The most annoying part about living in Minnesota are these little "heat waves" we get in the middle of winter. You know, the kind that let you relax for just a bit and then BAM! Back to deadly cold temperatures in a matter of hours.
Such was the case last night.
During my short 3-mile commute home from work, my truck developed a terrifying rattle, shake, and pounding sound. Brakes felt mushy. I was certain I had busted a brake caliper and was probably gushing fluid everywhere. But there was no visible damage at first glance. So I had my roommate (who is a professional auto mechanic) take a look at it.
Turns out that one of my wheel bearings disintegrated. When that happens, the parts usually all overheat and can basically weld themselves together. And that's exactly what happened with my truck. But if you know anything about me, you know my bad luck doesn't stop there. It doesn't come in little bite-sized annoyances. No, it comes in big steaming piles that offer you little by the way of hope of getting through it with your sanity intact.
And that's when the fun began...
My roommate, has a tiny, one-car garage. You can't even fully open your car doors, let alone have room to work comfortably. And my big-ol' rusty truck just barely made it in the door. The roomie drove it in all the way towards the driver's side, so there was maximum space on the passenger side. And by maximum, I mean about 20".
The garage is also so short that the ass-end of my truck won't fit inside. Therefore, we can't close the garage door, either. The wind starts to pick up, and temperatures start to drop.
When you see hammers, breaker bars, and drills around an automotive project, you know things are going very, very badly. This would be a recurring theme throughout the evening.
The axle nut had fused itself to the axle. A socket wrench with a breaker bar did nothing but round the nut. So, we had to cut it. We started by drilling holes in the nut to perforate it. Then we used a chisel to break the nut apart, but it's threads were still clinging to the axle. So we used brute force to unwrap the nut from the axle. Cold wind was pouring in through the garage door. Our sweat was starting to freeze.
The washer behind the nut had welded itself to the inside of the brake rotor, and partly to the axle as well. Again, we drilled it in several places, then pried out the pieces.
On the right is what the axle nut is supposed to look like. On the left is what was left of mine after we finally got it off. In doing so, we messed up the threads on the axle, and there was no way a new nut was going on without re-threading the whole thing using a die. That would have to wait, since we didn't have a die of that size. A trip to the hardware store was needed. The washer was in so many pieces, it wasn't worth it to take a picture.
Parts of both the outer and inner bearing had fused themselves to the axle. More drilling, pounding, and prying. Even with tech gloves, we started losing grip on our tools because our hands were so cold. But the inner bearing finally came off.
The left photo is all that remained of my inner bearing. The right photo is what the bearing is supposed to look like.
My roommate has to leave to run an errand. Because we can't close the garage door, he asks me to keep an eye on his tools and equipment by checking up on them every 20 minutes or so. He tells me he'll be back in 2 1/2 hours.
I begin drinking beer.
My girlfriend calls and says she wants to visit. I welcome her company.
I drink another beer.
I drink another beer.
My girlfriend arrives. I pour her whiskey. I fetch another beer. We pop in a movie.
She drinks more whiskey. I drink more beer.
Still no sign of my roommate. We drink even more, and pop in a second movie.
The drinks have gotten to us. The second movie isn't as captivating. We start making out, when suddenly--
The roommate shows up. FSCK!!! He has a die, and wants to finish the truck tonight. There is a hell, and this must be what it's like.
I'm drinking my last beer. It's miserably cold. The axle has been re-threaded. But we discover that one half of the inner bearing has been permanently fused to the inside of the brake rotor. We shrug.
Things are not gong well. The new parts don't really want to seat where they need to, and we're getting pissed.
We get too cold and go inside to warm up for a while. My hands are like blocks of ice. All I want is to get warm, and get in my bed. I return to my bedroom to find my girlfriend snoring loudly. Well, shit.
We get the parts to seat, but now there's too much slack in the rotor. Something is amiss. Everything is tight, except the main washer and nut which have less than a 1/16" gap behind them.
We decide to fill the gap with a washer of some kind. We don't have any washers. We consider making one out of something, like perhaps a cap from an old brake fluid bottle. We quickly dismiss this idea when we realize that the heat from the axle would just melt the plastic and the whole thing would fall apart again. All of the hardware stores are closed, and we need a metal washer with a very specific inside diameter and outside diameter.
My roommate realizes that he has the access code to one of the garages next door. We open it up and start looking for washers by sifting through old coffee cans full of loose, unsorted hardware. This takes a long time. I can't feel my fingers, again.
My beer buzz is definitely gone. By some miracle, we actually find a washer in one of those coffee cans that will work. We install it carefully and it fits perfectly. We thread the axle nut back on, the crown nut, cotter pin, and hub seals.
The brake caliper goes back on. We're so cold that our extremities feel like they're burning, but we don't care because we're almost done!
We finally put the wheel back on, tighten the lug nuts, and lower the truck off the jack stands. This stinging cold is about to be over!
My roommate, the mechanic, happy to have this awful job finished, breathes a sigh of relief. All that's left to do is take a test drive!
He discovers that he has accidentally locked the keys in my truck.