dodging a bullet

brakes on fire

When you brake hard over 500 times a day, you appreciate that your Jeep can stop.

You appreciate brakes.

You don’t pay attention to them…you have other things on your mind…you have a job to do, after all.

When things are working right, why should you give it a second thought?

My brakes stopped working yesterday…or, I should say, they stopped working right.

When I heard the sound of metal carnage, I got out to check them. I should check my brakes with more frequency than I do…but I changed the pads about 6 months ago, and the last time I looked, they were alright…so why worry? Turn up the reggae…why worry?

When I checked them, it was metal on metal… a padless pad close to the rotor and scraping like a house on fire.

Metal on metal scraping is a bad brake sound.

But half-way through the route, what was I going to do?

I could still grind to a halt…why worry?

Sometimes I’m like a cosmonaut monkey on a one monkey flight, adrift in a sudden meteor storm. Who am I going to call? It’s just me…sometimes.

(A disclaimer: Jenny has helped me on more than one occasion with vehicle issues on the route…been a real lifesaver…but she was in Asheville with the kids yesterday, so I was just another satellite…)

So I rode it out…gritted my teeth with every slow stop and corresponding metal on metal scrape.

I’d get out every once in a while to check the progress of the erosion of the rotor…and to my surprise, it really wasn’t all that bad….some minor grooving, but nothing that was all that bad.

“Man, these rotors are TOUGH!” I thought. “I’m really dodging a bullet on this one! I’M GONNA MAKE IT!!!”

On the way home, after I’d stopped at the parts store and purchased a set of brake pads, when I’d finished the 40 miles of driving with brake issues, I counted my lucky stars (that’s a funny saying…”counted my lucky stars”…I wonder where that one came from?) and prepared myself for the easy repair job ahead of me.

When I got the car jacked up, pulled the wheel and took the caliper off, I realized why the damage seemed so minimal.

The caliper was frozen in the closed position (open? the piston was all the way out…pushing the pad against the rotor all the time) …and the inner pad was the one that was doing all the rubbin’. A dull metal backing on a part that’s never supposed to touch metal gets really shiny when it’s been scraping off and on for forty miles…and really gouges out a rotor.

I mean…really gouges out a rotor.

So my simple repair job turned into a “replace a rotor and both calipers” kind of job…or just one caliper if I can get away with just one. I think you’re supposed to replace both, though.

So it’s a bunch of brake bleeding and other stuff I didn’t plan on.

That’s OK…I know how to do it…and I don’t think that it’s supposed to rain today.

Driveway mechanic-ing is better when it’s not raining on me.

So the job is a bigger one than I hoped it would be.

Thinking about this situation, it was kind of funny that I could fool myself into thinking that a miracle was occurring…and that the brakes weren’t really eating that rotor alive, in spite of the sound everything was making. Things might be OK because I couldn’t see the damage!

It was only when I dug into it a little and realized that it was the thing that I couldn’t see that was being damaged so deeply…that hidden stuff was messed up…that turning my head away from the problem didn’t make it go away, that grinning and bearing it wasn’t going to work this time…it was only then that I could even begin to fix all the issues that bare metal on bare metal had caused.

But you know…sometimes the surface of things is hard enough to deal with. Maybe next time there’s a problem, I really should just turn up the reggae and power on?

Who wants to dig deeply into anything? Who knows what we’d find if we saw the damage on the parts we can’t see?

What I can’t see won’t hurt me, right?

Anyway, I can always fix things later… if I can stop in time.

About Peter Rorvig

I'm a non-practicing artist, a mailman, a husband, a father...not listed in order of importance. I believe that things can always get better....and that things are usually better than we think.

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