Sunday, July 1, 2007


I try to do as much of my own auto repair and maintenance as possible. There are a few things that I can't do, or at least do easily, such as front-end alignments or mounting and balancing tires. For these things I bring the car to a shop.

In our profit-driven society, Mechanics-like everybody else-are pressed for time. All too often, short-cuts are taken and, as a result, repairs are marred or other problems are created. When I took the Audi in for a front-end alignment the car came back with its tires pointed straight.

However, the mechanic, in haste, did not take care to torque the lug nuts to the proper specifications. As a result, when I went to rotate the tires I discovered that I could not budge the lug nuts. In fact, I busted my deep 17mm socket. This was a 1/2-inch drive Craftsman socket, mind you, and not a dollar store cheapo. I also snapped the factory-provided lug wrench.

In the end, I had to use a breaker bar and deep 1/2-inch impact socket to bust those nuts loose.

Those lug nuts were torqued to at least 250 foot-pounds. Common knowledge and folklore specify that they are to be torqued to no more than 80 to 90 foot-pounds.

My arms are much stronger now.

Imagine the ramifications of over-torquing the lug nuts to such an extent. Not only could this warp the brake rotors or strip the nuts-at my expense I might add-but there is a safety issue to consider. Had I a flat, there would have been no way that I could have done a roadside tire change. Sure, I could have called AAA or the local tow-truck guy. But, as you know if you have ever driven in Vermont, there is not always cell phone coverage-not that I use or own a cell phone-and often there is no near house or store with a phone and, further, if you do reach someone with a truck they're apt to be drunk, off hunting or a combination there of. Okay, that's the end of the rant.

Instead of bemoaning this shoddy service to the end of time, I will resolve myself to learning and performing my own front-end alignments. I have already begun by practicing on my '83 GTi. I will update this post soon with some pictures of my home-made camber tools.

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