By on November 22, 2013


Paraphrasing the Drive-By Truckers; I grew up in the south back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

The dinosaurs of were the boats you see in Murlee’s amazing contributions. But at the time, the “cool” ones fit into one of three narrow categories; Camaro, Firebird or Mustang. V8s and solid rear axles enabled them to spin the tires. Our $3.37 per hour minimum wage jobs did not enable us to replace them.

Fortunately the market had a solution; retreads. Bald tires with a new tread pattern effectively glued over the top. You don’t see them very often now, but at one time, they made up 20% of the tire market.

I was living in Atlanta with my roommate and grade school friend, Brent who had a Camaro. Keeping with tradition, under the requisite air shocks was a pair of retreads, or “recaps” from a small outfit in SC, near our parent’s homes.

On one of our commutes to our movie theater jobs, one of the tires began to “round.” When the inner band of the previously bald tire split, ruptured or leaked air under the retread, the tire became round from a forward profile, like a sport bike rear. If had taken that shape over its entirety, there wouldn’t be an issue, but the small bubbles resulted in an oblong tire. Now the solid-axled, leaf-springed, jacked-up Camaro was transformed into a solid-axled, leaf-springed jacked-up clown car.

When this happened, Brent immediately swapped on a retread spare, which promptly rounded. Apparently this was a bad batch of originals, because the other side also rounded.

A long distance phone call (remember those?) to the retread outfit confirmed they would happily replace them, free of charge. All we had to do was bring them in; 160 miles away. Coordinating two days off from our flunkie theater was no small feat and took more approvals than a Pakistan drone strike. I was invested in the process because most of the time I didn’t own a running car. This was one of those times.

In the early morning hours after a shift at Litchfield Cinemas Brent pointed the wobbly Camaro north on I-85. At city speeds the out of sync rear tires jostled the car comically; at freeway speeds it was seriously dangerous. Cursed with youthful arrogance and no other options, we pressed on at 45 MPH, adding an hour to our trip. In the unfamiliar right lane, our Canadian steed rocked me to sleep.

30 minutes later I woke up as the car was shaking like Steve Austin’s ill-fated test plane. We were passing a semi at over 60. The driver’s side retread had enough and let go in a classic fashion. Boom! The car fish tailed. Brent caught the rear, finished his pass and limped to the shoulder. The concept of roadside assistance was a decade away. Digital pagers were just making the scene. Another newfangled technology was scissor jacks. We didn’t have one, we had a bumper jack.

Bumper Jack

A bumper jack functions by lifting the car via the bumper. A small metal plate was slotted for a 1×1 square pole with notches every quarter of an inch. Over this fit a small ratcheting box that lifts the car. Murphy was kicking us while we were down. The week of wobbling tires took its toll on the lug studs, two snapped during loosening.

FYI, a jacked up 74 Camaro on air shocks will almost exhaust a three foot bumper jack to get the rear wheel airborne. No part of this contraption actually bolted in place, so the whole car swayed with each passing semi, roughly every seven seconds. Miraculously, we got the spare on, but the third stud stripped hallway down. Its 4 AM, we are an hour from anywhere, and the only thing holding on a rounded spare was 2 lug bolts and a stripped third.

There was no option. Off we hobbled; at idle, in the breakdown lane. We arrived after 9 AM. Brent replaced the studs and got three new retreads. The next morning we returned in time to start our shift. I am sure some of the more experienced members of the B&B have retread stories. Low-cost Asian tires of infinitely higher quality have made them almost obsolete, as roadside assistance, cellphones and scissor jacks have done the same for the rest of this story.

Last January in the middle of rural Kansas, I ingested a screw sideways into a rear tire. It was late and I had no cell reception. I swapped the space saver spare on and limped the remaining 300 miles to Omaha at 45 miles an hour, smiling the whole time, because I managed to keep all five studs intact and I had a real jack.

Of course, now I was in Omaha in the winter, trying to purchase a pair high performance specialty tires with snow on the ground…but that is a another story.

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, a Philosophy degree and a gift for making Derek and Jack wonder if English is actually his first language.

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63 Comments on “Retreads, Camaros and Bumper Jacks...”

  • avatar

    “Fuuuuuuuudge!” Only I didn’t say fudge.

    What happened to the other lug nuts?

  • avatar

    Don’t mourn the lack of a ’70s scissors jack. Ever. They sucked.

