Lessons learned

The used SUV we bought for our sons came with a lugnut-style lock on the rear-mounted spare tire. But no key.

A special type of star-shaped key was needed to unscrew the lock. We couldn't find a matching one anywhere. I tried auto parts stores, hardware stores, tire shops. Nobody could help. The advice I universally got was to hammer a socket onto the chrome lugnut lock, then ratchet them both off. I tried this several times, buying expensive jumbo sockets each time, and could never get it to work. I showed the lock to friends with power tools. I hit it with a hammer. I tried anything to avoid an expensive trip to the locksmith.

This went on for months and months. Always, somewhere in the back of my mind, was my losing battle with this lock. If I forgot about it, the car promptly got a flat, which required a full emergency rescue and served as a reminder that the spare was useless as long as that lock was in the way.

Finally, I broke down. Yesterday, teeth clenched against the expected expense, we took the car to a locksmith. The locksmith used an expansion socket, which is tapered inside, and had the lock off of there in minutes. The cost? Eight bucks.

I'd spent three times that much on sockets that I subsequently ruined with a hammer. Not to mention the hundreds of dollars spent on antacids and headache remedies and booze. All trying to avoid that expensive trip to the locksmith. Duh.

Two lessons here that we've all heard before, but bear repeating:

1) Use the right tool for the job.

2) Leave it to the experts.

It's much easier to write a check than to jury-rig a solution that probably won't work and may result in personal injury. Often, the experts don't cost as much as we fear. Besides, you can make up the cost with savings on booze.

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