Somebody smarter than me said wisdom comes from experience and experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it. That certainly was the case for our racing team when we lost three trailer tires while towing to a NASA race weekend. This isn’t a story about how you should keep your trailer tires out of the sun, check the air pressure before a long road trip and ensure your tires don’t have cracked sidewalls. Instead this is a story to help you change those old tires when they blow out –because they are definitely going to blow out.
Difficult problems often have the simplest solutions. We ran into some recent difficult problems during a tire failure when our heavy car trailer didn’t want to be lifted off the ground by our jack. It wasn’t the jack’s fault, or the heavy over-loaded trailer’s fault. The problem was the ground. The soft soil just swallowed our jack into the dirt resulting in a situation where we couldn’t get our wheel off to swap on a spare. Yes, we had a spare. We are dumb enough to use old trailer tires, but we aren’t dumb enough not to have spare trailer tires.
The solution we came up with to solve our difficult problem was to use a piece of wood under the jack to support it. Unfortunately, on Interstate 5 in Central California, we had a jack, an impact gun, the correct socket, a spare tire … but no wood. That was when I decided we needed our own jack board.
I knew if I threw a random piece of wood into our trailer, to use for future jack support problems, somebody on the team would think it was garbage and throw it out. I needed to make this piece of wood fancy. If it was fancy, then people would know it was an important component for the team and leave it in the trailer. I made a few measurements and then headed to the table saw.
The next step was to use the DNN Motorsports table saw and cut our piece of wood down to a reasonable size that would travel well. This was the most dangerous part of our afternoon project. Table saws have no conscience, and will quickly make you a one-handed racecar driver if you are not careful. I ensured we knocked out this step prior to enjoying any of our favorite Double Nickel Nine IPA beers from Tactical Ops Brewing. Trust me, 10.9% ABV beers and table saws are not a good combination.
I said we were going to make this thing fancy. Using a socket and a ruler, I outlined a “handy” handle for our jack board. The next step would require a few more tools. To cut in the middle of the piece of wood I would first need to drill a hole large enough for my jigsaw to begin cutting. Then I would be able to use the jigsaw to trim the handle out.
Jigsaw work on a tight radius can be a little tricky, the key is patience. Don’t rush the saw. Allow the blade to cut through the material and then slowly rotate the saw to follow your path lines. The end result will be the perfect hole to use as a handle for the jack board. The next step in our project to make our board fancy was to get rid of the right angle corners.
I like to have stuff around that doesn’t hurt me. Getting rid of sharp right angles is always a good plan for occupational safety issues. For our jack board, I found a can of spray paint that had just the right radius for a curve I wanted for the corners of the board. I set the can of spray paint down, traced the radius and then used the jigsaw to quickly trim off the sharp edges on all four corners of the board.
To finalize our fancy jack board it was time to sand. All of the jigsaw work left some pretty rough edges on the board and I wanted to avoid anyone on the team getting a splinter. For sanding work, I like the sanding blocks you can find in hardware stores (foam covered with different grit sand paper). They are a few cents more but work very quickly.
I decided to really make the board fancy and an official permanent tool in the Krider Racing trailer by painting the Krider Racing logo on it. I made this template years ago by putting a sticker on a thick piece of cardboard and then used a utility knife to cut away the letters. It works great.
I was really happy with the finished product. When I was originally designing the jack support, I made sure the dimensions were large enough to easily support a jack but also just the right size to fit in the bottom of my track-day box. This way when I attend a NASA Rally Sport event (where the pits are a dirt field) I can use my jack board to swap out my tarmac tires for snow tires.
So, learn from my mistakes. A jack sometimes needs a board to support it if you are going to try to change tires in soft dirt or grass. You can have a simple piece of wood, or you can make your jack board fancy like we did. Choose your own adventure. Regardless of your choice, make sure you have a spare tire for that trailer!