I love being male and like to think of myself as relatively masculine. I’ve done my share of blue-collar work over the years. I maintain physical fitness. I enjoy the outdoors. I can hold my own in a variety of sports.
But I have an insecurity. Automotive maintenance.
Now the key to insecurity is to be passionately insecure. Just act like the stereotype of a man under a car in a garage full of tools doesn’t even remotely appeal to you. Better yet, point out all the areas of weakness in such a man. He probably scored 200 cumulative points on his SAT, voted Tea Party Republican in the last election, and shot a thirty-point buck last hunting season.
Despite my bravado I always winced when I entered the automotive section in Wal-Mart to get air fresheners or, the apex of my automotive endeavors, windshield wipers. These short forays into hostile territory always left me feeling inferior at best and guilty at worst. I knew that could just as well spend the $20-$30 that I shucked out at NTB every several months on actual oil and oil filters and save some money. And honor.
Of course, I always excused myself with a rather convincing argument from the standpoint of economics. In order to change oil, I would need car ramps. Car ramps probably cost a small fortune. At least it would take numerous oil changes to make them profitable. Therefore, it was impractical for me to change my own oil.
Mostly, I was terrified about journeying into the land of the unknown beneath my car. Beneath the hood is dangerous enough. Live and let live became my motto.
The argument from economics worked until I saw a pair of car ramps at a yard sale. And they weren’t selling for a small fortune.
Now that I had car ramps I made a mental list of all the other items I would need and swaggered into the automotive section at Wal-mart. I soon realized that I was still in hostile territory as shelves full of oil and oil filters stood rank and file, row after row, brand after brand, mocking me with their uniformity. Now I’ve worked in the small equipment industry long enough to know that same in appearance can be so very different in function. Numbers mean something, and examining them with a pseudo-professional squint only works so long before it becomes obvious to the other customers that you have no clue what you’re messing with. Fortunately, after consulting one of those small computers (and paying for it with swagger), I had what I needed.
A few days later I changed my car oil for the first time. I won’t go into detail about the actual process. Instead I’ll simply list a few tips for beginners. I hope this helps.
1. Remember the age-old maxim, “right-tight, left-loose.” Lying on your back underneath a car can disorient even the most directionally adept. Perfectly good tools often suffer unnecessary abuse and sometimes even permanent damage under the zealous conviction that they are being turned the right way. Most often they are. Just not the right kind of right.
2. Always keep a firm grip on the old filter while removing it, or use a filter wrench. For good measure keep your upper body (particularly head) away from the used oil pan while performing this procedure. Used oil is still, well, oily.
3. Never push your car off the ramps by yourself, especially if the driveway is on a slight downward incline. A lot of potential energy can convert into a lot of kinetic energy over a very short distance. Also, due to the relationships between force, mass, and velocity, the force required to stop even a slow-moving car is nearly impossible without a simple machine (which of course in most cases has not been prepared beforehand and is, therefore, unavailable when the need arises).*
*If you do push the car off the ramps by yourself, your best mode of recovery is to exceed the car’s velocity, calmly settle into the driver’s seat (adjust it if necessary), and apply pressure to the brake. Use this method only if you have the time to spare. If on the other hand, the car is within several feet of a solid object and approaching, you need to throw aside all your manly dignity, race alongside the car, vault into the driver’s seat, and mash the brake for all your car’s worth. Dollar for dollar, dignity is much cheaper than auto-body work.