Monday, July 31, 2023

Working on Cars

On my way to my car, I saw a man and (presumably) his son in front of their car with the hood up. The man was examining the engine and showing it to their kid. I wondered what he might be saying to him. "This here is the watchamacallit... And this is the doohickey..." It reminded me a bit of growing up.

My Dad showed me car stuff too. We started with easy things: brake fluid, transmission fluid, and engine coolant. (It never occurred to me to ask why our car at the time needed some of these fluids replenished so frequently.) He then showed me how to check and change the engine oil. It was vital work but getting my hands dirty in this fashion didn't appeal to me.

Years later at a college job my car wouldn't start in the parking lot after work. Someone came out and asked if I was having some problems. I said yes and he said "let's take a look." At least I could open the hood for him. He peered inside and fiddled with some cables. After a few minutes he asked me to start the engine and sure enough it started! It felt like a magic trick.

That was back in the 1980s. In today's cars, the engine block under the hood is more sleek and seemingly less open. I wonder if that competent and kind gentleman could get a modern car to start. For one thing, you need a computer to examine any "check engine" problems. And in battery electric vehicles, an engine block full of engine oil isn't even present. What is there to fiddle with?

I am drawn to automotive tools however. Maybe in another life I would have been a auto mechanic. I've seen the posted mechanics' labor rates at various car garages. It's a decent-paying job, with its own computer work. And maybe in that other life, I'd be curious about the computer talking to the car and wonder how I could work with the computer instead.

(photo: Nenad Stojkovic)

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