Learning About Cars And Life Through An Old Man's Toolbox...

I am a "Millennial", just under the age of thirty. This is a title I have not quite embraced because of the negative connotations associated with the word, but it is something I have come to terms with accepting. A big part of the reason I take issue with being a Millennial is because I see people get completely lost in the simplest of basic life tasks because they cannot be bothered to learn a new skill or use practical self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, as a generation, many of us were not taught about the importance of life skills outside of formal education and social skills. This is proven by the products we buy and the amount of people who have angrily gone after companies legally due to their lack of being able to make informed decisions on their own. What do I mean?

The picture you see here is a 1997 Yamaha Virago 750 I owned for a few years and logged many, many miles on. This was my second bike and before I ever decided to get my license and buy one, I made sure I understood the basics behind what riding on public roads meant. Growing up, I had been riding dirtbikes and quads from around the age of six years old, but I knew riding something on asphalt, in traffic, had to be much different; and it is. The bike above had a really awesome metallic pearl/metallic green two-tone paint and some really nice hand-painted pinstripes, but on the top of the gas tank, the beauty of the colors was destroyed by a big orange, black and white sticker telling me that riding the motorcycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs was a bad idea, wearing a helmet was a good idea, and riding in the rain could cause a loss of control or "slippery condition". I took out my heat gun and peeled that eyesore off the day I bought the bike.


Unfortunately, manufacturers are forced to put this common-sense information on their products because apparently, there are many people out there who cannot be bothered to learn the basic principles or functions behind what they are buying. Someone, at some point in time likely formed a lawsuit because of their own ignorance and won, leading to all of these redundant warning labels plastered on everything we buy, which is getting worse every single day. I have a lawnmower built forty years ago which I restored and when I brought it home, in used-original condition, there was not a single warning sticker on it, nor had there ever been.

My mind thinks:

-This is a lawn mower.

-It has a blade; that is how the grass gets cut.

-Shoving your hand under the mowing deck while the blade is turning will probably give you one less appendage.

Yet, if you look at my riding mower from 2007, there is a bright warning sticker on every single panel saying that pulleys rotate and can hurt you, the belt moves and can hurt you, the blades move and can hurt you, not to start the engine in a closed garage because doing so can kill you, and not to drink or use drugs while operating said machine, just like my motorcycle. I just...No.

This all follows the generational differences. Going back even twenty years, people were a bit more self-sufficient for the most part. I remember more families back then having an actual dinner with each other a few days each week and take-out was something reserved for Friday nights. During the week, the family helped cook food or at least cleaned up the dishes afterward, but not us - not now. Did you know that most millennials spend more money on eating out than they do on groceries that could be used to cook our own food? Never in history has anything like that happened before and I can name far too many people around my age who cannot cook a meal for themselves. Self-sufficiency is eroding and this is only one example of many.


Those before us usually had some sort of backup plan for the rough patches they went through in life. Yet, we have not been taught to think that far ahead and I have seen too many people my age go after one goal, only to fail and then crash and burn because they have no idea of how to do anything else. They have no other skill set because most were not ever told to expect their world to possibly fall apart. My grandfather was a farmer born in 1905 and that was his primary occupation. He was a good farmer judging from all of the stories I have heard over the years, but life is a very fickle beast sometimes and he prepared for those instances. Instead of only relying on his skills of cultivating and harvesting, he always had a backup plan and if the crops would not grow, his education as a blacksmith would take over as the family's money-maker. People back then generally had a backup plan on what they could do when life threw a curve-ball at them. Now? I do not really see it anymore.

The water pump on my dad's truck went out recently and the repair would have cost around $800 if taken to a shop. I would willingly take a day off from whatever it was I had going on to be sure he did not pay someone to do that for him, because the parts themselves were only about three hundred dollars. Working on a commercial-grade diesel engine is something I had never done, but I was willing to learn and take a day to figure it out. After looking around on the internet and reading some message boards, I learned the exact process and tips from others who had done the job in the past, but it required a tool to remove the radiator fan that I did not have. I would only use the tool this one time and it was about $30, so I could not justify the wasted money. We pulled some measurements and went to my uncle's shop:


Within ten minutes, my uncle cut the same tool out of 1/4" scrap metal. My uncle Cecil is 78 years old and he is the same person who told me that we all need to work a little harder to find solutions to our own problems and help each other out long before assuming we are incapable of doing something.


The tool worked and this is everything all disassembled.


And this is after I put it all back together.

I know that so far, I have relied on the more mechanical examples of things we are capable of but choose not to embark on, but that is the most constant self-sufficiency model I have in my own life. I am not a technician, but I learned everything I know from necessity and research because I refuse to pay anyone to do anything I am capable of doing just as well on my own with a little research and practical education, but I know few people who hold that same mindset in my generation.


Thinking back to the previous generations, you must realize that most of them had so many more learning restrictions than we do, but they seemed so much more eager to learn. If the plumbing in their house went haywire, most did not call a plumber right away, but they would contact an experienced friend who would come over and not do the work for them, but teach them, so they could pass the knowledge on to their friends or family when something similar happened. Currently, anything you could ever want to know about any subject is free and right at our fingertips online, but few of us make an effort to use this gift and expand our knowledge and education. Far too many of us have something go wrong in our lives and automatically assume we are of no authority to solve the problem ourselves and I do not understand this at all. We can apply this to any situation in life whether it be something physically breaking on our car, in our home, opinions on a business model, opinions on our creative ability, or just a more relevant understanding of how the world works. All of this information and so much more is with us because we are so connected through technology, but so many of us would rather stick with one mindset, have no backup plan, and use only the skills and education we have up to this point. The hunger for educating ourselves to the world is slipping more and more each day and I absolutely hate it. Sometimes, however, I am pleasantly surprised.

When I help someone with a task they are not very keen on, I would rather teach them what I know so they can retain it for the future. As an example, my friend's car had an issue and I figured out it was her alternator (read more about that here). She stood right beside me the entire time I was working on her car and I explained how everything worked as well as what I was doing through the entire process. When I needed a little assistance, she jumped right in and had no issue getting some dirt on her hands. Though I could tell it was a little taxing on her patience, the smile on her face when it was all back together made the whole thing worth it. She is an exception to what I most often see in our generation because she is never afraid to learn anything new, even though her chosen career is not even remotely close to parking lot automotive repair. I admire people like that. I admire those who are not afraid to learn something new.
I admire those who solve their own problems.


Are you that type of person? Or are you too afraid or lazy to be bothered with solving your own problems?


Grace and Peace,



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