Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Almost lost my fingers

Monday night I was working on my new Vanagon. I came in side after a while to eat dinner and get everyone tucked in to bed. By that time it was dark, so I was working with my trusty flashlight that is powered by shaking it to charge the cell.
I was attempting to locate the slave cylinder. I had crawled under it during daylight and was very sure that the only thing going in to the transmission from the front was the rod that connects to the shifter. Somewhere the clutch has to go in to the transmission at the slave cylinder, but I could not locate it.
After I had everyone tucked in I used the instructions at It says to take of the rear-"left" wheel. I assumed left meant driver-side. Note to everyone, always say driver-side or passenger-side, not left and right.
So I jacked up the rear driver side. The jack that comes with the Vanagon is pretty cool in that it has a bar that goes in to a hole in the van so there is no possibility of slippage. The only problem is that the base is about 2.5" x 2.5", so there isn't a lot of base to carry the weight of the vehicles back end. I found some wood and stuck it under the jack. On the last turn of the jack the handle broke. This was pretty frustrating, but I trucked on and got the wheel off. I stuck my flashlight back in and thought I saw the slave cylinder, but on the other side of the vehicle.
I broke out another jack and jacked up the other side, leaving the driver-side up, unable to crank it down. When I finally had the passenger-side jacked up I pulled at the wheel to get it off when both of my jack slipped and jammed my fingers between the tire and the frame of the bus.
My neighbors got their fair share of late-night choice words. I seriously did not think I was going to be able to get my fingers out by myself and was not sure how I would be able to signal anyone, with everyone asleep at this time.
With my left hand I put my palm under the frame, knelt down and with my whole body pushed up. I was not able to push the frame off of the tire, but was able to push it up enough that I could pull my hand out.
My adrenaline was pumping pretty hard and I was shaking. My fingers didn't hurt that bad and didn't immediately appear broken. I moved them around and they appeared to work just fine. There was a few layers of skin peeling back, but it just peeled right off and there was no bruising, scabbing, or broken bones. With a bag of ice and some time to calm down I put all my tools away, including both jacks and called it a night.
I was worried that I would be unable to type at work, but aside from a little pressure from some minor swelling, my fingers where just fine.
I already don't' trust jacks, and I don't even feel comfortable climbing under a vehicle with all four wheels secured, but now my trust levels have gone even further south.

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