Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Rattle rattle

I am sick of incompetents who can't do shit right.

Last weekend, I went over a bump and heard a loud "Clunk!" from the front end of my truck. So when I got back from what I was doing, I got under there and took a look. The @%!@ front bumper bolts were coming loose! Ain't no f'ing way those things can come loose by themselves if they're torqued properly -- those mofo's are supposed to be torqued to 56 foot/pounds. If you were pushing on the end of a one foot wrench, you'd have to apply 56 pounds of pressure to torque them to spec. If they'd been properly torqued, they were *not* coming loose! The idjits who put on my front bumper when they replaced it simply didn't torque it. Then while I was tightening those things up, my hand went forward a bit and... CLANK! WTF is that bolt hanging down with no nut on it? Mutter mutter go look on other side... and the bolt is altogether missing over there! Walk back up to my apartment, look at the factory service manual, and ut-oh -- those are the bolts that hold the radiator cross-member to the frame. The *ONLY* two bolts that hold it to the frame. Without those bolts, the only thing holding the cross-member onto the front of the truck is the front fenders, which attach to the cross-member then to the rest of the body. Same effin' deal. When the jerks replaced the front cross-member, they didn't torque the mofo bolts to spec (56 foot-pounds of torque again!), and the got-damned things f'ing fell off.

Incompetents. I'm surrounded by them. Thursday evening I looked at my odometer, and decided it was time to balance my rear wheel on my motorcycle. So I put my bike up on the lift and pulled the wheel, and spun it to balance it and... what's that rattle rattle coming from the tire? That ain't spozed to be! It was clear I had to take the tire off the wheel and figure out what was rattling, but didn't have time. Anyhow, Friday night I had a consulting gig and didn't have time then, so today I did the job.

The first problem I ran into was that the shop that installed the tire used that sticky tire lube shit. Okay, so that's not wrong. In fact, for a 100 horsepower sportbike, that's right. But for a 34 horsepower KLR, that's overkill. Anyhow, the short stiff sidewall of the tire was stuck like glue to the wheel just wouldn't drop off the bead into the valley between the beads (needed to create enough slack to pull the tire over the rim) using my normal methods -- boot heel and jumping up and down, big-ass tire iron, etc. So I went to Home Cheapo and got a couple of 2x6's and a huge gate hing (the kind used to hang barn doors, that will hold hundreds of bounds), and with a few pieces of scrap 2x4 lying around the garage built a tire bead breaker (hint: lever, 8 foot long, ain't no bead anywhere that can withstand an 8 foot lever!). So the next problem I ran into was the tube seemed to be stuck with that same freakin' glue to the inside of the tire. Anyhow, I managed to get that loose, and here's what I found:

The rattling was coming from inside the tube, a Bridgestone ultra-heavy-duty tube. The idgits who installed the tire did *NOT* install the tube correctly -- they installed it in a way such that it was wrinkled and creased at one point near the valve stem. See, you're supposed to inflate the tube to get some shape into it, deflate it again and bounce it around to get the creases out, then inflate it again. They took a shortcut. They just slapped the effin' tube in there, put air in it, and called it good, and it didn't help that the tube had stuck to the same effin' sticky tire lube that had stuck my tire bead to the rim and thus the creases were literally glued in place. Anyhow, when I cut the tube open to see what was rattling inside it, these creased areas had literally *MELTED* into little rubber bee-bees that were what was rattling. If this tube hadn't been so thick (ultra-heavy-duty, remember?), I would have had a blowout thousands of miles before...

I'm surrounded by idiots who take shortcuts rather than doing shit right. Probably Bush voters, every freakin' one of them -- believers in something for nothing, and that they can take short-cuts without doing things right and nothing bad will happen.

I could go to the shop and complain that they didn't put my front end back together right. Then they'd dispatch the same f'ing idiot to "fix" it who fucked it up in the first place. Or I could get my torque wrench and my factory manual and go over all those f'ing bolts myself and make sure they're torqued right, and replace the bolts that fell out (only problem there is that a couple of rubber bumpers also fell out, I'll need to order them at the Chevy dealer, but we're talking about $5 parts). I could go to the shop that installed the new tube and tire onto my back wheel and complain. Or I can just haul the tube up there and show them what happens when they do shit wrong -- then do the tire changing myself, using my home-made tire machine. It's just a shame that if I want the job done right, I have to do it myself... quality, unfortunately, seems about as rare as a Republican's brains nowdays.

-- Badtux the Quality Penguin

Posted by: BadTux / 9/16/2006 08:20:00 PM  


Ah, I learned the importance of torqueing things properly when I was a young mechanic. And how to build proper race car wheels after I lost one on my second race. An old timer came by and told me what to do, and pointed out how important the proper torque of the lug nuts where.

Years later I worked in a tire shop for a few years, was the alignment man. The guys up front installing the tires are always in a hurry, they just pretend to torque the lug nuts properly. I never trust tire men, I know they mean well but I always go home, back off the nuts and torque them with my own torque wrench. To loose and the wheel might come off. To tight and it warps rotors and can even stress the wheel so much that it will fail in a hard corner.

