If you're a driveway mechanic, you get it because the warm months mean it's time to get out there and work on your car
If you’re a car person, you get it. This is an exciting time of year.
The warm air and longer days make it so much easier to do what you want to your ride, without fear of winter’s consequences. No more chilled-to-the-bone nights of being under the hood or car, positioning your light with one hand while lining up your wrench with the other. And have you ever slipped a wrench and slammed a knuckle against a cold block of metal? Yeah, it hurts.
But driving to work earlier this week, when temps were pushing the high 70s, memories were coming back. It helps when you see a young kid, maybe 18 years old, out in his yard, working barefoot and in gym shorts on a car that’s on jack stands.
Is that safe? Of course not. But when you’re 18, you don’t think of stuff like that. All you know is that your car is in the driveway and something, anything, needs to be worked on.
It doesn’t even matter what you’re driving. In the years before you got your first car, you dreamed of the wheels you’d have. Maybe it was the 5.0 litre Ford Mustang that powered your thoughts. Instead, you wind up with the hand-me-down 1980 Chrysler LeBaron. (Which had a 318 in it, so maybe it's not all that bad).
But a funny thing happens somewhere between those dreams and that first car: The real world. Cars are expensive, and buying one is just the start, too. There’s the required insurance you never gave a second thought, gasoline, of course, and then repairs.
But this is where it becomes the best, and some days, the worst of both worlds. You love working on your car so not only are you going to fix it yourself, you’re going to save money.
If you’ve ever used a soup can with hose clamps to patch a hole in your tailpipe, used duct tape to seal a cracked bumper cover, replaced your broken window with clear plastic or tied your door shut with a rope or bungee strap, then you understand the pride of ingenuity.
Or, at least you thought you had an original idea.
Any car enthusiast over the age of 40 is unique. They’re bridging the gap between old school and new school. Today, cars come with power windows, cameras in your rearview mirror for when you drive in reverse, plug-ins for your smart devices, cup holders and even screen displays that show you the road map you’re following. Or listening to.
No more high-beam headlamp buttons on the floor. No more “find it or grind it” lessons when shifting gears. No more rolling windows up and down with your own hand and music while you drive? You’ve either got FM or AM radio, kid.
Cars certainly have come a long way in a short amount of time, and the most recent models claim to even parallel park themselves for you, or even operate without your assistance.
The technology is impressive, but it’s depressing, too. The joy of driving is slowly being taken away to the point where we’re not driving anything. We’re riding, and there’s a big difference between piloting your car or just being a passenger and letting someone, or something, else have all the fun.
We drive because we’re fascinated by the meticulous science that goes into what transports us. The spark of the air/gas mixture in the chamber, the timing of the pistons and valves that bring in the mixture, and force out the exhaust. The rods that push, the driveshaft that spins and the tires that roll.
This is music to the ears. The thrill of a motor being opened on a wide road, whether it’s the buzz of a tuner, roar of a V8 or giant growl of a diesel is what gets car people excited.
Manually locking your 4x4, turning your body to see out of the rear windshield and turning the steering wheel yourself to change lanes, park along a curb or even hold it all down while you’re doing donuts in a snowy parking lot … THIS is driving.
And when you have the busted knuckles and oily hands to show for the work you’ve done on your own car, there’s a peace and satisfaction that comes with it.
It’s something car people understand, and must have. Can’t explain it. You just have to have it.
Drive safely this season.
Chavez is sports editor at The Daily Messenger. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me @MPN_bchavez.