For Want Of A Bolt
The following story is true. The cuss words have been deleted to improve story flow.
The other day, I needed to change the oil in my ten-year-old mini-truck (300,000+ miles and 26 mpg highway, thank you very much!), and while doing so, noticed I had a leak in the oil pan gasket. It looked like all I needed to do was tighten the bolts a tad, but the one closest to the leak seemed to be very loose.
It didn't just seem so - it was so. So loose, it was broken.
To quote a popular cartoon character, "Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh!"
It got worse.
Drill out the bolt and insert an extractor, right? Wrong! Extractors don't work well when there is a broken drill bit in the way.
!@#$%^&*(! (translation: drat!)
Drill out the broken bit, and have the cut wander off-center, ruining the extraction effort.
Golly gosh darn!
Drill out the hole so that a larger size can be used, except that slows down the drilling process. (I have new respect for roughnecks!)
Double golly gosh darn!
Spent most of one day boring the Seikan tunnel - OK, it only seemed like I was, it was taking so long!
Once the hole seemed deep enough, it was time to pull out the tap - only to discover that the metal in the hole wall was so thrashed that the tap just sliced it off rather than cut through.
Triple golly gosh darn!
Look up HeliCoil (tm) - gift of the treeshade mechanical gods! Found out that my local Ace Hardware still carries it while my local Home Depot and Lowe's do not.
Score one for the small businessman!
Return to disabled vehicle, only to discover that the Meteor Crater in the bottom of my engine - OK, it only looked that way - had to be enlarged further to facilitate repairs.
[Black thoughts involving automotive arson and other forms of mechanical violence!]
Consulted with Mrs. P, who pointed out that a successful conclusion to this repair effort was still cheaper than either a new engine or, worse yet, a new truck whose pedigree would have to be ascertained.
Once back on solid ground, it was back to the repair effort. Located a drill bit close enough to the size necessary for the thread repair, and waited for the Earth to split in two. Ran out of energy trying to push the drill bit into the block any futher, and decided that what I had was going to have to do.
The HeliCoil set worked as advertised, but I found I didn't have the right size bolt to go into it, so it was back to Home Depot, who didn't have what I wanted, but did have something I could use.
Back to my truck (beginning to wonder if a horse would be less trouble!) and got the hardware installed. It only cost me two days of lost wages and a lot of aggravation.
All to replace a broken bolt that only would have cost me 21 cents to replace if I could have pulled it out in one piece.
As hard as that was, it could have been worse. Much worse. Imagine trying to pass an anti-torture bill against the wishes of Reichskanzler Cheney!
The story you have just read is true. The mini-truck is successfully back on the road and sentenced to transporting the author to his real-world job. The author is again free to pursue news items for commentary without worrying about the higher gas bill that came in today.