Understand what you're doing, before you understand you don't know what you're doing.
I’m sure a lot of us know a guy who thinks he’s a mechanic, who talkslike he knows what he’s doing, can rattle off obscure facts and figures aboutlong ago car information that has no relevance to today’s cars… but sure soundsimpressive. Some of the stuff I thinkthey make it up, or they put some facts and fiction together and come up withtheir own conclusions.
I’ve got one of those types of guys; he comesby my shop from time to time. He’s harmless so to speak, hardly ever spends adime with me, but he’ll stop by to ask a question or two. Sometimes it’s just to borrow a tool. Of course, his way of asking a questioninvolves telling me something about the auto industry that really has nogeneral purpose other than to fill his head up with a bunch of useless facts.But, he feels it is important enough of a useless fact that I should know aboutit. Never fails, he shows up forsomething and before he leaves he will enlighten me with his latest automotivewords of wisdom. I guess it’s his way ofkeeping his title as the “All knowing of useless facts and fiction of the autoworld”.
“Youknow what year the first truck came out with a driveshaft?”
“No, I don’t,” I answered. (Does it matter right now? Today or any otherday whether or not I know what year the first truck came out with adriveshaft? I can’t recall anyone everasking me that question, but just in case it does come up I might as well findout.)
“When did the first truck come out witha driveshaft?”
“1914,” he said, “Yep… before that theywere all chain driven. That’s a fact.”
Super, now I know what year, was thefirst year, of a driveshaft driven truck. Ya never know, I might be working on acrossword puzzle later today and that exact question might be on there. It’s a good thing he mentioned it… why, Imight have spent hours searching for the answer. I should tell him “Thanx”… but just to be onthe safe side, I’ll wait ‘til after I’ve checked the crossword puzzle myself.
The other day he stopped by and told me he was working on the brakes ofhis sons GM truck. One of the longcaliper bolts was stuck.
“Ya got one of those “cheater”bars?”
“I do, but I think it would be wiser tospray some bolt release spray on it, something that would break the rust free.”
“Sure, sure, where’s your bar?”
I handed him a piece of pipe largeenough to get around the ratchet or wrench, or whatever it is he was using. He headed out of the shop and went back towork on the caliper.
I thought I was done with him when hesuddenly appeared over my shoulder while I was working under the hood of a car.
“Ya got a drill bit that’s big enough todrill out that hex head?”
I had to ask, “Did you strip it out?”
“Oh they make those things out of suchsoft material, you know.”
“Right,” Isaid sarcastically.
“You know they came out with those left handed sockets a long time ago,”he tells me, “I’ve got a few of them still in my toolbox. I was trying to takethis bolt out with one of them, shouldn’t ever use one of those except on lefthanded bolts and nuts.”
This is one of those times that I’m notgoing to even ask what the heck he’stalking about… I’m just going to find the drill bit for him, and send him backdown the road. I’ve got things to do… can’t be wasting time on this.
A few minutes later he was back… “Ya gota center punch?”
“Top right-hand drawer.”
Off he went again. Now I’m wondering…how long do I let this go on before I offer to help him? Oh, I forgot… its Mr. Know-it-all… he canhandle it. He’s got the answers to all theknown problems of the universe. Perhapshe’ll even find another use for his left handed sockets while he’s working onthe truck. I wonder if he has theratchet to go with them?
A few hours later he was back. Nowwhat does he need?
“Got a tap that will fit?”
I should have known. I should haveanticipated he would need that next. While I was digging around for the right size tap I knew I was in forsome more of his words of wisdom. It’s been a long day already; a little breakfrom reality wouldn’t hurt. Ok, what yagot… come on you always have some useless automotive knowledge you want to layon me anytime you stop by… What’s itthis time.
“Did ya know, the fastest time for removing a car engine, andreplacing it is 42 seconds on a Ford Escort, back in 1985.”
“No I didn’t know that. Here’s the tapfor that caliper bolt.” (Don’t ask for details… he’ll never leave… just handhim the tap and move on… reality is calling and staying in the twilight zonetoo long is way too dangerous. You’llget sucked up into the vortex of useless information and be swept away beforeya know it.)
The things I learn from this guy. Important stuff you know. One of these days I’ll find a need for itall. As for what purpose it will allserve, I haven’t a clue, but I should be keeping notes. I might need some of this information the nexttime Alex Tribek comes knocking.
The next day he showed up at the shopwith the piece of pipe, the drill bit, center punch, and the tap all neatlywrapped in a towel.
“Here ya go, got it done. I gotta ask ya, what do you do when one ofthose get stuck like that?”
I’m shocked, he’s asking me? This is anew chapter in his approach to auto repair. I’m going to have to sound real professional here for a moment. This is my big chance… here goes…
“I generally soak the bolt and threads withpenetrating oil and leave it sit for a few minutes. Then drive the socket in tight with a fewtaps of a hammer. Then with a bit ofpressure I’ll try to turn the bolt with a quick jerk. It comes loose that way every time.”
He stood there visualizing in his headwhat I had just told him… and then he answered.
“Well why didn’t I just ask you how todo it in the first place?”
Funny ain’t it… how some people learnfrom others and others learning by example. Then there are some who think they know it all… but really don’t knowmuch at all. Then there are guys likethis, the kind of guy who usually will find things out the only way they everfind anything out.
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