    I spent half a day once trying to put a ’76 Maverick up on one. On level ground. On the second try, I got the flat tire off before the jack kicked out from under the car. Which dropped the left rear corner and turned it into a recurring cycle of getting the car up almost high enough to put the left-rear tire on the lugs before the damn jack would kick out from under the car again.

    A couple of hefty logs as wheel chuck/impromptu jack stand respectively and a two-pass jacking/re-jacking process got the feeble frickin’ scissors jack up for long enough for me to get the tire on and the lugs hand-tight before getting it down.

    Then I chucked that scissors jack as far in the woods as I could — you can get amazing distance throwing it like a football — and bought a hydraulic bottle jack. Some Ford engineer should have to spend his time in Hell trying to jack up a Maverick by the side of the road on a never-ending cold, rainy night.

    • 0 avatar

      I am so sorry, but I enjoyed reading this immensely. Too funny.

    • 0 avatar

      Makes me wish every car had what my old Mercedes had (and I believe BMW has/had the same sort of system).

      A little round port under the side of the car, just inboard of each wheel.

      That a mechanical jack with a rotary handle slots into.

      Stable, strong, fast, relatively compact. *Very* effective.

      • 0 avatar

        Jacking points are great until the rocker panel rusts out around them and you find yourself tearing a hole in the car. Volvo, VW, and some of the Japanese cars had a similar arrangement where a screw jack or scissor jack engaged a pad or notch in the rocker panel next to the wheel well. On the flip side a lot of these cars had lug bolts instead of studs. Mercedes included a headless bolt to help you install the wheel, and MG Mitten (remember them?) sold either a temp bolt or a conversion kit for most other cars with bolts.

        • 0 avatar

          Just about every unibody car int he last 20 years has pinch weld or rocker panel jacking points that love to crumble when rusty, leaving you few if none practical points to lift the car.

          This is one reason I like working on Panthers, just throw the hoist arms under and it’ll catch the frame.

        • 0 avatar

          Yon or got the part of the Volvo jacks at least where if you didn’t get them lined up perfectly you wound up with a nice straight dent down your fender, and yes the Jack point did seem to be the first thing to rust away ( actually not the Jack point itself that always seemed to be intact, the supporting structure underneath it is what gave way. For me the Volvo Jack was replaced with a small trolley jack used on the axels when you needed to lift the car up.

  • avatar

    Ah, retreads and scissor jacks. I had a ’77 Camaro myself. I bought one retreat tire because $3.35 an hour wouldn’t buy much else. But then again, gas was still less than $1 a gallon. Anyway, that retread let go at 70mph. Last time I ever used one.

  • avatar

    Did the tyre company tell you you could have new tyres for free if you came to get them because they thought nobody would take them up on the offer?
    I love the balls on an offer like that: they’re daring you to do it but you’d have to be really crazy or really skint (poor) to take them up.

  • avatar

    Anyone know if retreads are still legal on passenger cars? They still use them on large trucks, for the non-steering wheels anyway, as far as I know.

    Very entertaining read.

    I have on question though… “In the unfamiliar right lane, our Canadian steed rocked me to sleep.”


  • avatar

    $3.35/hr was not too bad considering it had only climbed to $4.25 in the mid-90s. If anyone got screwed, it was the latter people because Congress had gone forever without changing it (and then quickly ramped it up from ’97-current). I’m anti-minimum wage, but if you’re going to do it, then GIMME GIMME GIMME.

    Retreads are still the norm in trucking, but I assume the passenger re-tread business didn’t use quite as fancy a system as what I’ve seen the OTR business use. It’s very crafty and detailed, but as we all know, those things also let go and blow out from time to time.

    It was also a given to have your brake rotors (if you had disc brakes) resurfaced, but that’s almost disappeared today with our super-hard brake pads. Plus, rotors are cheap.

  • avatar

    I bought a very good scissors jack from Sears in Yuba City back in 1971 for my 1964 Impala when in the USAF. The jack was a nice shade of blue, and I finally gave it away in the 1990s, long after I had a nice floor jack.

    I kept that heavy-duty scissors jack in my daily driver for many years! On occasion it came in quite handy.

    Those old bumper jacks really stunk and were very dangerous, especially before those bumper slots appeared!

