I made an idiotic error the other day while trying to get my $800 Jeep Grand Wagoneer ready for its 3,000+ mile off-road trip. And instead of hiding my shame, I’m here to share it with you.
Just the other day I was lauding auto parts stores’ rental tools for being excellent resources for those looking to wrench on a budget. One such rental tool, which I named the “the champion in all of my off-road builds,” is the thread restoration kit, which fixes rusty or otherwise mangled nuts and bolts. (You may be surprised to hear that I have many of those only low-budget, Michigan-raised junkers).
A few days ago, I found myself spinning a nut on a stud endlessly, eventually realizing that the nut had stripped. So I grabbed a new nut, threaded it onto the stud, and the same thing happened. At that point, I knew something was wrong with the stud, so I grabbed the thread restoration nut, and spun the appropriate tool on to clean the threads.
I then took the thread chaser off, put it down, and began installing my nuts, which I had in a pile on the ground just below.
Working in my dark garage without my headlamp, I installed the nuts, one after the other until I had my brake caliper bracket bolted to my knuckle. I torqued the six nuts to spec, installed my rotor, caliper, and all my wheel hub components, and buttoned everything up. And with that, my front suspension, steering and brake work was finally done.
Except it wasn’t. Fast forward a few hours later when my friend Brandon was helping me put away the tools: “Hey man, where’s the 3/8th fine thread from this thread restoration kit?” he asked.
“Hmm. I’m not sure. It’s probably on the ground somewhere near that wheel,” I responded.
“Nope,” he replied. “I looked everywhere over here.”
At that moment, I knew where this was going. And it wasn’t good. “You didn’t accidentally use the thread chaser as a nut, did you?” he asked, worried about his friend’s mental condition.
“Of course not. There’s no way,” I lied, knowing full well that this is something my clumsy self would totally do. Realizing that those six nuts were now buried deep beneath my hub and brake assembly (see image above), I searched around frantically for that thread restorer. Surely I couldn’t have been that dumb, right? I looked under the Jeep, under my toolboxes, on my shelves, and in all of my pockets. But after rummaging through the garage, I eventually gave up my search at around 12:30 a.m., as fatigue began to take hold.
But I couldn’t sleep. I just had to know if I had been such a bonehead. Curiosity spurred me to began tearing down the hub and brakes in the wee hours of the morning. I unbolted the caliper, banged out the hub cap, removed the snap ring, took out a pressure spring, extracted two axle nuts and a washer, and pulled off the rotor (which houses the wheel bearings). Finally, I got to the brake caliper bracket:
Sure enough. I had done it. One of the dumbest (second behind the time I locked up my engine by using the wrong main bearing cap) wrenching moves of my life.
Putting the hub back together was what took so much time, as the rear axle nut has a little nipple that needs to be lined up perfectly with the holes in the washer (and the washer has to be aligned in a certain way with the axle as well).
But I eventually buttoned the hub and brakes back up, and slowly walked like a zombie into my bedroom, where I crashed hard. The next morning, I showed Brandon the picture above over Facebook, and while I wasn’t there to see him receive the message, I have no doubt that he just shook his head in disappointment.