I got home from my “weekend” last night. That was a Thursday. Let me give some more details.
The purpose of the trip was to pick up a car in Northern Utah my dad had bought on eBay. The plane ride there was uneventful, and lasted maybe an hour and a half. My uncle picked us up from the airport and we drove back to his and my aunt’s house. We visited for a few hours and then my brother and I, eager to get home and handle all of the tasks we had waiting for us, went out and saw about getting the car in working order so we could drive it home.
The car was (note the past tense) a 2005 Nissan Sentra. From the look of it, it was somehow hit at an angle, from the front, on the right side. (An accident while turning left, maybe?) The right front fender (fender is the piece between the wheel and hood) was missing, the right front door was crunched and the glass was broken out, the right rear door was obliterated (pushed in about a foot or so), and the right quarterpanel (that’s a “rear fender”) was rather in the same condition of the door and had some nice sharp metal pieces pointing at the tire. It looked like when the car was hit on the right it was shoved into a guardrail on the left. Most of the damage on the left was on the quarterpanel. Both bumper covers were missing, as well.
We used clear packaging tape to cover up the missing windows (prevents the wind, but not much of the noise), covered up the missing right taillight with red tape, took a crowbar to the right quarterpanel to make it less tire-pokey, and took it for a spin.
There were two problems we noticed in the spin we took it for. First, the right quarterpanel was still scraping up the tire whenever the car bounced at all, and second, the rear end was swaying a few inches back and forth as we were driving down the road.
For those of you that aren’t very familiar with cars, I’d like to try to explain the “rear end swaying”. I’ve experienced the sensation before a time or two, usually on icey roads. It happens when the rear tires lose traction and move back and forth on their own accord, without the front moving similarly. The problem with this situation is that there was no ice, and we were moving very slowly. It felt not entirely unlike trying to drive a fish.
After driving the car back into the driveway (we only made it half a block before it was obvious this car wasn’t going from Northern Utah to Northwest Washington), we took a look under it to find out why it was swaying.
Front wheel drive cars don’t have a rear axel. They have a rear beam. Looking at a cut of the car on the back tires, it would be something like this:
------------------ |____ car _______| shocks> \ o==== / |-| \ \\ / |-| | |--------------| | <tire |_| ^ ^ |_| beam mount
Please remember that I’m not very good with cars, and learned everything I know about this particular situation simply by being in it.
Now the problem we had with the car is that the brackets that hold the mount on, and the mount itself, had become mangled, and the weld points had broken off, and some things like that. The mount is able to bend, so when the shocks do their bouncing thing, it will bend, too. It’s also apparently the piece the keps the tires from moving side-to-side, because that’s what they were doing.
My brother called around and managed to find a new rear beam. It turns out that the 2000 through 2005 have the same body style, and the only beam in the state we could find was a 2000 Sentra, so we ordered that. We picked it up on Wednesday morning and had a lot of fun getting it installed that day. It was actually the first time I’d ever worked on a car before, besides a little fidgeting here and there. Not that I did anything really major, most of it was my brother’s doing.
We finished replacing the beam Wednesday evening, and then we set off in the car for home Thursday morning. Ten minutes later we were pulled over by a police officer. The rest of the trip was rather uneventful.
The part I enjoyed the most about my vacation was the stresslessness of simply existing without responsibilities. The part I disliked the most about it was living in the immaculate house of my aunt and worrying about leaving anything out of place.