Bent Tie-Rod Challenge

Tie-rod, oh tie-rod!

Tie-rod, oh tie-rod!

Yes, daily commuters, it’s pothole dodging time once again! As Winter haltingly relinquishes its grip to warming temps and the inevitable thaw, a challenge is presented to drivers across America’s Snow Belt.  With Spring sitting teasingly just beyond the calendar’s horizon, snow and ice give way to blacktop that hasn’t been seen for months, trapped this Winter under layers of an  impenetrable permafrost. The big melt reveals roadways that in spots are in a state of severe deterioration.  Craters the size of Baltic countries, fissures capable of swallowing a Prius whole, and teeth rattling jolts from “puddles” hiding deep water glacier lakes!

Maybe owning this would help

Maybe owning one of these would help
(From the movie “Armageddon”)

Terror, Thy name is Thaw!

This year I dub this the Bent Tie-Rod Challenge in memory of the one destroyed just a week ago when I set out to forage for family sustenance at local pizza establishment.  The jaw-jarring impact was exceeded only by the jaw-dropping cost of repair.

The mechanics of pothole creation are fascinating. OK … Maybe that’s a stretch.  But it might be useful to keep in mind that it ain’t the snow that’s the enemy in this game of suspension system roulette.  It’s water and the freezing, thawing, freezing, thawing cycle.  Exciting, I know …

Anyways … The purpose of this post is to give you a few coping mechanisms in the form of games you can play as your car does The Dance of a Thousand Pep Boys.  Your fingers clenched white-tight on the steering wheel; one eye searching the roadway frantically for tell-tale signs, the other watching the vehicle ahead for evasive maneuvers. Although these ideas cannot be guaranteed to reduce your stress level, they will give you something really stupid to think about as you sit panting from the stress and exertion at each red light.


Olympic Pothole Freestyle – This is a timely salute to the daring-do of the downhill skier and snowboard half-tubers.  Visualize a treacherous downhill ski slope, full of hazards, danger, and emergency room visits.  Your car is the downhill skier/boarder swooping gracefully between the gates and around the deadly edges of certain disaster.  But instead of being happy to simply arrive at work with all your fillings intact, get graded on Skillfulness, Graceful Lines, and Number of Four-Letter Utterances (excluding those uttered in the Idiot Driver category).  Just remember the Swiss judge can be brutal!

Picture potholes instead of asteroids

Picture potholes instead of asteroids

Pothole Asteroids – Take this favorite arcade game from the 1980s and make it a part of your morning commute.  Establish a point system that recognizes the potential cumulative damage to your undercarriage and commuter sanity relative to the size of the divot, pothole, or moon crater you impact.  Lowering scores are the objective.  Half all points for commutes taken before sunrise and after sunset.  For an added touch of Asteroid realism affix a weapons-grade laser to the front of your vehicle.  It won’t improve the pothole situation, but you can use it on the idiot driving in front of you. (unless you prefer to let him continue to clear the minefield ahead of you.)

Name that Crevasse!  This is a season-long challenge to name those memorable road bunkers you see every single day for weeks and weeks and weeks.  It requires a slower approach to your commute which also allow you to appreciate the grandeur and majesty of Mother Nature’s work en asphalt!  Look for those holes with iconic features and familiar looking profiles.

Last year's winner "Barringer"

A hole called “Barringer Crater”

Suggested themes: Countries and Islands,  National Parks and Monuments, Famous Profiles in Politics and Entertainment (Streisand, LBJ, Washington, Durocher, Durante, Hitchcock), States of the Union.  Note the location of each road canyon you affectionately name, then swap and collect locales with your friends.  For added fun try Bosses I Have Worked For, just make sure you have enough in the bank account to correct damages from the irresistible temptation to hit those road cavities on purpose!

Are you meat or a space commander?

Are you meat or space commander?

Lunar Lander –  This challenge would be the toughest of all!  Another variation on a beloved arcade game where you land a Lunar Landing Module on the surface of a planet crowded with towering mountains and tiny plateaus with a very, very limited supply of fuel.  Unfortunately in this challenge, consistent with a space vehicle that was paper-thin in many areas to keep weight to a minimum, any contact with a pothole means “death” and loss of the challenge (Houston, we have a problem!).  Complete said challenge at night, and achieve Lunar Mission Commander status! (Tranquility Base here, the Eagles has landed!).

Now get out there and make that chariot of yours dance! images-2

2 thoughts on “Bent Tie-Rod Challenge

  1. Oddly, here in Northern Wisconsin we don’t get much in the way of potholes. But we make up for it in bugs. I used to live on the edge of the Everglades bit I’ve never seen bugs like here. Apparently we have two seasons, Shovel and Swat.

    But back to your problems, bent tie rods. Then there will be the various parts being knocked off the cars, like mufflers and bumpers. Don’tcha just love it when you see sparks coming from under the car in front of you as the muffler is deciding if its departure time? Or that bumper being held on with an antique strand of the string bakeries used to use to tie up the cake box? State inspections aren’t what they used to be.

    We don’t have state inspections in WI, it’s survival of the fittest in it’s purest form. Which explains the popularity of duct tape… has it’s own aisle at the hardware store.

    But back to you. Next up, repair scams. Good luck with that. Try to avoid shops that being with an S, end in an S and have EAR in between. The shop guys work off commissions and the complaints are common.


    • Funny you should bring up Sears when speaking of auto repairs fueled by commissions to technicians. I found out a few years ago through an acquaintance in the industry that dealership mechanics also work off commissions!

      It explained a lot … Like the time I went to have my old Mazda Protege’ (The “3” I think it’s now called.) for an engine recall, and the Service Manager comes out with a list as long as my … uh …. foot that was estimated at a cool $3 grand!

      uh … Thanks for the heads-up, but I’ll wait a little to see what I actually need. I don’t have the strength to pursue a “gotcha piece” on auto mechanics. Let the LSM do it.

      BTW … Did I mention I got to see your buddy, Lou (?) at the Red Lion. We were up there during the recent ice-caused blackout and the place was packed because it was warm and they had lights!

      I didn’t bother your buddy with an introduction as they were scrambling with the crowd. Maybe next time …


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