    Never bought or used re-treads. I didn’t trust them and felt one was throwing good money away. Buying used tires was less risky, but I’ve not done that, either. However, having said that, if I were in such a desperate position, I might… It all depends on one’s circumstances at the time.

  • avatar

    Ewww… A bumper jack on the rear without using wheel chocks and then watch as it inevitably leans.

    Recaps were fine as long you were Aunt Bee and never left town or drove at highway speeds.

  • avatar

    They still make retreads. I buy Green Diamond tires for the winter. It’s a retreaded tire with a snow tire tread, and silica crystals are embedded in the rubber. I’ve never had any quality issues with them, and have had good success ice racing on them.

    The majority of truck tires on the road are retreads IIRC. Ditto for the big off-highway equipment too. At $10,000+ a tire, you’re going to try to make them last awhile.

    If it’s done right, they can be as good or better than the original tire.

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    Sadly, you won’t find too many people nowadays that would be able to get themselves out of a pickle like this (two lug nuts, one stripped, using a scissor jack).

    Yes, modern technology has helped save the butts of many a stranded motorist, but lately, I have seen many (apparently) able-bodied men stranded on the side of a road because he didn’t know where the spare tire is/how to use a jack/get his fancy designer jeans dirty.

    In my opinion, technology is partially responsible for emasculating today’s man. We aren’t as rugged and self-reliant as we used to be.

    • 0 avatar

      “In my opinion, technology is partially responsible for emasculating today’s man. We aren’t as rugged and self-reliant as we used to be.”

      Tell me about it. Just last night, one of the neighbor kids – a college student – across the street had a dead battery. Not only did he not know what to do, but not even knowing which direction to loosen the terminal nuts on the battery cables and not even being able to select the 10mm socket to do it!

      I had to show him. I told him I would be available to help him install the new battery when he brought one home, but when he got back, he had to leave right away – a dinner engagement! I told him what to do, so hopefully he won’t go up in flames – or his car!


      • 0 avatar

        Doesn’t he know how to work YouTube on his smartphone? When I was a teenager, I’d rather have someone help me out than watch an instuctional video. I guess if he can’t find the right socket than all hope may be lost.

        • 0 avatar

          With a major university in the neighborhood – I’m surrounded by inexperienced college students. I’ll pass on that “youtube on a smart phone” advice.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          My dad passed along some mechanic skills, but YouTube and owner websites have allowed me to tackle new types of repairs with less time learning by trial and error. A little troubleshooting skill and Google search of OBDII error codes can save a lot of money vs. the shotgun part replacement method of car repair.

          • 0 avatar

            I like YouTube instructional videos as well. Thats how I learned how to change the DSG fluid on a GTI. Its a long process, with many steps, but it isn’t that difficult. Videos and DIY guides on forums are excellent tools.

          • 0 avatar

            Hell, I used the Internet to bolster my knowledge on replacing a washer in a faucet. Yes, simple, I know, but normally, a screwdriver in my hand is a deadly weapon!

            As to cars, I know enough to change my oil, but don’t have the time nor the garage space (I’m in a four-unit condo building with a shared garage). As to this article, I did what I had to do several years ago when a tire went flat on I-75! (When you don’t have a phone on you, and don’t want to sit at the side of the road waiting forever for the freeway help vehicle, YOU JUST DO IT!)

            (Probably shouldn’t mention my 70+mph chase down the freeway on the donut spare after a camoed prototype passed me, and I wanted to see what it was. Previous-generation Mazda 6.)

      • 0 avatar

        Being a mid-30s DIYer that has mostly taught myself how to do things from reading and watching TV shows and how-to videos, this makes me incredibly sad. Basic mechanic skills really aren’t that difficult. Sounds like he was never even taught righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.

        Very nice of you to help the helpless guy, hopefully he gets that battery installed successfully (although you might end up doing it all!)

      • 0 avatar

        Did he actually say “dinner engagement”?

    • 0 avatar

      Just because I don’t have to, doesn’t mean I can’t.

    • 0 avatar

      Seems like there are many reasons for owner inability to perform minor vehicle repairs these days. The most prevalent are likely the overwhelming complication of nearly all vehicle system operations, along with the desire to cut costs and maximize profit. Rather than engineer or design a vehicle system so it can be user repaired/replaced, the manufacturers simply slap on a vehicle monitor which signals the driver to ‘Service Vehicle Soon’ when something starts to go south. This includes the nearly universal adoption of TPMS which tell the driver when a tire is low on pressure. This, in turn, has brought the advent of what is becoming the all too common practice of simply replacing the spare tire and jack with either a rinky-dink, cheap-ass inflator or can of Fix-A-Flat.

