Over the Thanksgiving weekend I was chatting with a friend about mechanics. He was having some work done on his truck and lamenting the upcoming repair bill.
We both agreed that new cars and trucks were harder to work on, but a lot of that was because we haven’t updated our mechanic skills since helping our grandfathers change spark plugs many years ago.
Looking back, it is remarkable how many things people used to do themselves. I remember my grandfather changing his own oil, shingling his house (even into his 60s), insulating his attic, installing new windows, laying tile, carpet, etc.
Now days, very few of us are fit to handle similar tasks (myself included). I’m actually a little bit ashamed of that. While fairly handy, there are several types of jobs I just can’t do.
Because I’ve never been a “car guy,” I wouldn’t consider myself mechanical. I’m terrified of anything electrical, though I did manage to tackle installing a programmable thermostat a couple years ago. I enjoy making sawdust, but wouldn’t have the foggiest clue how to actually build something beyond a very basic construction.
The root problem with all of this lack of hands-on education is that it costs us money. Any time something breaks, or you have an idea to build or replace something, you have to search Angie’s List or the Yellowpages for a reputable contractor or repairman. I’d much rather order a part online and make the fix myself.
How do we learn to become more self-sufficient? Well, since most of us are not born with natural instincts to find our way around an engine, or an attic, it’s probably a good idea to learn from the experts. Here’s a few ideas.
Hover Over the Repairman
My grandfather used to do this and it drove my grandmother crazy! I can hear her now, “Quit hovering over that nice man and let him do his job.” I suppose it was a little annoying to the repairman, but my grandfather was actually watching (and learning) so he could make the repair next time.
Go Back to Shop Class
My high school offered a wood working shop class, which I very much enjoyed. However, they did not offer a course in mechanics, which I very much needed. I can perform basic maintenance and repairs on my truck, but would like to learn more.
Many technical schools offer a course in engine repair, mechanics or similar. This could be a great way to expand your knowledge of mechanics to the point where you can fix your own car or lawn tractor the next time it won’t run properly.
Attend Workshops at Lowes and Home Depot
Most Saturday mornings, Lowes and Home Depot offer home improvement project workshops for anyone interested in attending. Recent workshops have taught customers how to winterize their home, install new countertops and how to inexpensively paint interior rooms.
Bonus: These two stores often offer kids workshops where you can bring your kids in and help them with a child-friendly project such as building a bird house, or a gift for mom closer to Mother’s Day.
Ask a Neighbor for Help
I was not blessed with a green thumb, but I have discovered a passion for growing fruits and vegetables. What started out as a small, square foot garden two years ago, should grow to a much larger, in-ground square foot garden this spring. In fact, in just a couple months I’ll be constructing the boxes and beginning to layout the new garden.
One thing I’ve learned about gardening is there is much to learn about different crops, planting times, harvesting times, watering schedules, etc. Several friends and neighbors have gardens, and this year I’m thinking of asking for a garden “consultation” from people who have had successful gardens for many years. I’ve found most gardeners are happy to share a few secrets with someone genuinely interested in learning.
To do this, you have to first get over the fear of asking for help (men are particularly affected by this). We don’t want to be a bother, or we are just too proud to ask for help, so we go it alone and spend twice as much time, money and energy trying to fix something our neighbor could show us how to fix in twenty minutes.
Hopefully, the end result of acquiring these new skills is that you can begin to do things for yourself, rather than having to rely on someone else. Then, you can begin to pass this knowledge on to children and grandchildren to continue a legacy of self-sufficiency that will serve future generations for many years.