Thursday, April 23, 2009

Learning to Fix What's Broke

I've always been one with an insatiable appetite for information and ability. The more I can learn to do the better I feel. It's like with every new bit of information another part of the world opens up to you. This goes for everything from film, to math, to languages, to brake pads. I recently had my vehicle in for its New York state inspection. The only comment they had at the end was that the brake pads barely passed inspection. In fact they only gave me about a week of city driving or a month of highway driving before I'd start hitting the rotors. I kind of think they were crazy . . . but I'm no mechanic.
The reason I think that is because after much encouragement from my wife I replaced my own brake pads.
--Now as a side note, isn't it an amazing thing to have a spouse who loves you? I think that in a healthy marriage you always have so much more confidence in the abilities of your spouse than they have in you. I'm grateful for that because my wife has helped me accomplish so much more than I ever would have on my own. She is the confidence that moves upon me.--
So anyways, I fixed my own brake pads. I was pretty reticent the whole time. Like a kid with stage fright who is pushed onto stage, all the while trying to dig in his heels. I did it though. The final no turning back point was buying the brake pads. When you throw $70 at something, you'd better go through with it (as another side note, my Calculus teacher taught me that lesson when she told me I'd be better off not taking the AP Calculus test because I'd be throwing my money away . . . lesson learned).
So Saturday I came home with brake pads, a Ford Explorer Manual, and not enough time to get the job done. An hour later I'd changed my first set of brake pads with little incident and had also run out of time. The brakes, and my truck, would be forced to wait for another day to be finished. Luckily my in-laws have an extra vehicle they don't use and they are good enough to allow us to drive it around.
Well, bad luck brought in some pretty terrible weather. The next two days were cold, rain and wind. Three days later I had a window of clear weather and went out to finish the job. Forget it. My father in-law passed by 20 minutes after I'd started and I let him know that I was almost done. 30 minutes later I had to call him over for help.
For those who know, there are four caliper pins between your 2 front disc brakes. They should pull out easily by hand. There's no threads on them, they're just greased up pins that easily pull in and out--at least they should easily pull in and out. My 4th pin didn't budge. I laughed at the situation. Of course it wasn't the first or second pin on the first. Not even the first pin on the second side. No, it was the very last pin on the very last side and was the very last thing I needed to do to finish the job. I struggled for another little while with my father in-law. We finally had to work a pair of vice-grips onto the pin and slam on it with a big wrench. It took a lot and the whole vehicle shook, but that pin finally came out. It was too late though, so I secured the hanging caliper and put the wheel back on and headed inside, blasted caliper pin in hand.
You remember I said the other three pulled out easily by hand (if you blew hard enough you may have gotten those first three out), this one took more brute force than it takes to knock down a wall. The culprit of it all was some lame-o technician who had put this pin in with no grease. For the last 2 years at least it had been driving metal-on-metal. The entire thing was corroded and just a terrible mess. It was at this point that I was beginning to question my wisdom in deciding to change the brake pads myself. I was now going on day four without my truck and I was getting tired of waiting for weather and struggling over what should have been so simple.
The next night, somewhat in frustration but mainly in determination, I went out and for an hour and a half worked in the dark, in the rain, on the brakes. I had to sand down the pin first so that I could see the silver again. Then, per my father's instructions given me over the phone, I wrapped some sand paper around a pencil and filed out the inside of the pin hole. Then I greased the pin and held my breath. Another ten or fifteen minutes and it was all done. I can proudly say I drove my truck to and from work today with no problems . . . fingers crossed.
Now, to any who do a lot of work on their own car this may sound simplistic and ridiculous to you, but I challenge you to tackle something you have no experience in and tell me how it goes. I for one learned a lot from this and gained a lot of confidence I did not have before. A portion of the world opened up to me.
A few of the things I learned were:
1. You really can do more than you think yourself capable. If you don't believe me, find yourself a loving and encouraging companion. The ability to be self-sufficient is a great feeling. The more I can do the greater aid I can be to someone else. Now, don't misunderstand, but self-sufficient I don't mean the age-old "I am an island." I believe we all need one another, but we allow ourselves to be far too lazy than we should. And as a note, every island is really connected to the rest of the earth . . . there's no such thing as a floating land mass in my experience.
2. It's great to have a father. What a wonder it is to have someone I can look to for instruction. When we have parents we love and who love us we can skip so much in life, standing on their shoulders and our children on our shoulders. In such a way we continue to build each succeeding generation higher than the one that preceded it.
3. God works in our lives. I wanted to be so frustrated at the situation--the sticking caliper pin. It seemed so stupid. For a brief time I was angry at the situation. You know what though? As I looked at it, analyzed the situation, and thought about it, I realized I'd put the two pins back in the wrong spots on the first side. Had such a hard situation not occurred, and had it been easier to finish the second side, I would have taken off in my truck with the parts in the wrong place and who knows what that would have caused. It took such a difficult situation to get me to recognize and fix such a simple problem. Anyone can see what they will in the situation, but there is a higher power that will help us even in the simplest of tasks and situations if we are awake to it.
P.S. The brake pads were only about half-worn.

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