It’s not like I need the practice

This is one of those things that I think I’ve been preventing myself from really accepting, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I fucking hate working on cars.

Which might seem odd, given how often I have to do it. I’m not a mechanic by any stretch, but the word “shadetree” often appears about this point; routine maintenance poses no issues, and I can generally handle moderate repairs, but the ability to diagnose, for instance, why the car keeps stalling usually means a lot of research. I started learning how to work on cars early on, by not being able to afford the costs of mechanics, and unfortunately that condition has persisted most of my life, not at all helped by a) being galled by how much a garage actually charges, and b) finding waaayyy too many garages that utterly suck. So, ninety percent of the time, I do it myself.

And it’s not like I’m speaking out of frustration because I’m so unsuccessful (with cars, I mean) – most times the car gets properly repaired and back on the road, albeit a little slower than a garage might have accomplished (might.) While I am often working from a Haynes or Chilton manual for the particular vehicle (and I highly recommend these, by the way,) the problem usually gets fixed, and doesn’t reappear.

Listen, here’s how it goes. I’ll look over the repair necessary, either visually on the car or within a manual or online guide, and it’ll be something along the lines of, “remove these two bolts and this wiring harness, and lift the assembly off of the mounts.” And I begin work. Two hours later, I’m filthy, bleeding from two knuckles, have gone out and picked up a new tool that I didn’t have (or even made one,) and the fucking assembly is still attached to the mounts. When people tell me their car is falling apart, I’m tempted to buy it from them because it’d be a hell of a lot easier to work on than what I typically see, which is a car resolutely determined to stay together no matter what. Bolts seize, parts rust, and on occasion I think auto manufacturers actually cast false bolt heads onto the side of housings just to fuck with idiots like me. WD-40 and other such ‘penetrating oils?’ Don’t make me laugh – they’re fine for a screw on your toaster, but not much else, because there’s no actual gaps for them to penetrate into on the very parts where they’re needed the most.

It does not help that auto manufacturers actively try to thwart the DIY mechanic, designing cars with poor access or working space, a lack of bracing or leverage surfaces, something else that has to be removed just to get at the part in question, or most especially, the necessity of a specialty tool. Of course they want you to take the car into the dealer or ‘authorized’ service center – and if you’ve seen the labor charges or parts markup at such places, you know damn well why. And while it’s easy to believe that the mechanics there always know what they’re doing, it’s also not the case anywhere near often enough.

It’s also easy to believe that having a “full set of tools” will allow you to tackle more repairs with ease, but there really is no such thing – there are more tools dedicated to singular tasks in auto repair than you can imagine, even without automakers’ efforts. You can have an entire rolling tool chest full of stuff and still have to get that 34mm axle nut socket or the fuel pump retaining ring wrench – and of course, use this once. The only time you’ll end up needing it again is after you’ve sold it to someone else.

As you might have surmised, I’ve been doing a bit of auto repair work lately, both on The Girlfriend’s car and then her Sprogs’ before the trip to the beach, and on my own after we got back – the best I can say is that the former two only ran into minor complications each. Mine had been waiting for both spare time (knowing it would take a while) and the ability to use another vehicle while it was incapacitated. We are, of course, a few days past the time I allotted for getting through these repairs, even given the extra time I added because I’ve done this kind of shit far too often. Right at the moment I’m trying to find someone with either a hydraulic press or a jackhammer…

So, yeah, I’m pretty damn sick of it all. Eventually, I accomplish what I set out to do, but not without an awful lot of cursing.

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