I've never lost a fight with a lug nut before.
But this past Saturday, that changed. Defeat - There's no other word for what happened. Well, maybe "beat down" or "Pwn3d" could apply, as well, but those words would be even more embarrassing, so I won't use them. :-) When the dust settled, George was still firmly attached to the wheel, two wrenches had been destroyed, and I had an awfully sore egg-shaped lump on the side of my head. Five days later, it still hurts a bit to yawn. Although it didn't occur to me at the time, my attempt to remove the wheel was sort of like the old viking duels, where each combatant gets three shields, and the fighting is paused when one breaks, so it can be replaced. which are replaced as they break. Excpet here it was wrenches instead of shields
The brake pads on my mother's RV had worn out, and the front driver's side was making a very unhappy sound when the brakes were applied. The rotor needs to be turned, but lacking the money to have that properly done, replacing the pads became a viable option as a stop-gap measure. So I headed over to Belle Glade with a set of pads and my tools that morning. I positioned the jack under the frame, and got it secured and ready to lift. Then the battle began.
I began the first round with the lug wrench that came with the RV, presumably for this very purpose. It was not as mighty a wrench as others I have used, but I figured that since it was provided by the same folks that made the RV, it would be of sufficient fortitude to handle the lug nuts to which it was (allegedly) matched. This turned out to be a false assumption. George was unmoved at first, which was not all that unexpected. Lug nuts need to be tightened with more torque than most men can supply with their arms (usually about 180 ft-lbs), but this is not often a problem, as the appropriate application of boot is enough to make up the difference. So when it didn't move, I just set it at the most convenient angle for stomping, and did just that. It slipped off a time or two, but I got it reattached, and stomped again. It seemed to work, as the wrench shifted to a lower angle. I was briefly satisfied. When I removed the wrench to re-seat it on the nut, I was dismayed to find that George had not, in fact, moved. Rather, the wrench had succumbed to the forces in play, and had bent. Cursing the wrench and its makers, I searched about and found some other wrenches. I was in a bit of a hurry, due to the impending storm. I found a few likely candidates, but none of them were the right size. My mother went to the next door neighbor and borrowed one of theirs, a nice, solid star wrench, with four different heads. They were all too big. So I rushed down to the local auto parts store, and bought a new wrench, making sure that one of the four heads was the right size. I made it back before the rain, and applied it to the nut. After a few minutes of straining and cursing, the wrench broke, its head giving way and cracking. At that point, I think I head a faint, high pitched laugh coming from the vicinity of the wheel. This angered my into doing something rather stupid. I remember thinking something along the lines of, "Allright, now it's personal. That nut is coming off, come hell or high water". Little did I know, at the time, that both hell and high water were 'in the post'.
Rather than take the time for another trip to the store, which I was certain would result in trying to work in the rain, I laid hands on a regular three-quarter inch wrench and a handy-dandy 3lb sledge. Securing the wrench to the nut, I gave it a whack. It didn't budge, except to inquire, in a sweetly sarcastic voice, "Is that all you got, hmmmm, ... bitch?" Oh hell no, I'm not letting this puny little chunk of metal talk to me like that... WHACK! Still nothing. For the third and final time, I brought the hammer down with perhaps a bit more gusto than was strictly advisable. .... In the words of Eddie Izzard, "oh, ... stupid man".
You see, I had forgotten that first rule of auto repair. For those of you who don't know, that rule is "Never swing a 3lb sledge at a hand wrench. This goes double when you're angry" This time, the sound was more like a rapid series of staccato 'KRANG' than a Whack.
The first krang was the sound of the sledge on the wrench.
The hammer struck the wrench, which maintained its grip on George for a few milliseconds. In my minds eye, I imagine seeing the progression of events in super slow motion, beginning with the flexing of the wrench as kinetic energy is transferred from the hammer to it's molecular structure, stressing the bonds therein. I imagine a little gauge hovering next to the wrench, with its little needle advancing as the newtons are transferred to the molecular bonds of the wrench. As resistance builds in the steel, the hammer is deflected sideways, sliding gently off the end of the wrench. Once the hammer is clear of the wrench, the kinetic energy stored in the molecular bonds of the steel is released, causing the wrench to return to it's original shape with terrible rapidity. Even though it was only flexed a very small amount, the rigidity of the steel meant that a significant amount of energy was stored, and this energy, when released, resulted in rapid acceleration of the free end of the wrench in the opposite direction, i.e. - 'up'. As its free end pivots around George, it looses its grip and breaks free, spinning as it hurtles upward, singing all the while. The 2nd krang is the sound of the wrench striking the rim of the wheel, briefly interrupting its journey heavenward. In striking the rim, its path is deflected about 45 degrees away from vertical. This alteration to its trajectory places it on a collision course with the side of my head, which results several microseconds later in the third krang. The wrench is deflected back into a roughly vertical trajectory. I am aware of this because even though I facing downward, and have just had a lesson in Newtonian physics rather firmly applied to my right temple, the ringing of the wrench as it spins freely above me is quite clear. While I don't know what its trajectory actually is (and there's no way in hell I'm going to turn my face skyward to get visual confirmation), I think that the odds are good that it's trajectory has an angle, as opposed to being straight up. In other words, since it hit my head on the way up, I think that it is quite unlikely that it will hit my head again on the way down. So I decide that I'm better off holding still than attempting to dodge the soon-to-be-falling wrench. Thankfully, this hasty estimate is confirmed when it hits the ground behind me, making the fourth and final krang.
That's when I admitted defeat and gave up, for the time being. Final score: George -3. Me -0.
I'm going back with an impact wrench and a firm sense of purpose this weekend, though. This is not over. Not by a long shot!