Archive for September, 2011

Free Falling

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Today I’m going to share with you some of the effects gravity has upon us when we least expect it.

First, an Airstream trailer showed up for some repairs. I went out to meet the customer, and was concerned when I noticed he looked like he’d walked into a swinging shovel. In fact, his appearance was a direct result of one of the repairs the trailer needed. He had opened his door that morning and stepped onto his retractable step. The step retracted while he was moving out of his trailer, and the resulting swinging catapulted him face-first onto a conveniently placed picnic table. At least he had the table to break his fall, or he would have hit the ground a lot harder than the relatively soft wooden table.
I took a look at the steps, and I could see where the slots in the step outriggers had worn to the point the steps wouldn’t stay put. Many times, this means the outriggers will have to be replaced, but this time I was able to take a die grinder to the slots, and cut new notches in the outriggers for the steps to “catch” on. By doing this, I was able to save him nearly as much money as he spent for his co-pay at the emergency room. He was happy to “break even” on this repair, but it’s probably a very good idea to check the movement of the steps and make sure they won’t take you on a brief, expensive, and painful ride.

Next was a direct experience with gravity by yours truly. A few days ago an Airstream trailer came in for a few maintenance items, including a new air conditioner shroud. I found out I can still do a 34 foot dash when removing the shroud uncovered several nests of seriously peeved yellowjackets. Dropping the shroud, I ran rearward, momentarily forgetting I was perched a dozen feet in the air on a travel trailer. I remembered where I was about the time I ran out of suspended real estate, with a horde of stinging insects in hot pursuit. Off the back of the Airstream I went, accompanied by the sounds of me yelling, and a high-pitched buzzing. Like the customer above I had something slightly softer than the ground to break my fall. In this case, it was the plastic-sheathed roof of a pop-up camper. I suffered only a lot of sore spots, but the pop-up now has a large dent almost dead center of the roof, where a large, heavy mechanic landed on it. Luckily, it was an older model, slated for the back lot anyway. If anybody out there decides to replace their own air conditioner shroud, a few judicious bursts of bug spray into the old one before you tackle the job would probably be prudent.

Last, there is an indirect tale of gravity. I was removing a damaged awning from a “Brand X” trailer. I had the assembly laying on the ground, and John, our resident crash-test dummy, was standing nearby, “supervising”. I started removing one of the bolts that hold the spring-loaded tube onto one of the arms, and warned John, “Stay back. This thing is going to go right over where you’re standing”. John assured me he was in no danger, he would be able to get out of the way if anything came toward him. Okay, fine. You were warned. I finished unbolting the arm, and naturally the roller tube took off like a shot, directly at John. He screamed like a girl, turned, and took two running steps away from the awning–straight into the concrete block wall behind him. He hit the wall with a hollow thud, and fell over backward, directly into the path of the madly unrolling awning. It rolled over him, hit the same wall John had, and sat on top of him, spinning to a stop on top of some of his most sensitive body parts. When everything finally stopped moving, he slowly crawled out from under the wadded-up awning fabric, not sure which of his injuries he should be holding. He settled for a hand in each area, and was assisted into the office by Pop, who had come around the corner to see what all the high-pitched screaming was about.

So, for any of you in doubt, the law of gravity, along with Newton’s three laws of motion, are still very much in effect. At least here in The Shop.

Wrenches on the Road

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Hello, again. This time, in honor of the official end of Summer, I thought I’d inflict you with a composite of a couple of camping trips we’ve taken over the years. Yes, I own an Airstream (several of them, as a matter of fact), and I’m not afraid to use it. So, without further ado:…

