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How I Lost Six Hours And I Don’t Want Them Back

May 27, 2020

My son researched it on YouTube. The video for how to change your tie rods was simple and straight forward. After securing a promise of my help he decided to change his tie rods himself.

Oh, and he made plans to go hang out with his friends afterward. (He hasn’t done a lot of car repairs. Typically it’s just oil changes and the occasional audio tweak.

But, the video made it look pretty simple. And the difference in price between doing it himself and having the local oil change place do it was about $150. Money that would stay in his pocket.

We sent and bought the inner and outer tie rods at the local auto parts store. Next it was a stop by the local home improvement center for a new wrench. Apparently the repairs required a 22mm wrench. That’s a pretty big wrench. I had a 19mm and I had a 24mm, but not the 22mm.

Any project, no matter how small is a great opportunity to buy a new tool.

I’m willing to help my children work on their cars. Rarely will I do all the work myself. Honestly, it’s only when I’m working on my lovely wife’s car, or a car that belongs to one of my daughters. My sons have to do the work themselves.

Is that sexist? Maybe. I certainly wouldn’t stop any of my girls who wanted to learn about car repairs. But, call me a softie, I fix theirs.

My son gets to do his own repair. But, I’m willing to help. Sometimes, I have to walk away. The first step to replacing the tie rods is to remove the tires and jack up the car. . .in that order. More or less.

If you jack up the car first, you can’t get the lug nuts off. The tires will simply spin. So, you have to take off the tires before you jack it up. But, of course, you can’t do that either. So, you have to start to take the lug nuts off. Just break them loose before you jack it up.

My son got his 17-year old younger brother to break the lugs free. His younger brother is a football player and weighlifter. We have a wrench that is in the shape of a cross. It’s called a star wrench. Which would be accurate, I suppose if a star had four points.

Anyway, the easiest way to get the lugs broken loose is to put one end of the wrench on the lug, hold the opposite end in your hand and then step, or stomp on extended points. That wasn’t nearly heroic enough for my football playing son. Instead he insisted on grabbing the extended parts of the wrench and use his arms and shoulders to physically turn the wrench.

Like I said, I’ll help, but if they want to do things the hard way, that’s their choice.

There are three parts of any car repair. First is disassembly. Next comes the actual repair and finally is reassembly. The second step is normally the shortest. Disassembly takes the longest, typically.

This repair was no different.

Tie rods connect the wheels to the steering column. When you turn the steering wheel, the tie rods push the wheels left or right.

As you might imagine well maintained tie rods are vital. The bolts and nuts holding them on are tough. In fact, they were a little too tough on my sons car. The bolts stripped rather than come loose. We ended up using a grinder to cut them off.

Fortunately we had new ones. But, that wasn’t in the video. It took longer than expected. As did the process of removing the boot from the inner tie rods. And we eventually decided we didn’t need to replace the inners. So, we had to put the boot back on and a really annoying bracket. More time that wasn’t in the video.

Eventually we got all the right parts taken off. It had been several hours. My son got a call from his friend.

I don’t know. We are putting the tie rods on now. Let me check. Say, Dad how long do you think it will take us to finish up? Twenty minutes?

You might want to plan on a little longer than that.

Yeah, I’ll call you back when we are done.

Assembly was the last step. We didn’t plan for the fact that my son would put the castle nut on upside down. Or that torquing the castle nut would collapse the rubber housing around the outer tie rod.

More time that wasn’t accounted for in the video.

Finally, we put the last bolt in. We tightened the last nut. All that was left to do was grease the joints. And that went smoothly except for a tiny pinprick in the rubber boot of the passenger side tie rod. The rubber boot that is supposed to seal out dirt and seal in lubricating grease.



Good thing they have a lifetime guarantee.

And that was where we left it. It was eleven PM. No chance to return anything tonight. It was certainly longer than the twenty minutes he was hoping for.

Six hours we spent working on his car. And it wasn’t complete. The YouTube video made it look simple. Not a single aspect of the repair went according to plan.

Was it worth it? He saved $150, but it took six hours. But, here’s the thing: the chance to hang out for six hours with my son, working side by side.

The time flew by. Honestly, I didn’t know how long it had been until we had to stop. I think you call that timeless.

I know I call it priceless.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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