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deannathegeek
deannathegeek New Reader
7/23/18 8:40 a.m.

So this weekend was very hard for me emotionally. I was all set to change my rear brake pads and was so excited about getting it done. However, I struggled the whole damned time-I had a hard time jacking up the car and getting it on the jack stands, loosening the lug nuts, getting the tires off, but the final nail in my coffin was being unable to get the caliper pins to budge. I may have the knowledge and the tools, but I just don't have the strength to do a lot of the work on my car that I want to be able to do. Hell, just a few months ago when I had to replace the passenger side camshaft position sensor I struggled with that because I was too short to reach the damned thing. I absolutely hate thinking I'm too small and not strong enough to do something, and it caused me to break down and just sob on the ground next to my half-torn-apart car. Now I'm having doubt about everything I've been thinking about-getting an old junker to rebuild, even enrolling in the auto tech program part-time at Austin Community College. I love how it makes me feel to fix something on my car and make it work again, but the lows of not being able to accomplish it simply because of my size and strength... well, I'm not sure if it's worth it.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
7/23/18 8:45 a.m.

There are extreme advantages to being "small." There have been jobs where the guys with hamhocks for arms could never do. There are tasks where brute strength are a detriment. Don't be down. There are solutions.

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
7/23/18 9:02 a.m.

Just keep at it.  You’ll figure things out. My hands are too big to reach things sometimes.  But you find ways. Don’t quit. It’s what isis wants you to do. 

deannathegeek
deannathegeek New Reader
7/23/18 9:10 a.m.
Fueled by Caffeine said:

Don’t quit. It’s what isis wants you to do. 

Neither Isis nor the Taliban have ever gotten the better of me.

gearheadmb
gearheadmb SuperDork
7/23/18 9:12 a.m.

Breaker bars, cheater pipes, and a step stool. That's what you need. And practice. A lot of the time when doing a physical task on a car when one person struggles and another makes it look easy it isn't all about strength it's more about body mechanics and positioning yourself. It takes a lot of trial and error, but a one tip I can give is when fighting a bolt pull the wrench instead of push, and with something under the car like caliper bolts stick a foot against something solid under the car to brace yourself, so the pulling motion is like using a rowing machine. Don't get discouraged, you can do it.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
7/23/18 9:13 a.m.

Time to let your creativity shine and find new ways to do stuff.  Do some searches related to your specific issues, and see if you can put multiple ideas together to solve your particular issue.  

Really- unless you want to be able to lift an engine or trans by yourself, nothing on a car should be limited by your size.  If you are not "strong" enough, it's more likely that there's been some corrosion or something that has caused the thing (whatever it is) to be sticky.  

As for the lug nuts- one of the best tricks I ever learned was to use your body weight on a good sized lug wrench.  This requires the car to be on the ground,  so you are just breaking each lug loose and not removing it.

Another thing- you can use your "weakness" as an excuse to buy a tool.  Like a cordless impact gun.  

One last thing- while few here will admit it, I bet that there is a large number of people on this board who have worked on a project- and have gotten to a point that we could JUST NOT MAKE PROGRESS.  To the point of tears.  You are not alone, by a large margin.  I remember how doing the rear brakes on my DD Miata really got to me, until I learned that the pistons were retracted not via force but by a nut.  The stress I had until I learned that was crushing.

Entropyman
Entropyman Reader
7/23/18 9:17 a.m.

I have found that I have problems working under the hood of vehicles with higher ground clearances and I am rather tall.  I usually take the front wheels off and lower the vehicle almost to the ground to get better access to the engine compartment.  I think all of us that have worked on our own vehicles have experiences some serious lows.  I remember finally getting the transmission back into my 318ti after a clutch change, looking under the car while the engine was running to see oil streaming onto the driveway.  I had failed to properly install the rear main seal that I had changed.  I sat in the driveway and nobody could talk to me for about an hour.  However, it was really awesome when I got that thing put together correctly and went for a successful test drive.  The lows make the highs much sweeter.

mtn
mtn MegaDork
7/23/18 9:20 a.m.
alfadriver said:

 

One last thing- while few here will admit it, I bet that there is a large number of people on this board who have worked on a project- and have gotten to a point that we could JUST NOT MAKE PROGRESS.  To the point of tears.  You are not alone, by a large margin.  I remember how doing the rear brakes on my DD Miata really got to me, until I learned that the pistons were retracted not via force but by a nut.  The stress I had until I learned that was crushing.

On my old Miata (99), the rotors were so badly rusted onto the hub that we could not get them off at all. Two strong dudes, and a huge flippin hammer, and a bigger hammer, and we couldn't get it off. Finally figured out the trick (had to use a nut and bolt to push it out), it sounded like a gunshot when it finally broke free. We'd spent about 4 hours doing something that should have taken 4 minutes, tops. So frustrating. 

