I’m remembering my Dad by sharing experiences I had with him. This time I share how he gave me the experience of being a mechanic the summer before starting university.
The payoff will be to understand him a bit and his influence on me.
This will take you less than four minutes to read.
In high school, did you or someone you know just want to be a mechanic? “I don’t need to learn this stuff, I’m going to be a mechanic and I’ll do fine.”
One summer, my Dad provided me the experience of being a real mechanic, working on a real car that needs fixing.
How did he do that?
During the summer before I started university, my mom’s car broke down. My Dad guessed the water pump broke and instead of taking it to a mechanic to fix it, he said I should fix the car.
OK, this would be a project we could do together. Nice. I went with him to the auto body shop and we asked if they had a water pump for a Lincoln Continental. It was an older one, from the 1980s, even though it was the 1990s at the time.
Luckily, the shop had a replacement water pump for a Lincoln Continental.
We got back to our place and he brought out the tools to fix the car.
He said to me:
Here are tools you will need, take apart the items to get to the water pump. Take out the old water pump, put in the new water pump, and put everything back.
HUH??? He said “you” a lot, not “we”. I thought we were going to do this together. I asked if he was going to help, he replied:
You can do it. Don’t worry, just do it. I have to do other things.
OK, I guess if he thinks I can do it, what else can I say?
It wasn’t like I had anything better to do. It was the summer before university.
Mechanic Day 1 & 2
I started working on the car. I knew how the tools worked, but never thought about using them on a car, especially on a car.
I unbolted parts, took them off, piled items together. Dad came to check on me periodically. It took about two days to get to the water pump. I was steady in my work, I was working on my mom’s car!
There were a lot of parts. Luckily, I only had to get to the water pump which is on the front of the car near the radiator and didn’t involve the engine, except maybe a belt to drive the water pump.
I got to the water pump and took it out. Compared to the one we bought, it looked the one in the car didn’t turn inside while the new one did. OK, Dad was right about that.
Now to put everything back.
Mechanic Day 3 & 4
The funny thing, when I took things apart, I kind of knew where things fit. I laid them out in a semi-sequential order, but I didn’t lay out all parts neatly with the associated nuts and bolts.
There were too numerous!
I did my best to guess how things fit in. The radiator was obvious. The hoses, simple. Fan belts, OK. I started to get everything in.
What were these extra nuts left over?? Where did they go? All the bolts in the engine had nuts, so things looked right. These nuts didn’t come from somewhere else.
I told my Dad of the situation and he looked things over. Kind of gave it a shrug and left.
Huh?? My Dad told me I could do this, I was expecting his expertise on this. He knew where the problem was, so what guidance did he have here?
Dad came back with an acquaintance, Jim, and he reviewed the work. My Dad told him about the left over nuts. The acquaintance said:
This is what happens when you have young mechanics work, left over bits.
My face went super red. The way Jim said it didn’t seem like he knew I was the young mechanic who did the work. my Dad didn’t say anything and I kept my mouth as Jim reviewed further.
At the end Jim said, well, these things happen. Let’s try it out.
The Real Test
Does the car start? If the car doesn’t start, I really screwed up. If it does, I’m closer to getting things right, even with the leftover parts.
Jim went over to the driver’s seat, put the key into the ignition, and turned it to start the car…
The car started.
We had the car run for awhile to make sure water was flowing, the engine didn’t overheat, nothing was leaking to make sure the water pump was working. I took it out on the highway and I didn’t need a tow truck to come back.
Somehow, everything worked out. Whew.
In the summer before university, I learned to be a mechanic by repairing my mom’s car with a little guidance from Dad.
At the time, I just saw it as something to do as I had time. I was expecting Dad to work on this together. The learning was much better on my own and screwing up.
After, I gained an appreciation for mechanics and understood that I don’t want to be one. If I didn’t have this experience, I probably would have had the same “I just want to be a mechanic” conversation with my parents when things got hard in university.
Although Dad gave me the experience of being a real mechanic, working on a car that had to be working afterwards, getting feedback from other mechanics, there was one thing he didn’t do:
Give me money for fixing mom’s car!