Boat Trailer Blues

I figured a tire swap and fresh grease would barely take me to lunchtime, much less beer-thirty

By Rob Breeding

There are days when I should just stay in bed.

As I was mucking about in the kitchen the other morning, I reached for a mug and bumped my glass coffee press, knocking it over and breaking it.

With that, the day’s rhythm was irretrievably broken, though it was going to take time before I fully recognized the gravity of this omen.

I didn’t have a particularly challenging agenda for the day. The tires on the boat trailer needed replacing, and while I was at it I figured I’d repack the bearings with some fresh grease. It’s not the worst of chores; my trailer has Zerk fittings on the hubs so it’s a pretty straightforward job.

Even after the coffee tragedy I thought I was on solid ground. Usually, I procrastinate when it comes to maintenance duties, putting them off until the night before, or the morning of, some important excursion. This day was free and clear, however. My only agenda item was happy hour.

I figured a tire swap and fresh grease would barely take me to lunchtime, much less beer-thirty.

My plan was to remove the rims and get them to the tire shop for fresh rubber. I’d get the greasing done while the rims were at the shop. Alas, I forgot one small detail: The rims hadn’t been off the trailer since I purchased it a decade ago.

There wasn’t a prior need to remove them, and it wasn’t much of a shock that my four-way wrench wasn’t up to the task of breaking loose the lug nuts. Neither was my rechargeable electric impact wrench, though that tool is more for show anyway. I doubt it matches the torque the four-way generates.

What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was that I’d need a breaker bar and a six-foot length of sturdy pipe stood upon by a couple of down linemen from the local college football team to convince the lug nuts that they were not meant to fuse permanently with the studs.

That set my schedule back considerably. It also left me fretting that the studs, and maybe the hubs themselves, might need replacing.

Fortunately, a liberal spray of WD-40 and a new set of lug nuts solved the problem. Unfortunately, out of the 10 replacement nuts the helpful guy at the hardware store picked out for me, only four turned out to be the right size.

Those happy hour brews were fading from view.

I got the lug nut situation taken care of, eventually, and made arrangements with the linemen to help me out again in a decade or so when the new tires are worn out.

As mentioned, I replace the grease via the Zerk fittings, which directs the fresh lube to the back of the hubs, pushing the old dirty stuff out the front where it’s wiped away. It’s a messy job, even when all goes well, but a necessary one.

On this day there was no possibility it was going to go well.

I learned long ago that any tools with moving parts purchased from a chain retailer rather than a mechanic-grade tool manufacturer should be considered disposable. I’ve rarely gotten second use from a cheap grease gun, and my current tool of choice was about to remind me of this history, though not until I was a quarter of the way through the job and had covered myself from head to foot with marine-grade-bearing grease.

I looked like a survivor of an explosion at a green apple Gusher factory.

Another functional gun, albeit temporarily so, was just a short drive to the local box store away. I could pick up a new French press as well.

The job was eventually finished, though sadly, I was still washing off the grease as happy hour passed.

Rob Breeding is the editor of www.mthookandbullet.com.