      To a certain extent, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Temporary inflation devices force the owner to get the tire repaired promptly, lest he/she be stranded for a much longer period of time. When full-size spares were in vogue, you could theoretically drive for a long time (well, at least until you had another blow-out) before you had to address the problem tire.

      Likewise, those small, temporary spares are dangerous. I have no doubt there have been more than a few accidents where someone far exceeded the recommended usage.

      The whole exercise is in the never ending quest to make an idiot-proof car. Imagine a day in the near future where you won’t even be able to access the engine compartment (or maybe even unbolt the wheels). On a vehicle with lifetime free maintenance, why would the owner need to? Of course, that’s going to be a bit of a problem with subsequent owners when the free maintenance expires…

      • 0 avatar

        Giving you a can of goop instead of a spare has nothing to do with TPMS. It’s to save the manufacturer 75 bucks on the spare and 40 pounds on the CAFE treadmill.

        Those are the same motivations which had already replaced real spares with limp home donuts.

        Being stuck on the side of the road is, as always, the end user’s problem.

        • 0 avatar

          My car doesn’t have room for spare. There are batteries in the way. I haven’t had a flat tire since I stopped driving VWs with ContiProContact tires on them. The sidewalls on that tire must be weak, because I went through 5 tire blowouts on 3 different cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Mr. Imperial,

      I get my designer jeans dirty only when I’m in a pinch. I get my work jeans dirty after I google ‘how to’ videos. Not everyone is blessed to be mechanical geniuses. Technology has enabled me find hard to find car parts, learn how to manufacture and restore furniture, manufacture firearms and restore a turn of the century table fan.

      I speak for many in my generation when I say you are incorrect. I think the loss of manual labor & skilled trades to free trade agreements (not my generation’s doing as our 401(k)’s weren’t around to grow from it) has more to do with it than a cell phone.

      • 0 avatar

        This. The old trade schools that taught many of these skills are no longer around; and most schools are only college prep with no vo-tech option.

        I think too that many fathers are no longer passing these skills down to their sons. Everyone is so busy nowdays; the classic image of father and son hunkered together under the hood of their classic Mustang or Camaro is a thing of the past.

        • 0 avatar

          Trade school means something for installing plumbing, building a deck, changing a timing belt. There’s no shame in not having the experience to jump in and do that.

          Changing a tire (filters, fluids, battery, lights, etc.) doesn’t take mechanical understanding, special tools, knowing the tricks. It’s the automotive equivalent of painting. It takes literally nothing more than the willingness to get your hands dirty.

          A willingness an entire generation of boys doesn’t have because the bulk of their formative childhood was consumed by $200,000 of public school teaching them to be helpless women.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t change my oil or do the 7500-10000 mile service on my car because the dealership does it cheaper and more quickly than I can.

            My sissy education has taught me that I am saving time and money by not doing it myself.

          • 0 avatar

            ” It takes literally nothing more than the willingness to get your hands dirty.”

            This right here. My wife has gotten herself out of a pinch because she was willing to learn.

            I was out of town for a week and she noted the Suburban we had at the time was due for an oil change, so I figured it’d be alright to send her down to the local quick lube place. Save everyone some time and effort right?

            She calls me after returning home to tell me there’s a big puddle of oil under the truck. I walked her through determining it was coming from the drain plug which was loose, draining the oil and finding out the quick lube place stripped the plug. I had my part supplier drop her off a new plug, she reinstalled it and refilled the oil.

            She had maybe done one oil change in her life at that point, but the willingness to tackle it got her through it.

            Personally, I’ve found that the only person trustworthy enough to work on my stuff to my satisfaction is me, or someone under my direction, so I do it myself.

        • 0 avatar

          Yup…when you have “one-size-fits-all” laws that focus on percentages and statistics under the threat of losing an already limited budget, anything that doesn’t contribute (i.e. vo-tech) is the first to go. And often, *cough*, for appeasing the bureaucrats…

      • 0 avatar
        Mr Imperial

        Ah, I see your point-however, I’m in my thirties, not as old as my post may have led to believe :)

        As you have stated, you have used technology to get your hands dirty, after learning. Which I have done as well, recent case being unbolting the steering column on a 2001 GMC Jimmy so I could get to the middle driver’s side spark plug.