You can’t get here from here.
We all piled into the truck, and pulled out with Airstream in tow, headed for the mountains of the Northeast. Most of the trip was uneventful, with the singular exception of having yet another tire start to come apart on the trailer. I’ve lost several tires this way, and have learned through bitter experience what that feels like in the truck. I left the highway at the next exit, headed for the nearest tire store. I pulled in, and could just tell from the looks on the faces of the hired help I was about to become unpopular.
I parked and went inside. “I need an ST225 75R15 load range D tire, mounted and balanced”. I said. “Err, well, umm, we don’t have one of those”, said the guy behind the counter. “Our store across town has one”, he expanded. “can you call them and make sure they have it, and give me directions on how to get there”? I asked. He looked relieved to get out of a possible problem that easily, and quickly made the call. Yes, they had just one, a Goodyear Marathon, and they could send it over in about an hour. “No, the guy says he’ll come get it”, said counter guy. So, a few minutes later, I was back on the road, since the place that had the tire (the only one in town) was along our way. 20 minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot of tire store #2. “Hi, I’m here to get that Marathon mounted and balanced”, I said to counter guy #2. CG#2 looked at me in blind panic. “I sent that over to our other store. I thought that’s what you wanted”. I’ll save you a graphic description of what happened in the next few minutes, but the end result was we had to go BACK to store #1 to get the tire that was originally at store #2. You can insert your own 4 letter words here, if you want.
Back in the truck I got, and we headed back to tire store #1 again. And of course, the tire that is coming apart is still on the trailer. I pulled in the parking lot, and the manager of store #1 met me in the parking lot. It seems the delivery guy took it upon himself to return the tire to store #2. By this time there is steam emanating from my ears. I told Mr. Manager to please have an employee take the tire and wheel off my trailer, and GET THAT DAMNED TIRE BACK HERE ASAP!
Two hours later, we were back on the road, with a very deeply discounted new tire on the Airstream.

You still can’t get here from here
The following year (this year) we were again on the road, again in the middle of nowhere, and again had a tire start coming apart on the trailer. Again, I pulled off at the next town, and we made it to a tire store near the highway. Again, the tire store didn’t have any tires of the proper size and load range, but their store across town did. Here we go again… “Call and make sure it’s there, please”, I instructed. They did, and they did. “Okay, I need directions to that store, and I swear if they ship that tire over here, you’ll see this place on the 11 O’Clock news”. I know the store manager thought I was crazy, but I was having flashbacks. I got my directions, and arrived a half hour later to get my tire. “Oh, we don’t have any of those”, said the counter guy. There was a brief, one sided conversation, at the end of which the counter guy found our tire. We were back on the road again, this time after only a single afternoon.

No Reservations
I called and made reservations at 3 campgrounds along the way to our destination. I wanted to have a firm daily destination for our trip, even though it wasn’t a long trip. When we arrived at the first campground, they had no record of our reservation, and no vacancies. “Is this XYZ campground?” “Yes”. “Is this your street address?” “Yes”. “Is this today’s date?” “Yes”. “Is this one of your reservation confirmations?” “Yes”. “So where is my campsite?” “Oh. Err, Umm, uhh…” Since this was the only campground for 50 miles (which is why I made the reservation), we finally ended up boondocking in the parking lot, and my credit card was refunded. I’d have rather had a campsite than a refund, though.
The next evening, I was surprised to find we once again had a campground with no record of my reservation. This one was slightly better, though. they had one spot left. I called campground #3 before I even plugged the Airstream in. “Who?” I’m sorry, we don’t have any reservations for anybody named Wrench”. This was quickly rectified, and I’ve since made it a point to make a phone call to confirm our reservations.

The strange case of the missing motor oil
Yet another trip, we stopped at a campground for the weekend, and settled in. Next morning, I had to go to town, so I hopped in my truck, started it, and noticed I had no oil pressure. I shut off the engine, and found there was no oil in the engine. I crawled under the truck, and found the drain plug was loose. Hmm. I unscrewed the plug, and not a drop of oil came out. I looked around, and saw a few drops of oil leading away from the truck, toward a hedge near the road. It seems somebody stole my used engine oil. Whoever it was also stole oil from another campground patron that night as well. Over the years, I’ve had some strange things go missing, but that had to be the strangest.

That’s it for this time, I hope you have a great Labor Day. Next time, I’ll try posting some tips to help keep you from being an example in one of my blog entries.

About the Author

Lug Wrench is a long-time mechanic, multiple Airstream owner, and dyed-in-the-wool pragmatist. All tales guaranteed 100% true, although names and certain details may be altered to protect the guilty.