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Every car has a Dread Bolt or two. These are bolts in awkward locations, where it’s either hard to get your hands in there, hard to get a wrench on it if you can, require more than three hands to keep everything lined up correctly, or all of the above.

Dread bolts lead to conversations about how it’s easier to drill holes in frame rails or pull the whole damn engine out to avoid the hassle. Mind you, these are largely empathetic conversations filled with encouragement and acceptance of such extreme measures.

Dread bolts, after all.

The 6-inch bolt on a 2GNT DSM passenger side motor mount comes to mind. Because, even with the clearly engineered clearance recess in the unibody, there’s only 5.8” between the engine mount and chassis.

The EGR pipe fitting on a 2Gb Montero also stands out. They pretty much NEVER want to line up right. Good luck starting two fat, stubby bolts through that always crooked flange without dropping the thin, metal gasket that needs to be there between it and the rusty, cast iron manifold.

Oh! And there’s the starter bolts on 2.6L Monteros. Two bolts. You can get the top one out from the top, but the lower bolt requires—get this—SIX FEET OF EXTENSIONS to get out without a call to Dr. Kevorkian.

See also, that last manifold bolt or spark plug right against the firewall that needs the sketchy combination of wobble and universal-joint sockets (and is prone to stripping, shearing, or both).

We’ve all been there.

We’ve all dealt with dread bolts.

They consistently run us through the stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—every time we encounter them. Once in a while, they slip smoothly, easily, correctly into place the first time—but most of the time, it’s a royal pain in the ass, and so much so, in fact, we come to dread projects involving them.

Thus, dread bolts.

If you have a project with dread bolt shenanigans looming, you know it. You know you’re going to have to face it again. You know you’re going to approach it with a calm, clear mind this time. You tell yourself you are prepared and patient. You will take things slow this time and focus. It’s only a problem if you MAKE it a problem, right?

Maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time the dread bolt gods will be kind and reward you with less pain and suffering—and a speedy recovery to boot. Maybe. But you don’t know.

All you know is every inch of your body remembers how much you dread dealing with that bolt. From your cramped fingers and busted knuckles, to your twisted back and tippy-toes, it’s a show-stopper and you know it.

You’re not going anywhere until you’ve got this dread bolt sorted.

But does that stop you from trying? Nope.

Dread bolts be damned, right?

This machine is worth the effort. It ain’t much—and it’s nowhere close to where I want it to be—but it’s worth all the pain and the suffering. Because it’s me. It’s mine and it means something to me. So even though I know I’m facing a dread bolt, I’m going to take a deep breath and crack that sucker loose—because I know somehow, someway, I’ll get this thing back together and on the road.

Chemo is a dread bolt.

That’s about as close I can get to understanding what it must be like.

Imagine you have to get chemo every two weeks. Two weeks ago you were systematically poisoned intravenously to kill off a percentage of fast-growing cells throughout your entire body. Red blood cells. White blood cells. Skin, nails, hair. Might as well have ACID coursing through your veins.

Imagine every inch of your body experiencing chemical fire and brimstone that takes over a week to recover from. You’ve been through it once. You know you can do it, but every inch of your body bracing for the coming onslaught once again—at a cellular level—knowing there’s nothing it can do about it.

There’s no avoiding it. There’s no running away.

You can be angry. You can deny it will affect you. You can bargain all you want—but it’s depressing and you just have to accept it. It’s a dirty, hateful job—but you’re the only one who can do it.

I wish I could do more.

Be strong, V.

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