I've also had to use a lot of leverage to get a lug nut off a wheel. And by a lot of leverage, I mean I had to put a cheater bar on the lug wrench, and then I had to jack up the cheater bar with a floor jack. 

Work harder, not smarter, and get better tools. Everyone goes through it. Keep it up.

Robbie
Robbie PowerDork
7/23/18 9:20 a.m.

You just need a bigger hammer.

STM317
STM317 SuperDork
7/23/18 9:26 a.m.

Sometimes they fight you every step of the way. The more experience you have, the easier it is to get through those times. As others have said, most of these jobs can be achieved other ways if you think about it. Brute force is not always the easiest or best method. For the times when you need more force than you can muster on your own, use leverage to your benefit.

spitfirebill
spitfirebill MegaDork
7/23/18 9:30 a.m.

I came here to say cordless impact gun too. 

Don't be too hard on yourself.  I went to do the front brakes on my 4runner a couple of weeks ago.  Did the first side easy peasy.  The second side had one lug nut that would not come off.   I had to take it back to the shop that did my alignment and wheel balancing since they were the one that boogered it up.       

oldopelguy
oldopelguy UberDork
7/23/18 9:32 a.m.

Historically linemen were big burly guys who manhandled stuff with their hands and backs, and they were broken old men before they were 50. Every year as the rules change they get better tools and equipment and more training to make their jobs safer and less physical.  Now we have tiny women on the crews who work just as hard as the guys, and the perspective they bring is making the job better for everyone. 

The great equalizer for you is going to be buying tools.  I'd start with a compressor and air tools, mostly because for you an air ratchet might be invaluable and the cordless electric stuff doesn't really do those well.  You're going to spend more money buying the oversized aluminum jack than someone who can manhandle the cheaper steel one, but you're only going to do it once and you will be the one with the jack everyone wants to use.

Beyond that,  there is a tall folding aluminum step stool at Northern that is a good step up from the smaller one at Harbor freight.  I have both and use at least one of them every day.  Combine them with a couple of padded fender protectors and you should be able to get around most of the engine bay of all but the tallest trucks.  Later this summer the box stores are going to be clearance selling the super thick outdoor cushions too; pick up a couple to toss on top of the motor or fenders or whatever so you can lay over without breaking anything.  If you are small you are light, and laying over on a cushion will let you comfortably do stuff in the back of an engine bay that would ruin my back for a week. 

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
7/23/18 9:58 a.m.

In reply to deannathegeek :

Don’t feel bad, I suffer the same problems many times, but small hands definitely allow us to access places without the disassembly required by others. 

Power tools can be a joy when it comes to stuck fasteners. I find myself using my HF battery impact for bolts I know I could get out by hand, but don’t want to put out that much effort to do so. I also keep 3’ and 5’ cheater pipes nearby. 

However there are definitely times I just don’t have the upper body strength for a particular task, or just not enough body mass & reach to get any leverage. Wrestling the engine into the Vette was a major problem for me, as are the rear brakes on the Suburban - I just don’t have the strength to pull the springs into place & there’s no way to get better leverage. 

Sometimes you just need another pair of hands to help you out. 

failboat
failboat UberDork
7/23/18 10:21 a.m.
mtn said:
alfadriver said:

 

One last thing- while few here will admit it, I bet that there is a large number of people on this board who have worked on a project- and have gotten to a point that we could JUST NOT MAKE PROGRESS.  To the point of tears.  You are not alone, by a large margin.  I remember how doing the rear brakes on my DD Miata really got to me, until I learned that the pistons were retracted not via force but by a nut.  The stress I had until I learned that was crushing.

On my old Miata (99), the rotors were so badly rusted onto the hub that we could not get them off at all. Two strong dudes, and a huge flippin hammer, and a bigger hammer, and we couldn't get it off. Finally figured out the trick (had to use a nut and bolt to push it out), it sounded like a gunshot when it finally broke free. We'd spent about 4 hours doing something that should have taken 4 minutes, tops. So frustrating. 

I had a similar problem on my mazda 5. Only theres no hole for a bolt to pry the rotor off.  I had to reassemble with the old pads, drive the car to the local mechanic in the morning with a mangled brake rotor from beating on it with a rather large sledgehammer for an hour. 

Sometimes I'd rather let someone else fight my car. I dont have a spare vehicle lately, sometimes you just gotta pay the man to get to work. 

Driven5
Driven5 SuperDork
7/23/18 10:39 a.m.

In reply to deannathegeek :

"Life might have its failures, but this was not it. The only true failure can come if you quit." 

-Rosie Revere, Engineer

RX Reven'
RX Reven' SuperDork
7/23/18 11:12 a.m.

“Personal Fail”…pfff, please…90% of those big strong men you referred to were sitting on their fat a$$es watching the game and guzzling beer while you were out demonstrating the gumption to go for it.

