Bark's Bites: How Hyundai Kept Me From Being a Hero
It was another glorious Saturday afternoon in the Bluegrass, and Mrs. Bark and I were traveling “into town” (which is how you know you live in the middle of nowhere) on I-64 West when I saw them: three girls, none older than twenty, standing around a late-model Hyundai Elantra on the left shoulder.
Well, to be exact, there were two, slender young women standing around while a third, fleshier girl was seated on the concrete near the front passenger wheel, which was completely blown. She was reading the owner’s manual and desperately attempting to use the “widow maker” jack to lift the vehicle into the air. The rear bumper of the poor little Korean car was lightly clinging to the car, having been dislodged by contact with whatever had flattened the tire. Bolted to the bumper was a Land of 10,000 Lakes license plate from Minnesota.
In short, they were a long way from home, they were in trouble, and it was clear that they had absolutely no idea what the hell they were doing.
“We have to stop,” I told Mrs. Bark.
Ever the fretful and careful one, she was convinced that the girls were conducting an elaborate ruse to plunder passing motorists. As I pulled my little Fiesta over to the side of the highway, she was busy taking pictures of the girls, their car, their license plate — anything that could help her identify them on the chance that they were planning to smack me over the head with the jack and take my wallet.
“Stay here,” I told her, and I hopped out of the car and walked back to the Elantra, trying to look as friendly and non-threatening as possible.
“Need some help?” I asked the young lady sitting, Indian-style on the shoulder as traffic whizzed by at eighty miles per hour, occasionally blaring their horns at her. The Elantra was dangerously close to the left lane, and it seemed inevitable that she would find herself as a rotund hood ornament on an official Kentucky Blue F-150. She had placed the jack right in the middle of the frame rail, and was in the process of bending the hell out of it when I physically took the lever out of her hand.
I lowered the vehicle, repositioned the jack at the jacking point closer to the wheel, and began to lift the vehicle again, making sure that there was still enough contact between the tire and the road to be able to break the lugs free. As I was doing this, another vehicle had stopped to assist, and the gentleman who got out of it was straight out of Central Casting for the role of “Kentucky Hillbilly Stereotype.” In his sleeveless blue and white UK tank top and denim shorts, he proceeded to tell me how I was doing everything wrong.
Unfortunately, he had a bit of a point. As I loosened the lugs, I realized that one of these things was not like the others. The fifth lug was actually a wheel lock, not a standard lug nut — because who wouldn’t want to steal a steel wheel off of a Hyundai Elantra? Unfortunately, the key was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t in the glove box. It wasn’t in the trunk. The owner’s manual was no help. Elantra owner forums (yes, there are such things) seemed to be just as confused as I was.
So there I was, possessing all the knowledge of how to change the tire, and I was totally and completely useless. Plus, it turned out that the car belonged to one of the other girls’ grandmothers, and she wouldn’t let them call the insurance company’s roadside assistance because she wasn’t authorized to drive the car. In other words, they were hosed.
I offered to drive them into Lexington, but there wasn’t room in the Fiesta for all three, so they opted to stay with the car. They were putting their stock in the fact that they had a mechanic friend in Louisville who might be able to drive 100 miles to help. “Make sure that he has a Hyundai wheel lock key, or see if he can find one somewhere,” I advised.
Feeling incredibly ineffective and incapable, I walked back to the Fiesta and said the following words to Mrs. Bark as I got back into the car.
“They had wheel locks. There was nothing I could do.”
So, to all my friends at Hyundai, I have this to say: I’m sorry about the Sonata Hybrid review. Really, I am. But there was no need to do that to me — to remove my manhood in front of those three young women. I should have been a goddamned hero. Instead, I was an automotive eunuch, powerless to do anything.
If you don’t know if you have wheel locks, check. If you do, find your key. If you can’t, you might find yourself in the same boat as these ladies.
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When I did tire work, customers would always lose or forget their wheel keys. Either by hammering a socket over them or actually having the Snap-On tool for that, the locks were off in minutes.
Owner of a 2014 Elantra here......one of the first things I did after buying it was to remove the wheel locks. Too much of a pain in the ass if you misplace the key......