There really is no more simple pleasure than the feeling that you have bettered your life by fixing something. It’s been a tough financial year. With surgery, buying a ring, planning a wedding, and paying off student loans there has not been much left over for things like maintaining the truck. Filling the vehicle with gas and changing the oil is bad enough. When things are wearing out or going awry the last thought I entertain is bringing the truck in and hassling with a mechanic who I know is charging more than I ought to be.
I have been blessed with two good auto mechanic friends, but I worry about reducing those relationships to a purely utilitarian purpose. I always want to be thankful for those times when they help in telling me the truth about not having to pay $500 for a brake job and installing some inexpensive parts (for nothing) that fix the problem.
My dad and I have been a pretty solid team too. When trying to replace a window washer fluid pump we found that Toyota sells them newly installed at $230. The junk yard sells them for $20. How they could charge an hour labor for something that took 20 minutes to do was an ongoing discussion my father and I had as we laughed our way to the bank.
And as Old Man Winter breathes its chilly breath on our godforsaken state new problems arise. The most wonderful time of year seems to be for the retail stores as they seem to be the primary beneficiaries of my empty wallet. And the worst time of the year is unquestionably for the Toyota Pickup as it parked outside in sub-zero weather. Scratch that. The worst time of the year is for the driver (and my beautiful passenger) who must endure the inability of the heater to warm us up.
In an effort to refill the empty wallet I have been pursuing my commercial driver’s license (class B) so I can drive the 45 passenger bus at work. And in an effort to placate my driving anguish I commiserate with the company mechanic who is training me in while I take wide turns on narrow Minneapolis streets. He tells me my heating problem is a faulty thermostat and that job is quite simple. After we are done almost causing accidents and getting our story straight for when the ‘How’s My Driving?’ report comes in, I bring him to the truck and he shows me what to do.
A Saturday afternoon and $9 latter I got a new thermostat in the engine and I am toasty warm. My beautiful passenger even compliments me and tells me to turn down the heat while she is taking her hat off and loosening her coat. That was immensely gratifying!
What is surprising to me is how easy it can be to do simple auto repairs. For too long the stuff under the hood has looked intimidating. But in the age of the Internet you can find detailed repair manuals in PDF format and Youtube videos demonstrating repairs in a simple “how-to-step-by-step” format all for free. What is unsurprising is how much poverty can make one resourceful. Many of the most trustworthy auto mechanics I have met have been dirt poor at one time or another.
I now understand why my future father-in-law loves to tell me all his stories about fixing things at the apartments he is in charge of. It gives you so much simple happiness to conquer a problem that could cost you a lot of money.