I want one of those 30-minute repair jobs that only take half an hour.

Yesterday D tried to drive his Jeep to the big town about 50 miles away. Apparently he didn’t get much farther than the far outskirts of the crappy little desert town nearest where we live, when the Jeep began performing the infamous Death Wobble. It is said there are only two kinds of TJ: Those that have acquired this condition and those that will. And the culprit is usually the steering stabilizer.

Anyway, D rather timorously turned around and came home, and then he called me. I came over, looked at his steering system, and said something like: The symptom is well known, as far as I know in the absence of anything else obviously wrong with the steering the culprit is always the stabilizer, it happened to the yellow Jeep and a new stabilizer fixed it BUT in that case the stabilizer was obviously bad and I’m not seeing anything at all obviously wrong with yours. Do with that information what you will.

He asked if we could replace the part if he bought one and I foolishly said sure, it’s like two bolts. With the right tools it won’t take half an hour. I idiotically failed to realize until rather late last night that we didn’t HAVE all the right tools. But that didn’t even turn out to be the big problem.

So this afternoon, there we were…

D had purchased a new stabilizer – the fact that the Carquest in the crappy little etc. carries them in stock may be taken as significant – and put his Jeep on blocks on the concrete pad he made for washing horses. All I had to do was climb underneath and take off the old stabilizer. I instantly ran into the first problem: It’s pressed on to the steering link and I didn’t have the clamp required to safely remove it – or maybe remove it at all. I reversed the castle nut on the offending stud and applied percussive therapy. Upon failure, I did what any redneck would do: I got a bigger hammer. When I finally succeeded, I had peened out the nut so badly I couldn’t put a socket on it but I did separate the parts so in theory I wouldn’t be re-using those parts anyway. The other end of the part came off much more simply.

So now we’re golden, right? I mean, installing a new stabilizer is much simpler than removing an old one, which is really quite simple indeed. I was behind schedule, on flat rate I’d already be losing money, but what the hell. I wasn’t being paid so it didn’t matter.

Around the time it started to RAIN, I had the new part in place and all I had to do was spin on the new castle nut and crimp down the new cotter pin and I could go home.

The nut wouldn’t go on the stud. I mean the new part was packaged with the WRONG NUT. And no, the old nut wouldn’t fit either.

TWO AND A HALF HOURS AFTER I PULLED INTO THE DRIVEWAY…We had gone through D’s extensive collection of old nuts – found a lugnut that would fit the stud nicely – then…

…gone back and forth and back and forth and back and forth cutting and trying and re-cutting SLOTS in the lugnut because try as I might I could not convince D that the cotter pin was not the most essential part on the Jeep.

Tobie was such a good boy: When the novelty wore off the situation, rather than make a fuss he just curled up under the red Jeep and told me to call him when it was over. I came home renewed and restored in my conviction that, whatever other epic life errors I may have made in the past, quitting wrenching for a living at the first opportunity was one of the things I got right.

D still needs to take the Jeep out to pavement to learn whether we actually fixed anything.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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5 Responses to I want one of those 30-minute repair jobs that only take half an hour.

  1. Steve says:

    I experienced the dreaded Death Wobble in my 01 Jeep TJ. After researching the problem I found the likely cause for many if not most DW scenarios is worn, deteriorated, loose front control arm bushings. I replaced my lower control arms but passed on doing the upper one, that stabilized my front axle to enough to stop the death wobble. I should have done the front upper control arm but that one is in a very awkward location and difficult to replace. I have not had the wobble since i did the lowers, so even though the upper one is still not optimal, it seems to be sufficient.

  2. Ben says:

    I volunteered for a very simple 10-minute job last week, Re-lamp a fluorescent light fixture. It took two hours! Including a trip to the hardware for a new ballast. I had forgotten how heavy my arms become when I try to work over my head. It was a shaky miserable job, and I was actually surprised when it was ultimately successful.

  3. Mark Matis says:

    Bet he could have found the correct parts at Rock Auto, and probably the tool you needed as well! And smart money says the new part would have had the correct nut with it!

  4. Malatrope says:

    Great story and oh so true. It’s a damn shame things usually don’t go like we plan them in our heads. It makes you realize that you should notice and celebrate when things actually do go right.

  5. Mike says:

    The whole “working on something outside, and it starts to rain” thing is so familiar. It’s things like this that brings home the reality of living rural life off grid. It sure isn’t for the faint of heart.

To the stake with the heretic!