        As I stated, technology is partially responsible. I have a three year old son, and as a parent, having him has made me look at this world in a way that I never did before.

        Are we, as fathers, not doing our jobs by showing our sons/daughters how to turn a wrench, throw a ball, open a door for our elders, respect the law, expecting no one else to take care of us but ourselves?

        Yes, my comment was general, but I live in a college town, and I do see (and have offered to help) some stranded young men, whose only impedance was a flat tire. Most of them have already called AAA or someone, when all that had to happen was getting the jack/spare out and doing the work himself.

        • 0 avatar
          el scotto

          I was driving a Ford Ranger when I had my last flat. Sunday afternoon, in Whiting IN, wearing my Navy whites complete with white shoes and combo cover. I had no more than hung up the phone when two security guards from BP showed up. They we’re like, Sir our security cameras picked you up and we started rolling. As I talked to one guard, the other had a floor jack out. The other guard smiled and me and said we got this. I ended up giving both guards 20$ a piece for helping me in a time of need. Hey, it was all the cash I had in my wallet.

        • 0 avatar

          On the other hand… these days, most people have some form of roadside assistance. Sometimes it’s included with the car, phone subscription, professional organizations will toss it in as a freebie… I have RA through the American Motorcycle Association.

          If the choice is between getting dirty, possibly fighting overtorqued lug nuts, underinflated spares, and then having to find a garage/shop to repair it (if you’re not near home), all on the side of a busy road wondering when the next texter will not notice you and run you over, many will just call AAA/AMA/whoever and play Candy Crush or browse TTAC until already-paid help arrives.

          I do follow on the head shaking though… I’m also shocked when grown adults can’t go into the kitchen and make a loaf of bread from scratch. Basic skills, ya know?

  • avatar

    interesting but retreads were not common in Brazil, for passenger cars, until the 90s. Then a couple of companies set up shop. Lots of people use them, but I don’t see the point. I mean, if I’m going to pay 80-90% of the price of a new tyre, get a new tyre!

    My most harrying experience changing tyres was one day back in the early 00s. My front left tyre blew on an uphill, in a quite narrow two-lane road with heavy truck traffic. Barely a shoulder to speak of. I got my car over to the side as much as possible, but probably a quarter of it was still on the road itself. I signaled my situation as best I could, left all the lights on the car and got to work. Quite scary as with me working on the change, my butt (and (back, whole body really) was on the road. I would go to it, wrench it, hear a truck coming, stand up, get to the back of the car in the bush, pray for them to see my car. When the truck or car passed, get back working on the change. This was not an abandoned road and I would repeat this operation once or twice every minute. Took me more than 30-35 min to change the wheel in this situation! Luckily, the car and I made it alright.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Marcelo, that’s a good one. My left/front blew out doing 80 MPH on the fwy, so my Nissan Hardbody shot across 4 lanes as the wheel spun in my hand. I fought to correct it and was inches from the concrete K-rail before I straightened it. That’s was mid ’90s and the last used tires for me. OK, at least on the front.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey DenverMike, it’s fun now, one more experience, but at the time, in the middle of the night, changing the tyre there, in a dangerous set of circumstances, not fun. But what the hell, got through it, one more story to tell.

        I wasn’t going so fast as I was going uphill and there was lots of truck traffic. Probably was doing 80 km/h max so it was easy to control the car. Plus it was a little Renault Clio hatch, so dynamically it was easier to control than your truck! Your experience was quite frightening!

    • 0 avatar

      Marcelo, those were some seriously overpriced “recaps”. I used to buy them from the same shop that outfitted the local police cars, and they were routinely 25%-40% of new tire prices. They got you on mounting and balancing, but so did the new tire shops. They were usually good for 10k-15k miles, but the bias-ply tires of the day weren’t good for much more than 20k-25k, if you actually wanted grip in the rain.

  • avatar

    I’ve no idea what 390mm TRX tires sold for new, so $10 used/installed TRX was too easy. This was mid ’80s then I stepped up to 15″ alloy takeoffs and Eagle Gatorbacks were $20 used, late ’80s.

