Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Subaru engineers don't know jack

Well, I actually like both of my Subies. Great cars. Except...

As I was driving along to work this morning at oh-dark-thirty, the Legacy started wobbling around a little bit. At first it felt like the effects of a strong, gusty crosswind, but a quick call to the Bolton Field AWOS reported winds at 4 knots. The wobble quickly progressed to a pronounced wiggle, and was soon accompanied by a sound that could only be a flat tire. Not keen on changing a tire on the side of a dark highway, I took the next exit. Which put me in a dark, downtown parking lot. Fire pan, fire. Short leap.

Given the environment I found myself in, I thought it better that I just change the thing myself once I'd waited long enough for it to stop smoking - it got pretty hot flopping around on the highway - rather than call and wait for roadside service.

The cooldown period gave me plenty of time to get the jack out of the trunk and make all of the other preparations for the one wheel pit stop.

That's when I ran into the very best of automotive engineering: the scissor jack:

Think, for a moment, about the usage cycle of a scissor jack. It goes under the car, so its first useful mode is fully retracted. It jacks up the car, the tire is changed, and it is fully retracted again to lower the car. So, how does Subarau store the jack in its nifty custom fit piece of foam? Fully extended, of course! You have to retract it all the way before you can get started on changing the tire, and that is not as easy as it sounds. You have to attach the turning handle and find a way to hold the extremely light jack still while simultaneously using both hands to manage the unwieldy jack handle.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. So I asked myself why they would store it that way. After all, it's useless in its stored form, so why do it? The best theory that I could come up with to explain it is that they showed an extended jack to a focus group and asked them to identify it. "Jack!" Then they showed a fully retracted one to the same focus group. They looked at the flat, black metal box and said, "Dunno!"

Well, that's my theory, anyway.

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