May 14, 2004


Yesterday afternoon, I took my lunch break at three. I get an hour for lunch, and I only live about a mile from where I work, so I get to come home and eat. When I pulled into the driveway, I noticed that the roommate's car is still here (not strange, he doesn't go into work until four) along with the roommate's wife's car (she normally doesn't get home until five thirty or so. She caught a bug, and came home early).

So, I get into my third bite of the leftover baby-back ribs that I'm having, and the couple goes out the front door talking about the fact that the brake lights on her car don't work. I'm not saying that they are technically challenged here, but their lack of education in the field of automotive repair shines like the light at the end of a tunnel.

Johnny - Oh to the rescue! Fuses are all okay, open trunk and check bulbs, and they're in working order, so the obvious solution is to take it to the shop right? No no no! There I am, limboing under the steering column to see if the switch that's attached to the brake pedal is being properly disengaged when the pedal is depressed. Looks to be functioning mechanically, so obviously (to me) the switch is defective and needs to be replaced.

I return to the house to give them them the verdict. After I tell that "it's not a fuse or a bulb, it's a switch," the RMW responds with "Oh shit. That's going to be more expensive." My reply was: "Yeah. Instead of a buck-fifty, it's likely to be more like ten or fifteen bucks." The roommate asked if I was sure this was the problem, and I told him that I was "positive", in a Darth Vader "I find your lack of faith disturbing" kind of way.

After a quick call to the local parts emporium, I found that the parts were readily available, so I went on back to work with the promise that I would fix it when I got home.

Fast Forward through the day, and I arrive back at the old homestead. 35 minutes later (that's including travel time to and from the parts store), $11.49 in hard cash spent, and her brake lights are functioning properly once again.

They were both ready to take the car in to somebody's shop. Feh, I tell them. They could have spent well over $100 getting somethng like this fixed at a professional repair place. All I'm trying to say here is: Never doubt the wisdom of the "Shade-Tree Mechanic." It'll save you time, and it'll save you money.

My shade-tree license is up to speed. How about yours?

Posted by Johnny - Oh at May 14, 2004 03:59 PM

God bless shade tree mechanics :-)

Posted by: Harvey at May 15, 2004 12:49 PM

I went fifteen years without having to take my cars to the shop, but I never enjoyed it. Once I could afford it, I quit doing the crud work myself.

Posted by: Ted at May 16, 2004 06:40 PM

It's weird. I always put off working on my own vehicle until it's nearly too late, but If it's for a friend or family member, I'm in there for the long haul.

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at May 16, 2004 09:01 PM

Sorta what Ted said. When I had more time than money, I'd do as many of the minor repairs as I could manage. Now that I have more money than time, well, my hands stay a lot cleaner.

But like you, I'll dive right in if someone wants to get crazy on their own pile.

Posted by: Harvey at May 18, 2004 12:42 AM
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