Harder Than It Looks

Sometimes things we think should be easy turn out to be quite difficult. At my age, this is a lesson I should be familiar with, yet I often forget it and end up where I ended up this weekend. My son and I were replacing the rotors and brake pads on his 2004 Ford F-150. All four wheels. We had gotten him the parts for Christmas (I know, not as exciting as Legos, but it was what he wanted and needed.) So, when a Saturday came up that we were both available, we got to work.

We pulled the truck into the garage and, after loosening the lug nuts, jacked up the front driver’s side. With the wheel off, we were able to get the caliper off and then remove the old brake pads. So far, so good. But that is where our luck ended. The bolts holding the caliper frame to the spindle were frozen with corrosion. We tried penetrating oil, we tried brute force, we even tried cussing.

An internet search found that heating the caliper frame sometimes loosens the bolts, so we got out a torch and got to heating. About 20 mins later, we were able to remove the bolts with an impact wrench. Nearly two hours had gone by, and we had only managed to disassemble one brake. We had equally bad luck with removing the rotor, mostly because we were following the wrong directions. When we figured out the problem, we realized we had the wrong rotors. Another trip to the auto parts store for rotors and a 35mm impact socket cost us yet more time.

With a lot of effort, we got one spindle nut off. I say one because even if you know nothing about cars, you can surmise there are two, one on each side. We tried and tried to get the other one off. We even broke a ½ inch drive breakover bar in the process. No go. It wouldn’t budge. After over six hours of continuous effort, we had one of four wheels done and were at an impasse. We quit at that point because we needed professional help (and someone who can fix trucks too.)

I tell you this story because it contains several elements that occur regularly in our lives. These “little” things often derail our efforts and keep us from completing our projects. There are ways we can reduce the impact of these mistakes and give ourselves better odds when we are attempting a task, especially if it is the first time we have done it.

Learn about your project before you start. When we ran into trouble, my youngest son started looking up YouTube videos to see if there was a particular way to do things. There was. It took twice as long to do it wrong and then learn how to do it right as it would have if we had studied it first.

Have the right tools. At several points we found that we needed a tool we didn’t have. Stopping to go get tools was costly in both time and resources. If we had studied the job, we could have gathered the tools before we started and saved time and frustration.

Consult someone who has experience. We were fortunate to have someone we could call to ask questions. Several times, what we needed to do was not struggle harder, but rather to dial the phone. Asking for help does not mean you’re weak, it means you’re smart.

Ironically, the same things apply to other areas of life. Relationships are a little like brakes. They are necessary, messy, and need repair from time to time. If I don’t know how to grow and maintain a healthy relationship, then it’s going to be hard work and lots of failures and frustrations. Imagine how much difference it would make if we put as much effort into understanding people and relationships as we do into sports, or hobbies, or even your favorite show.

None of us are born with the right tools, so we must be intentional about acquiring the skills needed to nurture healthy relationships. We must start with the skills necessary to be healthy ourselves. Those same skills can then help us nurture healthy relationships with others. Perhaps the two most important tools we need are grace and forgiveness, both for others and for ourselves.

Additionally, we all find ourselves in unfamiliar situations at times. We can struggle along in the dark, breaking things and being frustrated, or we can seek the advice of someone who has experience. I rely heavily on a few trusted advisors, including my therapist, to help me know if I am working in the right direction. The most valuable advisors are not perfect, they are vulnerable and authentic.

Whether you are changing brakes, or doing life with others, there are going to be some days where you work and struggle and maybe do a little cussing. That’s normal and natural. The question is, will we take those opportunities to learn, gain new skills and trust someone? That is how we get a little healthier every day, and it is The Kimray Way.

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