  • avatar

    In 1972 I bought a two toned 1954 Pontiac Super Chief Coupe for $150.00 , my crappy if fun Junkyard Mechanic job only paid $1.50 / Hr. so I learned to go to the nearby rich town and dive in the Dempster Dumpster behind the gas station for nearly new 2/3 bald Bias Ply tires that would last a few months as they weren’t old & rotted .

    I always kept an inflated spare as who knew how far I’d have to drive on it .

    Those poor dayze taught me to always buy tires in sets of 5 as I still never know how far down a bad road I’ll be when I get a flat .

    The good part is : buying only new , top quality tires (Michelin , Falken etc.) means I go years sans flats ~ last one was about 10 years ago right in front of SWMBO’s house .

    I had one of those beefy Blue SEARS scissors jacks too ! it was terrific and I only threw it out a couple years ago .

    I never tire of the stories posted here , keep them coming .


  • avatar

    Oh how I hated those bumper jacks; my first car, a ’74 Plymouth Fury, had one. Changed several flat tires over the years; though none of them were eventful like the stories here.

    For those of you that have older cars with the spare donut; Discount Tire is slowly stocking them; before that, your choices was to pay outragous prices at the dealer, or take your chance on a junkyard spare. Bought a new donut tire, along with the four new tires for the Taurus last year; I didn’t want to take up the back with a full size spare.

  • avatar

    Back in the days when a set of 4 new tires was a major financial decision, I bought a set of radial recaps for my decambered & lowered ’65 Corvair Monza. 16 bucks a corner. They were extremely sticky, so much so that one day I drove to a CORSA-sponsored autocross out in the Central Valley to see what it would do.

    I was all over the track due to inexperience and too heavy a throttle foot, but I asked a local autocross guru named Doug to take the course in my car while I rode shotgun.

    In the next run, my car in the hands of a master, Doug turned in times that beat a couple of Corvettes as well as most of the other cars in the field.

    I never had any trouble, but the way I drove, they probably lasted only 20,000 miles anyway.

  • avatar

    I’d forgotten about re-treads, but they were apparently fulfilling a need in the past. When I was growing up my dad used to wait for blemish tire sales at Canadian Tire. But it seems that blemish tires don’t exist any more either. I wonder if that’s due to better tire manufacturing practices?

    Maybe blemish/retreads will come back into style once people that need 17-20″ tires realize how much a new set of tires will cost them. Although I guess the tire rental stores I read about recently are the direct result of that.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Back in my poor college days, I bought recapped snow tires for my 65 Impala. They worked out well on the rear wheels. In fact, I kept them on all year round without any trouble.

  • avatar

    Seeing some of those down in the junkyard cars with chrome bumpers can make you nostalgic; this post is a welcome reminder that those $%&(@#$ jacks were part of the bargain.

    Though we have road service, I’d much rather change the tire myself than sit there and wait for God knows how long. Unfortunately, it often happens that garage mechanics have overtightened the nuts with their air wrench, making one or more impossible to remove. A real t-shaped tire wrench, as opposed to the cheap ones that come with cars, helps a lot, but sometimes I’ve left the %^&*)& thing in the other car.

    With way wages are going in the US, I think retreads are ready for a comeback.

  • avatar

    Retreads are still common for guys running large, offroad oriented tires. Given the cost and the fact most of these trucks arent driven fast on the road it isnt an issue. I had a set I ran on some extra rims for the trail and never had any trouble on or off road but I switched to an all terrain for commuting duty.

  • avatar

    My almost worn out car hoisted high on a spindly bumper jack. Wobbling precariously after each gust from the passage of a speeding semi. Ah, yes. Those were the days, my friend. Those were the days.

  • avatar

    Using a bumper jack on a 7 year old car in the rust belt was useless. I needed to change a tire on my ’76 Cutlass, the rear bumper went up but the car did not.

  • avatar

    The last flat tire I changed on the road was on my carpool driver’s old Pontiac Grand Am (or Grand Prix, I forget which). Jacked it up with the scissors jack that was in the car, and one nut didn’t turn so I reefed on it with the cheesy right-angle lug wrench and the stud broke. Put on the space-saver spare, and when we got to my place I could see it was flat too. I told her to drive slow and she could make it home, just another mile.

    It was a good thing she got tires for the car anyway, as she’d driven the car with out-of-balance or out-of-round front tires/wheels for long enough to crack the windshield from the added vibration.

