If cars have a nemesis, it’s rust. Rust is our Satan: a malevolent force that lurks everywhere, and if you’re not careful can completely possess your car, destroying it with silent and brutal determination. Any given repair job on a car has the specter of rust lurking around, even on cars that aren’t really all that rusty, like my own Nissan Pao. I know this. And yet I was still surprised at how much harder the Brown Crumbly Monster made this relatively simple repair.
You may remember that our own David Tracy was recently in Hong Kong, where he, incredibly, found a junked Pao rotting on the side of a road. I asked him to get me the driver’s side vent window, because mine had a handle that rusted off.
David attempted to remove the window from the junked Pao, but a spider the size of a Hostess cupcake caused him to lavishly shit his pants with fear, so the actual removal was done by the owner, a man used to big-ass spiders.
No matter—he had the window, and, even better, brought it to me in person when he came for a weekend visit.
This was the state of my Pao’s vent window:
See that rusty bit? Normally, there’d be a handle there, used to open and close (and latch) the window. My handle had rusted off some time ago, before I ever owned the car, so I wasn’t really able to use the window, since it was hard to open and close it.
In the summer, this was an issue, as those vent windows are great for flowing air into the car, which I’d prefer to do, since using the A/C on my tiny 987cc engine uses what feels like 75 percent of the meager 52 horsepower on tap.
Also, without a latch, I could never really completely lock the car, so that’s an issue, too.
But, no matter, because from halfway around the globe comes David, with a replacement, latch-having window!
The replacement process for the vent window wasn’t exactly difficult or too involved, but it was, I guess you could say, fussy. You have to remove the big plastic door panel, which means carefully removing time-brittled plastic tabs and screws and caps, and using MC Escher-style physics to contort and manipulate holes over levers and tabs into and out of slots.
It’s an ass-pain, and always with the lingering threat of breaking some nigh-unobtainable little bit, but not too awful.
What did turn out to be awful, though, was how hard some little bits of strategically-placed rust made this seemingly simple job. You see, to replace the window, you have to replace the glass and the connected pivot shaft, along with its associated nuts, washers, and tension-providing spring. These last bits were severely rusted. Here’s a diagram of the rust-afflicted bits:
So, here’s the problem: when I was removing the window, that lower nut was so rust-welded on, that when I removed it, about 3/4 of the window pivot broke off with it. That wouldn’t be a big deal because we were replacing the whole thing, but then we had to remove the nut from the replacement window, and that one was rusted as well, and removing that nut also broke off a chunk of the pivot-rod.
Less than the original one, but still a nice little chunk.
This started a cascade of trouble because now the tension spring was too long for the pivot rod, which meant the lower nut and washer wouldn’t fit, and if we tried to stick the window in without these parts, it would just flap around uselessly like an anesthetized duck’s wing.
So, to make this work we could either try to source a new actual Pao spring (expensive, would take weeks at best), find a replacement spring (may or may not have the needed tension), or try and cut the spring down a bit.
Cutting the spring seemed to make the most sense, so we gave that a go. I didn’t have a working Dremel, so I tried a jigsaw, which you’d think would work fine, except for the fact that this spring was seemingly made of the same indestructible alloy used in fictional crime-fighting robot suits. It left my sawblades looking like this:
Determined and angry, we kept at it with a different reciprocating saw, and enjoyed lots of sparks:
After so much cutting and cutting and sparking and grinding and cutting, the spring finally and very reluctantly gave up its lower third.
After that, it was relatively simple to get it in there, crank on the spring, washer, and nuts onto the shortened shaft, and test it out. It worked! The window has good tension, stays open at speeds of at least 100 KPH or so, and, best of all, has a glorious latch that’s actually attached to the window.
The lesson here, though? It’s one I bet almost all of you reading this already know: rust hates us all. Rust is a cruel, mean-spirited bastard that can take a 45-minute job and turn it into an ordeal that kills an entire afternoon.
Rust wants to see us all fail; rust wants us to hurt.
I know this. This knowledge just makes David’s strange rust fetish all the more baffling. Look what he sent me just today:
That poor, rust-addled fool.