Where did I learn about auto repair?

Back in the day, I would help (hold the flash light, pass the tool, lift the transmission, etc.) and learn from any needy, or not so needy, backyard mechanic. I was a ‘grease monkey’ in every sense of the word, often getting dirtier than those I assisted. The best of the best backyard mechanics was my Grandpa. Although he was focused and fixed on the task at hand, he taught me to smile, laugh, and joke the time away. But, most of all, he taught me to avoid fixing the unbroken, and take pride in fixing the broken!

What lessons did I learn?

I learned to appreciate and value the tools of the trade. The right tools for the job make life so much easier in the short haul, and the long run. No tool will do you any good, if you can’t find it – a place for every tool, and every tool in its place. And, good friends and neighbors have the right tools, too, and will loan them to you, if you are nice, remember to return tools, and loan them your tools as well. A good rule of thumb, much as in swimming: make it a habit not to wade into deep water alone. Look for an expert, or settle for a non-expert assistant!

What examples can I share?

What I learned from Grandpa about auto repair, preventive maintenance, and restoration may be outdated, obsolete, or in today’s terms – ‘outside the box’, but may still come in handy in a pinch. Allow me to share a few simple, and somewhat humorous examples.

  1. “They are thirsty. Give them a drink”. Back in the day, bumpers, hood ornaments, body side moldings, wheel well trim, wheels, hubcaps, and grills were made of chrome which often rusted. A common fix for surface rusted chrome was to rub on, and wipe off, Pepsi and/or Coke soda.
  2. “It’s sick. Give it some aspirin”. Car batteries used to have caps for each cell. Placing a Bayer aspirin in each cell provided enough acid to start a car with a dead battery. The young ladies, and their parents, were so impressed! Not so much today, with sealed batteries.
  3. ”Bird droppings. Get the soda”. Car battery terminals often generate considerable corrosive residue. Scooping tablespoons of ‘Arm and Hammer’ baking soda on each terminal, followed by a warm water rinse cleaned up the terminals nicely. However, watch out below!
  4. “Looking a little dirty. Let’s give it a bath”. Over time, cars can get sun bleached and lose their luster. Saved oil from the ‘Gravely’ tractor (read lawn mower) when rubbed into and wiped off, had enough grit in it to beautifully restore the car finish. Today, the EPA and base coat/clear coat paints may put a damper on that!

So, how do I replace Grandpa?

I can’t! As I grew older, I learned more about auto repair. But, when cars incorporated as many as 13 computers, I stopped doing much more than preventive maintenance for a long while. However, with the advent of the Internet, checklists, videos, and online mechanics, I am back in the business of taking pride in fixing the broken! With very little effort, and today’s technology, almost any person can be successful at auto repair.

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