Repaired Something Today

Since it has started to cool down a bit I finally got around to plugging my damaged tire. So far it seems to be working fine, but my god it was a pain.

First, I had to jack up the car. Normally not a big deal as there should be a mark on the chassis, right? Not that I could see. So I put the jack in what appeared to be the appropriate location and started cranking up. The jack only has a big eye on it, and you have to keep inserting and rotating this little metal bar from one side to the other, unlike every other car I’ve worked on. In the process part of this bar scraped along the rocker panel and scratched the paint. Damn.

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Then, just as I almost had the car up to the correct level it suddenly dropped a bit with a loud crunching noise. A quick examination showed that I didn’t have the slot on the jack lined up with the seam of metal that joins the rocker panel to the floorpan, and the rocker panel partially collapsed under the weight of the car. I’m going to have to spray something on the now exposed metal because I suspect that this will be location for corrosion if I don’t.

After properly positioning the jack I went to loosen the lug nuts. Thankfully it’s nuts and not bolts because I hate positioning wheels when you don’t have a studs to hang them on. As usual, some idiot overtightened the lug nuts and it was a bitch to get them off. I was taught that you can use power tools to loosen the nuts, but tightening should be done by hand, preferably with a torque wrench (on alloy wheels - steelies should be fine with power tools). Even Edd China uses power tools to tighten the lug nuts on alloys and I cringe every time I see that.

Next task was to remove the item that punctured the tire. It looked like a nail but turned out to be a very pointy screw; I guess the head was worn down from driving with it in there so long. I didn’t know if I should fully deflate the tire or not (and I can’t remember which order I did the tasks in). Pulling it out was a challenge, even using a decent pair of dykes. Eventually it came out, but it was in there good.

Removing the Schrader valve was another bitch and a half. The plastic tool that came on a bottle of Slime sealant just twisted to nothingness. I searched for an old toolbox and found a metal valve stem cap that had a removal tool built-in, and one of the tangs broke off in the process. Crap. Eventually I removed that chunk of metal and found a much better removal tool that eventually coaxed out the valve.

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Getting the plug in the tire was the next challenge. It was a tight fit to say the least. I smashed up the first one pretty good, so I was quite thankful that the kit had more. Liberally coating the second one with glue/cement I finally got it to the correct depth and got the tool out. I haven’t had that much exercise in quite some time, and I walk several miles several times per week.

So far the repair appears to be holding. Before the patch I would have to pump up the tire every couple of days, but it was getting steadily worse. Last Thursday, after not having driven for a couple of days, the tire was completely and totally flat. Today I checked several times throughout the course of the day and the pressure hasn’t varied. Not even by 1.5 PSI.

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Even though it’s a fairly basic implementation, I am grateful for the TPMS system. I must admit that I’m not quite as good at checking tire pressure as I should (and used to) be, but getting old will do that to you (it’s a long way down to those valve stems). I have relied on TPMS to let me know when there’s a problem, and so far it has done a stellar job. I have a good compressor and nice tire pressure gauge, so as soon as I get a warning I pull over and take care of the issue.

I know - TL; DR. But does anyone have any suggestions as to how to seal/protect the damaged sheet metal on the rocker panel? I don’t want to lose this car to rot; it’s a rare manual transmission minivan that I plan on keeping forever, even when I buy other cars (Miata is probably next on the list). If I was still in California I’d be less concerned (although the metal around the lip of the trunk rotted through on my E21 and it spent it’s entire life in SoCal), but here in St. Louis with the salty roads in Winter I want to make sure rot never sets in.

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