Why I Work on My Own Car

One of the things that makes me feel good, even powerful, is working on my car.  Until recently, I was unable to do anything except the bare minimum on my car.  I could change the oil, but even that, I never felt comfortable doing.  After three years of hard dedication alongside a professional mechanic, I got much better.

This last weekend, I worked on a car that hadn’t run in a few months.  I thought I knew what the problem was but was given advice that it was something else.  The short story is, I had to replace several components to find out what the problem actually was, but I learned from this.  The next time a car exhibits these same symptoms, I’ll know what the problem is and be able to fix it that much more quickly.

Tools and experience are all I lack

I had to replace the starter.  Not one of the more difficult things to do, in theory.  However, as with all mechanical-related things, there are two “tricks” to getting the problem solved easily – experience and the right tools.  I had neither in this case.

I’ve long ago adopted a mindset when I work on my own cars that I learned from my days of being technical and computer programming.  I estimate how long I think something should take, then double it and add 30 minutes.  That seems to get me in the right ballpark.

I did the same here, and it got me almost right on the money for the time.  Technically, replacing the starter is only three main bolts, and one wire, but getting to those bolts, especially the one on top of the starter, takes some figuring out.

Frustration sets in

But all this is leading up to how it makes me feel.  When I was under the car, with not enough room because I hadn’t put the car up high enough on jack stands, so I had only inches to spare, laying on the garage floor, I began to feel frustration and anger take over.  This is common for me when something is harder than I feel it should be, or I’ve watched someone with greater skill tackle the same task – I start to get very irritable.  This time, I recognized the feeling and, while laying on my back under the car, with God knows what oil-crusted crap falling onto my face, I closed my eyes and told myself this is where I needed patience.  As with many things in life, I had to “slow down to go fast.”  Or rather in this situation, I had to slow down to be able to seat a bolt into a hidden orifice.

It worked.  I was able, with focus and concentration to get everything back in its place, and the car started.  So again, how does this make me feel?  I feel empowered when I can fix something that I used to have to hire someone else to fix.  Especially working with my hands, I gain a sense of purpose and a feeling of masculine confidence that has eluded me most of my life.

A little success and self-confidence

The older I get, the more value I personally get out of working with my hands.  I’m crazy about it.  It’s how I’d like to spend all of my days, but after 25 years of essentially office work and not working out, I don’t have the physical stamina to do this kind of work on a regular basis.  I’m not sure many people do.  My friend who’s the professional mechanic is only a few years older than me, and his body is wracked with physical issues like pain in his hands, back, knees and feet.

I consider it a slight mental illness that I want to do something that is physically and mentally challenging and that I could hire someone else to do better.

But I’m never more happy than after I have successfully worked on my car.

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