  • avatar

    I learned the true joys of the crappy bumper jack a fairly long time after I started driving. I had never had a vehicle with any serious rust issues, so the bumper jacks worked ok, and nothing bad ever happened. A friend and I went out to what would be his future mother in laws to fix her TV antenna, as buying cable would seriously impact her cigarette money. Smoking 3 packs+ a day added up, even back then. As is always the case, anyone smoking that much is a loon by default, and she didn’t disappoint. She lived out in the middle of nowhere, alone, as her hubby left her a long time before that, taking the 4 kids with him. Her present days(Yes, she is still alive at nearly 80 years old!) consist of little else but calling her kids, sisters, and even ex hubby, begging for smokes or the cash to buy them. After we got done with her TV issues, we left for home. Almost exactly halfway back, his driver’s side tire explodes, and he almost crashed before getting it stopped. He drove a ’77 or ’78 Cutlass that looked good, but had serious rusting under the nice looking paint. I still remember clearly the sound that came out when the jack started tearing up the car as we tried to lift it. We didn’t have a cell phone, so we walked to a bar and used their phone to call his brother, who came out with his floor jack and we thought, “We’re okay now!”. We were wrong, as stud after stud broke as we removed them. One didn’t, but we didn’t have the guts to drive it 10 miles to the nearest garage we knew about, so a tow was called. After what seemed to be hours, the tow truck arrived and took the car and us to a shop near our houses. Once on the lift the damage the jack had done was pretty impressive. After that, my friend, who drives cars into the ground, always carried a Harbor Freight floor jack in the back of every vehicle he has owned. More than a couple of times, it’s been a real lifesaver.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I am far from being a jack of all trades handyman but I have learned the basics of car care such as changing oil, tuneups, replacing carburetors, replacing alternators, changing tires, and etc. My father had very few mechanical skills and had a odd assortment of unorganized tools. My father was a very smart man with a high IQ but he was inept when it came to mechanics and do it your self. I can attribute anything I learned about cars to driving my father’s 62 Chevy II 300 with a straight 6. I drove his Chevy II in high school with the agreement that I took care of it. I washed and waxed the red Chevy II and did the maintenance on it. Now, I do very little maintenance myself but having done some work on my cars in the past I at least have a knowledge of the mechanics and I can do some of the work myself. My only problem is that at age 61 it is getting harder to crawl under a car or truck. If I change oil I will use my ramps and set the emergency brake. I also carry a bottle jack, jumper cables, portable tire inflator, and fix a flat in each vehicle I own as well as winter supplies.

  • avatar

    When you mentioned Recaps I automatically thought D’s Recaps…they were a pretty popular local outfit in Columbia during the late 70’s to early 80’s…or at least from all the commercials they had. I remember by the time I started driving and was a poor college student who needed tires for my 77′ Olds Cutlass S with bumper jack too…they weren’t selling recaps as much…you could buy used on the cheap….or for a little more Blemished tires…I recall getting a whole set of Radial T/A’s with Blem stamped on them for about the same cost as those cheaper white letter tires.

  • avatar

    Bumper jacks..precarious suckers that they seem to be. My only experience was with my “fun car” from the summer of 2010: my buff-gold/yellow 1973 Lincoln Mark IV. Purchased from the estate of a pal who passed untimely. He loved the car and it was quite nice, fully functional and rock solid being transplanted here to Western NY from SC. It was shod with four rather decent BF Goodrich Whitewall radials but one trip to work on the Kensington Expressway and a belt shift left the passenger front radial a mess. I limped her from the expressway to my office by the airport. Once parked, trunk open and jack out. Crud, a bumper jack. I was really hesitant as I wasn’t sure how those 37 year old bumper rams were going to hold, even if it “appeared” to be rot free. The deed had to be done so there I was pumping this contraption away, parked amongst svelte Accords, Saabs, BMWs, you get the scene? That enormous front end lifted up in the air with no problem and I swapped on the spare without losing a limb or seeing that boat crash down on the tarmac. Guess they aren’t so bad as long as they’re not fatigued from years of use or your bumper mounts aren’t rotted. Still, I’ll always keep a floor jack in the trunk of the big brougham-tastic rides I pick up for the warm weather. Keeping one in the Volvo doesn’t hurt either.

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