Wednesday, March 17, 2010

[Car notes, Sebring Wednesday, 2010]

Car notes: Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sebring, FL –

I arrived trackside at 7-something this morning, following a rather leisurely cruise down from Denver, NC. In years past, I’ve had everything from torrential downpours and tornado warnings to dense fog on the way down, but this time it wasn’t the elements making it an interesting ride.

This time, it was my dash gauges.

The gauge cluster in my green car has been a little flakey for a few months now, so I’m used to the spotty occasion when either the fuel gauge slowly drops down to E (and then slowly recovers, as if having popped a Viagra) or when the speedo will sometimes blink-out, but come back after a mile or two.

From Charlotte all the way down to Sebring, the speedometer was dead. Not a peep, not a twitch. For those of you who skipped class during Car Stuff 101, when the speedometer on a modern car dies, it stops counting miles on the odometer as well. I’m now missing over 630 miles that should otherwise be showing – and my celebration of turning over an indicated 196,000 miles will be somewhat delayed.

In other exciting news, while visiting my dad in Denver, I noticed my tires – what’s left of them, anyway – are now suitable for use on a playground swing set, but not on a passenger car. My Falkens have served me well, but with the alignment both front and rear being more than a little bit, er, "off," and with a LOT of negative camber at both ends, let's just say it's hell on a highway drive.

Since I had some time to kill, I decided “well, I’ve got at least an hour of free time, I’ve got tools, and I’ve got flat tarmac, why not...” so I set about the business of rotating the tires. The rears were in fairly better shape than the fronts, so I got out the jackstands and the lug wrench, and got to work.

Lug nuts on the driver’s front were torqued to approximately 5 silverback gorillas worth of force, which meant I not only pulled something in my right forearm breaking them loose (a minor but persistent nagging ouch), I also bent the lug wrench. The large black cross-style one I’ve used for 10 years, now has a noticeable twist at the ¾” head. Drat.

34 minutes later, I had better tread up front, and had also discovered that on the left rear where there are supposed to be brake pads, there is a rather nice gap with only air to fill it. It doesn't appear the pads have worn all the way down -- it just looks like there's nothing there. Oh cock.

With all of that committed to my notes for repair when I arrive home (new dash cluster, check. New brakes, check. New... er, some other stuff too, double-check), I made the trip just fine. Years of driving the same car teaches you that 2800 RPM in 5th gear equals 70 MPH, which is the speed limit for most of the trip. The math got a bit more fuzzy when I got to I-4 through Orlando, where it dropped to 50 (keep pace with traffic), and the constantly fluctuating 55-60-45 do-see-do on Rt. 27 (ibid), but in the end none of Florida’s Finest seemed too interested in making me late for work.

So at last, I’m at the track. It might be all of 54F and overcast here, but it beats a sunny day in DC any time. The only racecars in DC are in the Smithsonian. Down here, they LIVE!

More pointless nonsense (and possibly some interesting shit) as time, alertness, and dedication to my writing craft permit – in that order.

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