There are probably a thousand nuts, bolts and screws holding our vehicle together. Most of them aren’t all that important. If you have ever taken something apart, put it back together, and had a few bits left over… you know what I’m talking about. The car will probably still run fine.
Screws fall out all the time. That’s what the our ashtray is for – it holds all the little pieces that have fallen off and we haven’t figured out where they go or had the time to put them back in. None of the interior screws are all that necessary. Half of the bolts in my front skid plate have sheared off and I’m not worried a bit. I’m guessing only half of my engine tin screws are still there. No biggie. Heck, I could lose half of my lug-nuts and I’d probably keep driving.
But, there is one screw in this vehicle that is utterly necessary. There’s only one like it in the whole car, and without this screw, it won’t work. Period.
It has a simple, yet critical job. It holds the points in the distributor in exactly the correct position. Without it, there’s no ignition system and you aren’t going anywhere. The spark plugs won’t spark.
Today while I was doing a tune-up, something I feared might eventually happen finally happened. The screw stripped. You might know the feeling. You’re delicately turning the screwdriver until you feel just exactly the correct amount of snugness when all of a sudden the pressure gives way. As if you don’t believe what just happened, you usually turn it in again and the exact same thing happens again. If you’re a glutton, you’ll do it again hoping you can get away leaving it just a little loose. It never works.
I sat a while and contemplated my predicament. We could be stranded because of one damn screw.
The upshot is that there is no wasting time trying to figure out a patch. There is no work-around. No duct tape fix. Bailing wire isn’t going to help. You need that one special screw. The exact size, even. No substitutes.
I pulled out my potato sack of spare parts that rides under the back bench seat and hoped for the best. I have a spare distributor in there, but it wasn’t set up with points or that screw. Fortunately, I’ve got a ziploc bag of random nuts, bolts, washers, screws, etc. Some of them migrated from the ashtray to this bag. Others, I just picked up along the way. Sometimes I even pick up bolts or screws I find on the ground if it looks like something I might need – I’ve got a pretty good eye for thread sizes and where they might fit on the bus. I don’t recall ever picking up this one.
I did find one screw that would thread in, but it was too long. Length matters here. I considered using a sheet metal screw and forcing it in – generally ruining the distributor in the process. Too brutal. Finally, after more digging (it’s a big bag) I eventually found one that seemed about right. I have no idea where it came from – it was black and Phillips-head – but it fit perfectly.
Sometimes, you’re just lucky.
I know everyone has their own list of essential things to carry along on a road trip. If you are planning one in an air-cooled VW… pack an extra screw. This one.
Why can’t I get just one screw?