Dust yourself off, use your brain, tool up, call on us for tips, and teach those damn caliper pins who’s boss!

rob_lewis
rob_lewis UltraDork
7/23/18 1:34 p.m.

You haven't failed, you're just at the early stages of learning.  My 17 year old, who took auto shop at school last year, is probably similar to you for experience right now.  He struggles to with reaching things, breaking nuts loose, etc.  He asks me to help him quite a bit and says something similar, that he's not as smart as I am when it comes to cars.  I've explained to him (and now to you) that I'm not some car whisperer or anything, I just have 30 years of experience on him, so I've seen it all a few times.  That, and a willingness to try to fix anything and the wonders of YouTube have helped me a lot more than anything else.

One advantage he has that you don't is another set of eyes.  I've seen him struggle with something and been able to point out better ways because I'm not in the middle of it (and the frustration) like he is.  Then again, he's shown me a few things over the past year for the same reason.  Sometimes, they don't even have to be car people to help, just there to make you stop and think and ask questions that make you look at it a different way. 

You'll get there.  Just plan for things to take a while because you'll be learning in the middle of it.  Plus, you've got a great group of folks on this board who can help point you in the right direction. 

Just don't work on it today.  With a high of 108, nobody should be working on their car today.....

-Rob

914Driver
914Driver MegaDork
7/23/18 2:13 p.m.

No failure, sometimes you just have to walk away for a bit.

Sometimes I think Bowling should be my real hobby.

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt PowerDork
7/23/18 2:50 p.m.
Robbie said:

You just need a bigger hammer.

If you're trying to get caliper pistons to retract, I've found that your best bet isn't a bigger hammer - it's a bigger C-clamp. If this is a case where "If brute force doesn't work, you're not using enough" holds true, the brute force shouldn't come from muscle power - it should come from the right application of the right tool to the right point.

Some cars had weird gimmicks, too, like "twist to retract" calipers. Sometimes brute force isn't the answer at all; it's finding the right trick. Often these tricks can be picked up through model specific forums or how-to videos online.

If you hang in there, you'll find your size has a few advantages with reaching certain parts as well - there are jobs I've encountered where getting a larger hand where it needs to be is a problem.

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
7/23/18 3:12 p.m.

just remember, it might not be you. Some cars fight you tooth and nail to get anything done. I am not sure what demons possess them, but they are out there.

 

So you may not be suited for working on the big superduty pickups, there are plenty of cars out there that require smaller arms and hands. Looking at my Fiat 500 Abarth, it is definitely one of those cars. You cannot even see the ground when looking into the engine bay.

 

If you want to make a living at this.. I think any car that requires you to put it into the "service position" where you need to remove bodywork to get stuff done would be perfect for you. Remember, a car is a box on wheels.. think outside the box!

akamcfly
akamcfly Dork
7/23/18 3:51 p.m.
deannathegeek said:

and it caused me to break down and just sob on the ground next to my half-torn-apart car

 

I've been there with cars, houses, pets, recipes, relationships and several million dozen other things. And I know I'll be there again, and again, and again.

Take a pause and cry it out when you need to. If I had your caliper pin situation, after crying of harrumphing or whatever it is I do, I would search the make/model specific forum for posts from people with similar heartaches. I would read and see how they managed. It may be force, it may be finesse. It's almost always finesse. 

Also, I was able to get a Nissan Frontier .pdf service manual on ebay for $10US and it's complete. You may want to look into that. I would recommend it. Print what you need when you need it - or drag your laptop or tablet out to the worksite. Research ahead of time and decide what's within your time and talent limit (and budget). The same guy had it for the Xterra too. 

spitfirebill
spitfirebill MegaDork
7/23/18 7:10 p.m.
 
deannathegeek said:

and it caused me to break down and just sob on the ground next to my half-torn-apart car.

You think the rest of us haven’t done that.  I also invent new curse words, but I wouldn’t advise that.  It offends the neighbors.  

XLR99
XLR99 Dork
7/23/18 8:07 p.m.

Definitely don't call it a fail; call it a learning experience.

This seems appropriate here...

2018-07-23_08-49-31

 

As everyone has said, it's part of the learning process.  I've been there several times.  The beauty of GRM is that someone has a work-around, solution, or suggestion for whatever problem you have. 

Robbie
Robbie PowerDork
7/23/18 8:22 p.m.
spitfirebill said:
 
deannathegeek said:

and it caused me to break down and just sob on the ground next to my half-torn-apart car.

You think the rest of us haven’t done that.  I also invent new curse words, but I wouldn’t advise that.  It offends the neighbors.  

My wife knows not to try to give me advice when I am throwing hammers.

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane Dork
7/23/18 8:54 p.m.

Yep to what everyone else said..  

In addition, I do see there's two entries in your area on the GRM "on the road assist list," I wouldn't hesitate to reach out and see if over of them can pop in with more leverage :)

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