From the Braver Institute
Years ago my dad told me that he needed a torque wrench. For some reason he had read the owner’s manual of the camper trailer he had bought and noticed that the lug nuts on the wheels needed to be tightened to a specific amount of torque. For some reason he had never noticed during his entire life that every vehicle he had ever owned would have had torque specifications for the lug nuts. Anyway, he noticed it on the camper.
Most torque wrenches use a pointer gauge to indicate the amount of torque applied, but there are some really awesome click-type torque wrenches where you set the wrench to the desired torque. When that torque is attained, the wrench “clicks” and you know that whatever you are tightening is now tight enough. I bought one of these click-type wrenches for my dad on eBay.
This was ten times the torque wrench that he needed for tightening lug nuts, but I knew that this torque wrench would be really easy for him to use and it would be worth the investment. Back when we had our heavy truck repair garage one of the other mechanics had one of these torque wrenches, and after using it I swore that I would never use the old pointer-type again.
My dad used the torque wrench only a couple of times, and never really had need for it again. After he died I got the wrench back, and since I really had no need for it either, I listed it on eBay and sold it for the price I had originally paid.
Once upon a time I wanted to be a mechanic. There was nothing I liked more than to work on cars and trucks, but that all changed with the heavy truck garage. As you may know, I am a big guy. I take up a lot of space. I found that working on semi-trucks was a really enjoyable experience because of the size of them. I had room to work. I could fit in the areas around a big truck that required work. Even though these trucks had engines and transmissions the size of entire compact cars, and everything about them was heavy, as time went on I liked working on them more and more, and working on smaller trucks and cars became less appealing.
This became abundantly clear when I replaced the alternator on my good friend Ezra Hammer’s Mercury Tracer.
In my world, alternators were supposed to be near the top of the engine. In the Tracer it was near the bottom and had to be changed from underneath the car. I became convinced that modern automotive engineers were actually sadists who had it in for large mechanics.
When we no longer had the truck garage and I was no longer wrenching on these road giants, it got to the point that I lost all desire to turn wrenches on cars and light trucks. From that point on I did such work only with great reluctance. I wrenched out of necessity and not out of desire.
I still had piles of tools but I determined that I would be fortunate indeed if I never had to pick one up again. The only good wrench is the one that remains in the toolbox or has been flung into the woods across the street in a fit of repair frustration.
In the last twenty years I have done four or five auto repairs that most people would have taken to a garage, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pay for something that I could do with relative ease. But that was it, just a handful of repairs, everything else was handled by people who were doing it for a living, even oil changes.
But now I have stepped back into a world that may well require me to play the role of mechanic again. I bought a crappy, old pickup truck. It is green, ugly and full of rust. It makes me laugh every time I look at it, not so much because of its hideousness, but because I know full and well that I am going to have to do a lot of work to this thing.
I suppose that since it is not my primary vehicle, I will not be under pressure to get any specific repair done and as a result, I am actually looking forward to working on the truck.
The idea that I might enjoy working on this truck now has me wondering if I am right in the head, but I am not losing any sleep over the idea that I may be a little off. No, the thing that I am losing sleep over is the fact that now I could really use that torque wrench.
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