I would torque bumper bolts to about eighty pounds though. But cheap bolts might not take that, cheap bolts streach, better to buy better bolts.
# posted by BBC : 17/9/06 12:45 AM  

I'm no mechanic, but I am a press operator. Doing things right the first time is the Golden Rule when it comes to working with any kind of machinery (actually, it's the Golden Rule when doing anything, period, but you already knew that).

One of the worst parts of my job is following an operator who not only knows less about the printing press than I do, he was never given the proper training to run the press in the first place. That's not really his fault, tho; it's the fault of the people who own the damn print shop. Since we live in the Age of Diminished Expectations, I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that this exact same dynamic would explain your motorcycle problems.

How I circumvent the printing equivalent of a tire blowout:

All of our presses have these little electronic eyes situated along the length of the machines. On my press, all but one of these eyes are there to shut the press off if the paper trail breaks during a run -- they're like fuses in that regard. The function of the remaining eye, which is placed next to the rotating knife that cuts the paper trail into sheets, is to shut the press off if it detects paper -- say, if the trail begins bunching up before going through the knife, which can happen dozens of times in the course of a week.

Here's the problem: The timeless refrain at the print shop (probably at every print shop) is, "Do what you have to do to get the job up and running" -- or, as they say 'round these parts, "Git 'r done." It's got a nice ring to it, I must say. But in my experience, there are a handful of things you scrupulously avoid doing to git 'r done, and one of those things is turning off the eye by the knife. You don't turn that eye off for the same reason you don't drive at night without your headlights. Ever. If the eye gives me trouble during a run, I look for ways to eliminate the trouble. If I'm forced to turn the eye off, I simply go to the next job. That eye stays on, fuck everyone who doesn't like it.

So what does the other operator do? You guessed it.

Fortunately, part of my start-up routine involves checking that eye to make sure it's on. There will be a violent crash in that press' future. But chances are I won't be the one behind the wheel when it happens...
# posted by Mimus Pauly : 17/9/06 3:35 AM  

You'll appreciate the mind boggling incompetence behind this fiasco
Shorter version here courtesy of Gorillas Guides
# posted by Griffon : 17/9/06 3:47 AM  

BBC, the problem with using harder bolts and higher torque is when you have soft steel captive bolts welded to the frame. I have the same problem with the footpeg bolts on my motorcycle. I upgraded my footpeg bolts to 12.9 grade (the highest-grade metric bolts available) because having your footpeg bolts break when you are coming down from a jump while standing on the footpegs is a real emasculating experience if you know what I mean, but I can't torque them any higher because of the mild steel nuts that are tack-welded inside a box welded to the frame. Same deal with the bumper bolts on the truck, but let's face it, 56 foot-pounds ain't goin' nowhere -- that's the torque specification for the front axle nut of my motorcycle, and even though I ride this thing everywhere, even offroad, it's never budged (I'd know if it budged because the cotter pin on the crown nut would stop it and I'd have to cut off the cotter pin next time I wanted to balance it or change the tire, it's never happened).

Mimus, what you describe is undoubtedly what happened in the body shop that my insurance company suggested that I take my truck to. But there's another thing in play here. Some master mechanics claim they can "feel' the torque and don't need a torque wrench ("German rules", i.e., "goodentite"). Maybe, maybe not. But their young apprentice mechanics who are actually bolting the sheetmetal back together certainly can't "feel" the torque. But the master mechanics aren't setting a good example, so the apprentice mechanics think they don't need to go dig out a torque wrench or the torque specifications.

Finally, regarding the CPA fiasco in Baghdad, yeah, we in the reality-based community knew at the time exactly what was going on, and posted outraged messages about how unqualified people were being put in charge of things over in Iraq. There's a bigger principle at work here, though, one that's inbred into a large cross-section of American society and also expresses itself in things like the wingnuts' hostility to university professors, scientists, and other such "eggheads", and I'm going to address it in another message

PS -- if you tried getting to this blog earlier today and couldn't, my apologies. My server had an error and it took me a while to clean it up.

# posted by BadTux : 17/9/06 11:01 AM  

I wasn't talking about your motorcycle pegs, I was talking about your bumper bolts.

Good half inch bumper bolts and nuts will take eighty pounds of torgue. I said good ones, and they don't always use good ones.

Do you ever admit that someone else might know about some things also? You are not the only frigging smart guy on this planet you know.
# posted by BBC : 17/9/06 5:48 PM  

I have a secret, BBC. I'm not all that smart, I just know how to use Google and read my service manual. And look at what's in front of my face. Which is, in this case, the bumper mounting system on a Chevrolet S-10, where I have a slight advantage over you in that I have an actual real-life example downstairs and can see that GM is using what appears to be M12x20 bolts into welded captive nuts through a bracket welded to the frame in order to hold on the bumper.

