Tools come in all shapes and sizes and we make and buy them for different reasons. Some we use daily yet others are just for a one off job. Some are well finished and a source of pride for the builder, yet others are purely functional. Some are well designed for known, well defined tasks yet others are put together in hurray as a way of solving an immediate and often urgent task. My recent posts on hydraulic jacks reminded me of my adventure with a totally leak free car jack at the end of the last summer, which fits into that last category.
Firstly a bit of background.
In the south east of Spain there are a large number of cave houses. These are houses cut out of the ground by hand. Some are/were just basic shelter from the elements with just one or two rooms, whereas others now have been turned into quite grand dwellings. Pre-air conditioning they where a great refuge from the extremes of weather as the internal temperature only varied slightly throughout the year, coping equally well with winter snow and 40 deg summer days.
A few months back my wife and I rented one of these houses for a week's break. It was just outside of the town of Guadix near Granada. This photo shows that it was not in a crowded area although the entrances to numerous abandoned can be seen dotted around.
Don't forget to click for full size pictures.
Towards the end of our stay we headed south toward the coast which entailed climbing the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. At the highest point they climb to nearly 3,500 m. Here is a satellite image courtesy of Google maps.
It can be seen that from Guadix there is just a single road over the mountains, somewhere around the middle of the crossing I turned off the road and went about 1 km up a fire road to a lookout to wonder at the incredible view.
Now to the bit about tools. (Sigh of relief)
I had parked at right angles to the trail so that I could reverse and turn down hill to leave. As I reversed I felt the car struggle a little but I ignored it thinking that I was just running over a stone. There were a lot around. Not so. A loud bang alerted me to a bigger problem. I got out to find that the RH front tyre had a large tear in it, and was as flat as a pancake. There was a steel stake in the ground with a protroding sharp edge. I had parked with the tyre next to this and as I reversed and turned, the tyre was forced against the stake and the rotation did the rest.
No problem, I had a spare and a screw type jack. The jack was brand new by Ford. As the tyre was completely flat the jack had to be closed to its minimum height to fit under the car. This is the situation which applies the largest load to the screw. Anyway I started jacking away and the car started to lift when with no warning there was an even louder bang than the tyre bursting and the car dropped down. Firstly, I just thought that the jack had slipped (the ground had a steep slope) and I tried again but nothing happened. Examination of the jack showed that the the screw thread had stripped.
The car was sideways on a steep slope, the duff tyre on the down side. With hindsight I should have turned the car around 180 deg. That would have lightened the load on the working side, the suspension wouldn't have compressed so much meaning that the starting position of the jack would have been more favourable as well as being less load on it. Hindsight is a useless tool, foresight is much more useful.
In the winter the route through the mountains would have been very busy with skiing traffic, but that day was in the mid to high 30s at the end of summer and there was no traffic at all. There was no cell phone coverage either. Obviously outside help would not be forthcoming so I had to get it fixed. Even though I couldn't ruin the tyre anymore it was too far back to the nearest town to contemplate driving there albeit slowly.
On the way up the trail I had noticed that there was an area where there were a lot of flat stones. I thought that if I could drive up on some stones the underside of the car would be higher off the ground and I was hopeful that it was only the thread on the screw that stripped and not the nut as well. So I drove back down the hill. With a higher starting position it would have been an undamaged part of the screw in the nut. My optimisum was ill founded though. The nut had stripped as well and the jack could not take any significant load.
Here is the car on the makeshift ramp. I found one stone with a tapered end, so I positioned that first to ease the transition. Note the tear at the eight o'clock position.
I needed new tools. I started to look for ideas in the surrounding area and unbelievably I found a long wooden pole 100 to 120 mm in diameter. I turned to my wife and said that the ghost of Archimedes was smiling on us. She had no idea what I meant. I got some more stones to act as a fulcrum and with the pole positioned appropriately I was able to lift the car a little. So I managed to work the car upwards in steps. As I lifted, my wife stacked stones under the car to hold it, then I would add another stone to the fulcrum etc.
Under the circumstances taking photos was not a high priority, I took the previous one when resting, my wife took this one with a phone, it is the only record of the Archimedian influence.
Before I got the car high enough to remove the old wheel and fit the new one, I reached the stage of being unable to go higher for two different reasons, firstly the fulcrum became unstable as it got higher (stones on stones) and secondly I had passed my physical limits, the temperature was high and at 3,000 m there is only 70% of the oxygen to breath that there is at sea level. I had experienced heat stroke some years previous and I recognised the early symtoms, so I rested and knew that I could only continue with minimum exertion. I spent 20 minutes wriggling the stone under the wheel until it came free, the suspension then extended a bit more and the wheel dropped to the ground still preventing its removal. Well if I couldn't get the car farther off the ground I would move the ground away from the car. So with my hands and a large screw driver I slowly dug a hollow under the wheel. Then swapping the wheels was a piece of cake, a few minutes tidying up the tools and we were on our way again.
The whole episode took around 90 minutes, A road side wheel change usually takes 4/5 minutes. That shows the importance of having good quality appropriate tools. Tools are sometimes just where you find them waiting to be discovered. Many thanks to the ghost of Archimedes who knew a good tool when he saw it.