said, "I need a bigger hammer."  Then another two truck showed up and this driver got it off with a bigger hammer and a block of wood.

I later learned on a Mazda owners' forum that the steel of the wheel often bonds to the some other kind of metal in the hub.  Either that or the wheel rusted to the hub. Since it's oxidation, it a very slow fire, hence the title of today's post.

So, Mazda owners, you might want to check your tires or have them checked. It would be better to be sure they're able to be removed than to find out on a dark roadside that they're not coming loose. I would also replace the emergency jack with one that doesn't look like it was made in Santa's Tin Toy Shop. In this case,  I thought I knew a little about cars, but as with most everything else, I still have a lot to learn.

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