Learn about that car you drive

By Steve Estes

Sometimes we get so busy that we don’t see the silliness that surrounds us every day. Or perhaps we’ve just become so accustomed to the silliness that we overlook and accept it as part of every day life.

That’s so sad.

I guess silly is a way of life these days. More and more we have someone or something to do anything for us, and we tend to forget how to do the simple things.

When I was a teenager, the be-all and end-all of daily existence was to own your own car and be able to get from place to place without having to wait hours for someone to come available to take you there, and then make arrangements hours in advance to get back where you needed to be.

These days, two in four teenagers don’t even have a driver’s license, let alone their own mode of transportation. Now some would feel this is a good thing, keeping the inexperienced drivers off the road and making room for those who know better how to crack up and kill….ooops…did I really say that?

Anyway, part of owning your vehicle was knowing how to keep it on the road. You didn’t need to be a mechanic, but you needed to know basic safety things, like how to turn on the hazard lights if you got stuck somewhere, or how to rock your vehicle out of a ditch or snow patch to continue on your way. But most of all, you needed to know how to do some really simple and basic stuff like CHANGE A TIRE.

There are several kids who frequently come and go from our lives, and frequently drive someone else’s vehicle. I haven’t talked to one yet who knew the first thing about changing a tire.

They all knew how to dial 911 on the cell phone and tell the police they were broken down, but when they were told having a flat at the side of the road wasn’t a reason to call out SWAT, they were lost from that point on.

Two-thirds of the kids driving today don’t know where the spare tire is located in their vehicle. Most of those probably don’t know if they have one. More than three-fourths don’t know where the jack is, and again, most of those don’t know there is one.

After all, if you have a flat you’re supposed to be able to call someone on your ever-present cell phone and have them take care of  it. Riiiiight.

If they know they have a jack, and they know where the spare is, they haven’t a clue how to put the jack under the vehicle, and then, how do they get those little bolt thingies off the tire so they can get another wheel on. Say tire iron to a teenager and they give you that vacant stare…you know the one….the same on they give you when you ask them what they plan to do with their future.

Many cars come with screw jacks that are meant to be placed on a notch somewhere under the vehicle behind the front tires or in front of the rear tires. I guess kids today don’t study spatial relationships, because it always seemed pretty clear to me that the notch under the car that was the same approximate size as the top of the jack was the place to put it. Still other cars come with small hydraulic jacks that give you more placement options.

Wanna blow a kid’s mind? Give them a hydraulic jack and the options where it can be placed. Come back with breakfast tomorrow and solve the problem. Again, spatial relationships.

I’ve seen jacks placed under the frame, lifting the entire car and leaving the tire on the ground. I’ve seen jacks placed under the fender, resulting in one big gaping hole in the fender and the tire on the ground, and I’ve seen them find the notch at the back of the car to life the front tire, of course, leaving the tire on the ground. Much confusion arises when these methods don’t work.

Some can tell you that “lefty loosey\righty tighty.” This is great, if they can figure out left from right without a road map. And if you’re on the right side of the car, is left still left, and if you’re on the left side of the car, which way is left? And from which direction are you looking at the car when you determine left or right?

Go ahead and laugh. I’ve heard all of these questions.

Then we get back to the spatial relationships thing again. How high do you have to take the car before you can get the tire off? If the jack stops going upward…there’s a clue. You must be high enough.

Now depending on whether it’s a front- or rear-wheel drive vehicle, you loosen the lug nuts (bolt thingies) (to the left please) slightly before you get the tire off the ground. I love to watch the “scritch-thump” merry-go-round. Scritch-thump being the sound that’s made as the flat tire scrapes along the gravel, with the flat part impacting on each revolution as this healthy young person spins the tire at about 2,000 rpms trying to loosen that bolt thingie.

Of course, if you hear scritch-thump, you know the tire is too close to the ground to get the spare on. It’s that pesky spatial relationships thing again. It just simply takes more room to put an inflated tire in the same space a deflated tire just came from.

I guess the best answer I’ve heard came from a kid the other day who had life all figured out. When they have a flat, they pick up the cell phone, call grandpa, dad or uncle Bob and tell them where they are. Since the car probably belongs to one of them, or one of them is financially responsible for the damage the car can do, they respond while the unconcerned teenager burns minutes off the cell phone chillin’ with their friends.

The tire gets changed, teenager drives off. Problem solved.

And they wonder why many of us are actually frightened about what happens in the next 30 years.

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