The Top Down World

My original intent was not to give technical advice in this column, but since I like playing weekend grease monkey as much as anybody else, I can’t resist sharing some of what I’ve learned. However, I’d like to impart a general approach rather than giving a tech tip that you’d end up forgetting anyway. So, this issue’s question:

Many things can go wrong on my British car. How do I fix them?—Simple!


You’ll need to set aside half as much time as the job will actually take. You can put a clock near your working area or you can wear a watch, which you will quickly scuff up. When you’re half done with your work and your car is partly disassembled and completely undrivable, you look at your timepiece to discover the time you allotted is up. You then start working frantically. You will make mistakes that will have to be corrected later, which is fine, since at this point you’re still saying to yourself there’s nothing you enjoy more than working on your car.


Since you first reckoned that this job would lake only a short time, you will find no harm in leaving your normal car work outfit in the hamper. “I’ll be careful,” you think to yourself. And in fact, you are very careful. In fact, there appears a black patch of grease on your pants, and you can’t possibly figure out where it came from. In the act of trying to clean off this patch, you get grease on your clean shirt. Behold, you’ve just created two new additions to your collection of car work outfits. You realize how clever you were for not bothering to grab the dirty shirt and pants out of the hamper.


Hey, you paid your friends at Moss fifty bucks for this book. You don’t want to take a chance on messing it up like you did your shirt. You leave it on the shelf. I mean, isn’t referring to the manual to complete your work sort of like referring to the answers in order to fill in a crossword puzzle?


Once more, you paid a lot of money for your tools. Why ruin them all by using them? The impulse for not using them all goes even beyond thatyou want to use tools that are within arm’s reach. You DO NOT want to walk 10 feet to get the proper tool if you can figure out a way to do the same thing with the tools sitting in front of you. You may even discover something. Perhaps you’ll be the first person ever to separate a tie rod end using only a Phillips screw driver and a dial caliper.

It doesn’t happen, plus you’re going to have to buy a new dial caliper.


You’ve been around a lot of frightening chemicals during this process. You reason that if you can still do your multiplication tables, then there must not be any real nerve damage. You’re not very good at the tables, but you’re nearing the end of your work. It’s a trade-off.


You go inside to wash up. In the process you get grease on the carpet, the tile floor, the outside doorknob, the bathroom doorknob, and the knob on the bathroom cabinet. In the cabinet will be some gooey chemical you can put on your hands in order to clean off the chemicals that are already on them.


You’ve performed in six hours what it would have taken a trained mechanic 30 minutes to knock out, but still, you’re the hands-on type who would have it no other way. Heck, you’d even try surgery on loved ones if it weren’t for those pesky lawyers stepping in. You are, after all, a doctor in your own way, and some quirky piece of metal, far from its homeland, aging but still strong, has had the fortune to roll into your emergency room.


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