As for why GM decided to use such wimpy bolts to hold on the bumper, I have no idea, except maybe the notion that they intend the bolts to sheer off before they can exert enough force to bend the frame.

I mentioned my motorbike's footpeg bolts only because they also have a similar issue preventing cranking down on the torque, i.e., low-quality captive nuts that'll strip out if you overtorque them. As I found out the hard way -- one of those captive nuts is now helicoiled.

# posted by BadTux : 17/9/06 7:42 PM  

Getting back to your original gripe, Tux, one of the many epiphanous moments I had when reading "Zen and the Art.." for the first time many moons ago was Pirzig describing the dipstick in the motorcycle workshop wrecking his bike with the radio blaring.
"Yes!" my heart cried... "someone out there understands"!

Dipsticks with spanners in their hands are like monkeys with machine guns ... which brings us back to the CPA.

And to back up Mimus Pauly, I hate, hate, HATE taking over a job or machinary from someone else. It seems as soon as someone knows the job or maintenance or whatever is going to be passed on, they decide the responsibility can be passed on, too.
# posted by Griffon : 17/9/06 9:09 PM  

Yes, but you all are discussing with machines, objects which have been designed to operate within certain parameters according to set specifications. And you can adjust and refine their operations.

I work with the most unreliable and unpredictable operating system: the human being. And if you attempt to adjust or refine their operation, they get quite annoyed. Damn them!
# posted by TheCultureGhost : 17/9/06 9:22 PM  

Ah, GM, the fucking cheap assholes of the automotive world. No, a 12 mm bolt won't take 80 pounds of torque, unless maybe the Japs make it.

GM was the tightwads that first removed drain plugs from torque converters so they could save two cents a unit.

And everything you read on Google isn't true. :-)
# posted by BBC : 18/9/06 4:08 AM  

How irritating! I've often wondered what all those bolts are, lying at the intersections/stop lights!
# posted by oldwhitelady : 18/9/06 5:39 AM  

There's no "ownership" any more. It's turned in to a case of "Ain't my problem.". So what if your bumper was to fall off. The mechanic would simply say "Ain't my problem.", since it wasn't his truck. So what if the printing press would have a catastrophic jam? The operator would say "Ain't my problem.", since it wasn't his press. So what if the tire on the back of the motorcycle were to pop? The guy who put it in would say "Ain't my problem.", since it wasn't his bike, nor roadrash.

Why is there this lack of ownership? Perhaps because employers treat employees as widgets. One size fits all. Experience, dedication, and loyality don't count for anything. All the employer is concerned about is paying the least amount of wages that they can to get some kind of a job done.

Isn't is sad has society has degenerated? :-(

# posted by Anonymous : 18/9/06 7:02 AM  

I don't trust brake people. I usually have the brakes checked again and again. Once I had the brakes done and on the way home, the wheel almost came off the car. idiots.
# posted by BlondeSense Liz : 18/9/06 7:07 AM  

I'd say that it's an inevitable result of corporatization, but the shop that didn't install the tube right in my rear tire is a small locally-owned shop. Hell, I know the dude who changed the tire. He's the owner's son. He races motocross. He sure the hell knows the right way to change a motocross-type tire and tube. He just got busy, tires were piling up that needed tossing on the machine and changed, and that's what happens. I might rant about it, but hell, I could make the same mistake myself if I ever bothered myself to hurry when doing sh*t to my bike (which I don't do, I'm the world's slowest mechanic). And to be fair, the tube did take me 4,000 miles, wrinkles and all, so it wasn't a total disaster. I'm just glad I caught it while doing routine maintenance. Which, BTW, for those of you who aren't mechanics, is why you should take your car in for routine maintenance to a real mechanic, who catches shit like this in much the same way that I caught this (i.e., while doing routine maintenance).

As for the body shop that the insurance company steered me to, they are one of those evil corporate chains. I knew at the time that they were evil, too, and that the insurance company was unlikely to have my own best interests in mind steering me there, but they weren't the cheapest bid so I wasn't too concerned about them doing some of the jakeleg stuff I've seen before in the body business (especially when I got the final bill and saw what they charged the insurance company!). I should have gone three doors down to the old-line locally owned shop I eventually chose to do my rear fender (the one that got dented up when my motorcycle assaulted it when I managed to push my motorcycle off its kickstand while cleaning the garage, the one I did out of pocket and never reported to the insurance company)... but so it goes.

# posted by BadTux : 18/9/06 8:04 AM  

Jeebus, this post resonates with me. The incompetence, idiocy, and disdain by others is leading me to be a grouchy old man.
# posted by K. Ron Silkwood : 18/9/06 1:19 PM  

yeah, even little shit like paying a few bucks extra at the car wash to have em "clean" the inside of the glass only to find it's smeared to hell once the light hits it right adds up and rankles.

I've run sheetfed presses, Mimus, but in that shop if you even looked at a safety sensor the wrong way your ass was out.
# posted by 42 : 18/9/06 8:33 PM  

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