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Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Truth About Cars Garage Life

By Bryan Myrkle

I remember spending an agonizing afternoon on my back, butt and knees on the cold concrete floor of my dad’s garage, trying to coerce a transmission, axle and wheel assembly back together. We’d just replaced my Jetta’s clutch, fried by a combination of adolescent exuberance and insensitive pedal technique. But, like some twisted Rubik’s cube, the various pieces defied logical integration. As afternoon drew into evening, my dad had a brainwave. “Let’s try again in the morning.” The next day, the parts simply fell into place; final assembly was as obvious as a pimple on a prom date.

That timeout was the trick that helped everything flow. It’s a technique I still use when confronted with seemingly insoluble problems: mechanical, psychological and spiritual. Like any boy who spends quality time working on cars, I learned a lot of life’s lessons in my Dad’s garage. Strange, then, that home repair, this crucible of character, this once pervasive American right of passage, seems endangered. I wouldn’t have expected our society to give up its garage culture without a fight. But then I wouldn’t have expected its original benefactors to be the same people conspiring to take it away.

'You can't work on a car yourself anymore.' It's true: you can't. Even small garages would be lost without sophisticated and expensive diagnostic computers. Beyond that, imports have raised the electro-mechanical game to a level of near-total non-intervention. For decades, nothing could have been further from the truth; hundreds of thousands of cars received their regular maintenance and repair at the hands of their owners. One 1920's product manual urged owners not to be afraid of tackling these jobs: 'Our company service men have no more brains than you do.'

Now, all products are disposable. The impulse to fix instead of replace is gone, destroyed by the unstoppable efficiencies of mass production. Basic maintenance is either cheaply provided or rendered unnecessary. Change your own oil? About as likely as writing a personal letter. Check the transmission fluid? No way to do it on my car. The last time I bought wiper blades, the guy had installed them before I left the parking lot. Today’s corner garages are for pumping gas, slapping on an inspection sticker or parking."

read it all......The Truth About Cars Garage Life:


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