Sunday, October 30, 2005

Car trouble and a true friend

Interesting day yesterday. Late morning started off on some errands: fuel for Spit, a stop at the puplic library, a lengthy visit to a warehouse sale of old books and LPs, a drop-in at a bike shop which didn't have what I wanted, and a short expedition to a nearby Whole Foods supermarket. Only the warehouse absorbed much time, hours as it turned out. I was looking for LPs and, in absence of any order whatever, found myself looking through dozens of record-filled liquor boxes to find the 10 or so ones I wanted (at $1 each). Also spent time looking for a few books.

Meanwhile B, visiting friends in the Brookland part of DC (near Catholic U.), is calling the home phone to say it's Richard's birthday and we're invited for dinner. I finally return home, take the messages (all 4), call back, collect antipasto makings she requests, and set off.

Maybe three-quarters of the way there I hear a clunk as I go over a little pothole (very little). There then is an alarming scraping noise from the area where the front right suspension is located. I manage to get off the road into a parking lot. I guy walking by lets me know what's wrong: part of the suspension has broken. The front right wheel is no longer full attached to the frame.

The good news: A couple walking by are able to direct me to a public phone close by. I'm able to call Richard's house. He drives over and we use his cell phone to call a towing outfit.

The tow truck turns out to be the kind that winches the car onto its deck rather than lifting the front and dragging pulling the car which then rolls on its back wheels. Three of us spend more than an hour trying to get the front wheel sufficiently usable so that the car can be dragged up the deck of the truck. A good part of this time we used the Spit's jack and a piece of 4x4 lumber in a most precarious and in retrospect pretty scary way. Finally I sit in the car and the tow guy (Teddy) winches ever so slowly with the wheel cooperating just enough for the manoeuver to work.

We take it to Tony Lee's and drop it near the front gate. By the time we get to R's house for the birthday dinner more than 2.5 hours have gone by.

Richard seems to me the personification of friend in need: spending cold, tense, dark hours on a project that often looks like it won't ever succeed and staying cheerful and encouraging the while.

Here's what broke.

The upper ball joint is at the end of a wishbone brace. The wishbone is hinged so it can swing up and down. The ball joint permits the wheel to be turned. It's attached to the front wheel by post and nut. The wishbone is number 14 in the diagram. The ball joint and post are number 2. The part of the wheel to which they attach is 18. The nut and lock washer are behind the part number ed 18.

What seems to have happened is that the large nut that holds the ball joint post to the wheel bracked got loose and finally dropped off. Perhaps the last mechanic to work on it forgot the lock washer or just failed to tighten it enough. Once the nut was gone, the ball joint and wishbone then pulled out of the wheel bracket and the wheel was being held only the other (lower) wishbone and its ball joint, post, and attached bracket.

The ball joint is pictured in the second image below. The last one shows both wishbones, ball joints, and attached wheel on an actual Spitfire.

By the way, have you ever wondered why it's "antipasto" and not "antepasto" or "antepasta"? I'm sure it matters little. Etymology from one source: Italian : anti-, before (from Latin ante-; see ante- ) + pasto, food (from Latin pstus, past participle of pscere, to feed; see p- in Indo-European roots)

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