It’s not true that ‘a real man knows how to fix his own car’.
There were real men before cars existed, and there will be real men when all cars run on battery power. But right now today, in the 21st century one of manliest and most accessible past times for just about any guy is fixing your car.
Even new cars, or near new ones some basic vehicle maintenance is still done the old-fashioned way and can still easily be done at home with no need for fancy computer software. But especially if your car is over ten years old, then there’s definitely a whole lot of simple mechanical work in your car that is not too difficult for any man with a good owners manual and some common sense.
Besides the obvious fact that you’ll save yourself a ton of money, here’s 3 more good reasons to consider learning how to do at least some basic vehicle maintenance.
1. Makes you feel awesome
To describe the feeling you get when you figure out why your car isn’t working then you fix it by yourself, doesn’t do it justice. You have to experience it for yourself. I can tell you that it is as good, if not better than the feeling you get when you first buy the car and drive it home.
It’s not that it makes you feel like a man (it does), but you also just feel good and valuable… worth something.
It’s a combination of knowing you did it yourself, with the physical effort involved (and you can now go and crack open a beer), and that you just made something better, you literally made the world a teeny, tiny (but definitely) bit better of a place.
2. Makes you a better learner
It’s not just the satisfaction of solving the problem. Vehicle maintenance is the very rare combination of fine motor skills, concentration, problem solving and sometimes just a bit of raw muscle that really appeals to men (even men who probably don’t think it would). It’s such a cliché to say that you learn something new every time you work on a car, but it’s not just that you learn something new, it’s that once you’ve done it, you seldom forget it. If you’ve changed a spark plug once, you’ve changed it a thousand times. Why? Mechanics involves a complex combination of physical and cognitive processes, combined with the use of much of our senses, creates lots of little hooks that help it to stick the process deep into our long-term memory. It’s such a visual and tactile process that you can see yourself doing it in your mind. You never get worse at mechanics, only better.
There are other jobs like this too, but car maintenance is something that almost any guy will be able to turn his hand at, if he wants. Just about all guys will own a car at some point, and know where to go and buy tools, and have somewhere they can do the work. It’s one of the most accessible and rewarding combinations of hands on work and mental exercise around.
3. Makes you a better man
Working on cars is frustrating at times (OK a lot), especially if you get brave and aim to tackle some more complicated repairs, like changing a head gasket or clutch plate. But this kind of frustration is good, and has all kinds of benefits.
Cars are very unforgiving and if you do something careless it can either cost you a lot of money (probably still less than you’d spend on a mechanic), or a lot of time, or both. But looking back at the end of the day you often realise that the experience and the satisfaction of the job was worth all the time and money that you spent on it, and you know what, it was probably more enjoyable than you thought it would be. More importantly, it is precisely these kinds of trials that forge our resilience, patience and fortitude and make us better men.
And it’s not the same kind of enjoyment that you get from going to the movies, or the beach, or from chocolate by the way. It’s not laden with the undertones of guilt and self-deprecation that come from this kind of instant gratification. Working on cars, like any really good hard thing, produces the opposite kind of joy, the kind of joy that lasts. It’s the kind of joy that destroys those feelings of guilt and worthlessness brought on by impulsive pleasures.
Working on your car teaches you the patience and fortitude required to see things through. It is really great at this. Once you start fixing your car, you can’t stop. It forces you to push through, because you can’t physically drive the car again until it’s back together. Legend has it that when Cortez first landed in the Americas, he burned his ships into smouldering piles of driftwood. The soldiers only had one way to go, forward. Working on your car does the same thing. The hardest part of fixing a car is getting started, because ‘the point of no return’, is the beginning.
Learning how to fix your own car can make you a more confident guy. Once the car is back together, the next couple times you start the car and it works, it builds your self-confidence. If you’re the kind of guy who’s always been a little unsure of himself, it gives you concrete, irrefutable evidence of your worth as a human. You can fix things.
Even on some of the newest cars, there are still jobs that get done the old-fashioned way. Even if you need a fancy shaped socket, which you can pick up from most automotive, hardware stores these days, there are a number of jobs on just about any car that can be done at home, save you hundreds of dollars, and make you feel awesome.
It really is a great credit to any man able to do these three basic necessities:
- Change a flat tyre
- Change the oil
- A basic service (check/change oil, check fluid levels, brake pads, etc.)
If your keen then here’s a few other things that are very doable yourself with the right tools:
- Change ignition coil/leads/spark plugs
- Check replace water hoses, thermostat, radiator
- Change the brake pads
Changing your brake pads can be pretty tricky. There’s a large variety of brake pad set ups out there and while they’re all basically similar, some of the finer details can make the experience of changing pads on a different vehicle almost totally different. Yet the thing with mechanics, most often, is once you get in and take a poke around you will be able to figure out how things go together.
Cars are just a classically manly object of our desire, and there’s a reason for that. They embody mans sheer engineering ingenuity, and his simple fascination with raw power. Learning how to fix some of the simpler parts of your car may well motivate you to get into some of the more technical stuff. Once you’ve done a bit of fiddling around, you’ll feel like you’re harnessing a little bit of that power.
If you’re still skeptical, it really doesn’t hurt to have to go. The next time you’re stuck on the side of the road with a flat, instead of calling RACQ just whip out that spare tyre and jack and do it yourself. When you get back in your car and drive off, you’ll feel like Tarzan… I promise.