Trust me, sometimes the little things make the biggest difference. I learned this the hard way with my 240, snapping four of five wheel studs at once. Checking my lug nuts only takes a minute or two, but since I ignored it, my car taught me a lesson.
Always check your lugs, guys! The couple minutes it takes to check your lugs could be the difference between a safe drive and a totaled car, and even worse, a totaled you.
Of course, lug nuts aren’t the only things you need to be checking. Taking a glance under your car for any leaked fluids, pop the hood and check your fluid levels too (oil, coolant, power steering). There’s other vehicle-specific maintenance points as well, checking car-specific forums will give you the details of those.
I didn’t buy this 240 anywhere near my home. I was actually out on a trip to the north woods when I found this on Facebook Marketplace. For relatively cheap, I got an S13 with an S13.5 conversion, 180SX taillights, and a redtop SR20DET. The only downside was that it needed some body repair, the bumper was pretty busted up, and it needed a paint job. Looking past the body damage, I could see this car for what it was, an underappreciated, mistreated beauty.
I found her on the very last day we were going to be up north, and ended up buying her on the way home. From where she used to live, it was roughly six hours to get home. We managed to break the car in the first five minutes. We had pulled over to a gas station in order to fill the tank for the first leg of our journey, and when I was leaned on the car, it hit the lock button on the remote. I had no clue how to work the alarm, but with some quick thinking, we popped the hood and snipped the power to the alarm. That still left us with a couple big issues: The car disabled the ignition when the alarm was active, and the flashers were still going ballistic.
We had to call the car’s previous owner, and have him drive to the gas station, in order to get this resolved. It turns out 3 is the answer to how many idiots it takes to disable a car alarm! Once it was disabled, though, it was smooth sailing the whole way home.
Why Were We Out That Fateful Day?
The day of the incident, we were going to put her in storage. Our nice weather was fading fast, and I’d be damned if I was going to leave this beauty outside all winter. We loaded up the truck and the 240, and headed off. Our destination was the Fairgrounds, where they had a winter storage program for fairly cheap. Being us, however, we forgot to bring the dryer sheets. There was a Dollar General nearby on Google Maps, so we headed in to grab a box. We were legitimately right across the street from the fairgrounds, I could’ve shouted to someone at the front gates. Our last obstacle was three 90 degree turns, then we’d be on their land.
The first one (leaving the parking spot) went fairly smoothly. Mid-way through the second one, the car started to pulsate, and I heard some pings from the rear end of the car. I tried to power through the rest of the turn, at least make it to the side of the road, but as soon as I got in my lane.. WHOOMP WHOOMP WHOOMP.. CRACK. Noises no car person likes to hear! I immediately stopped where I was, honked the horn to let the other car know something was wrong, and shut off the car. From the driver’s side, everything seemed OK. Getting to the passenger side, however, revealed the wheel had incredible negative camber, and only one lug on it!
That wasn’t the worst of it though.. If it was just the lug nuts missing, I could buy some replacements and bolt the wheel back up fairly easy. No no no, I couldn’t have it that easy. The wheel studs had sheared off. Talk about driving the point home!
Stranded In The Middle Of The Road
Now, the road I had pulled on to was a relatively small road, which was good and bad. The good part was the road had little traffic on it. The bad news, there was little room to get around me. Add the fact we didn’t have a jack, and we had a recipe for disaster. There was a parking lot for a Dairy Queen right next to where I had broken down, and tons of people were just staring to bout. Not helping, not offering to help, just watching us struggle. Thanks, humanity.
At least there were a few kind souls that offered to help. A couple in a Sentra SE-R pulled over and offered (tuners stick together!), and some patrons from that DQ came out a little later too. At least there’s a few good people left in the world. I had to send the truck off to get a jack, while I waited with the car.
About 15 minutes later, the truck came back, and we lifted the rear of the car in the air. We did our best to tighten that last lug up, and then we walked the car back into the DQ parking lot on three wheels, with the fourth being held up by the jack. This was when the DQ patrons came out and helped push the front, while I steered and used the one drive wheel left to reverse.
After a lot of time and effort, we got the car into a parking space. I ran in to seek an audience with the manager, and explained what had happened. She was extremely kind, and even offered for some of the employees to come help. I left my name and number with her, we got some food, and went searching for lugs.
Day 2: Electric Boogaloo
With the absolute fiasco that was the first day, you’d expect the second day to be just as hectic. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad. We already had the new studs and nuts, all we had to do was lift the car, replace the studs, and attach the wheel. Seems simple enough, and it turns out, it really was. We brought with every tool we thought we’d need, barring the kitchen sink. Taking off the rotor was fairly easy with a sledgehammer (did a brake job in the spring to replace this). The studs coming out just needed a big hammer and a punch, we made quick work of that.
Pulling the new studs on was just as easy, we stacked some washers behind the nut, and kept tightening. Then we fit the wheel right back up, torqued it down, and drove the car across the street to the fairgrounds. We had called the people there when the car broke down to alert them of the issue. They were happy to let us come in the next day, and super helpful. We drove it over there, parked it away, and that was that!
Did I Learn From My Mistakes?
Absolutely I did! Every time before I go driving, and after every couple laps on the track, I do my routine checks. Being meticulous about your maintenance might just be the difference between a happy drive and a catastrophic one.