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Kids are Great! --- job security at its finest


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Kids Are Great


As a parent or a grandparent, kids are a part of your life. We try raising them to be good productive citizens and teach them right from wrong. They’re our blessing and can be our discomfort at other times. We watch them take their first steps, and lose their first tooth. Every day is a new adventure as they grow and grow.


With the passage of time we all get older and so do our kids. They start out as our little bundles of joy, and then before you know it, they’re a young adult. Now, it’s not formula and diapers or training wheels on their bike, it’s time for the open road, the ultimate statement of freedom, that teenage rite of passage … a car.

A lucky few have a brand new car waiting for them, while others have to work for one on their own. For most average middle class families the solution is a cheap second hand car, or a car handed down from a relative. Sometimes it’s mom or dad’s old car or like what I had to do… I had to buy my own.

It really doesn’t matter how a car shows up in the driveway, just having one is the important part. The ability to drive somewhere is what it’s all about. At this age, instead of asking you to read them a bed time story, all they want to know is if they can drive to the football game or not. Priorities change for the teenager; however for the parent, the paternal instincts kick in a little stronger. Moms tend to worry more about their little babies getting into a wreck while the dads tend to worry whether or not the car will make it home with the transmission still in one piece. Of course those roles reverse all the time, and sometimes that parental instinct can manifest itself in all sorts of manners based on other factors like; how late you are, a speeding ticket, or when you forgot to put the car in park and it rolled down the driveway creating that new entrance into the garage.

For me, as a mechanic… kids are great for business. Those second hand cars are hardly ever checked out beforehand. Even if they were, a lot of times these well used vehicles come with a bit of baggage. Bald tires, bad shocks, check engine light on… etc… All the more reasons why it was so cheap in the first place.

Recently it was a 2000 Contour that was handed down from one relative to the next and ultimately to this lucky teenager. The engine ran but I wouldn’t call it all that great. It had a severe surging idle and a service light glaring at you. The donating relative had the car at a repair shop just before handing it down to the teenager. It’s one of those places a respectable mechanic wouldn’t even recommend having your kids tricycle repaired at.


You could tell what their method of repair was; “read code – change whatever part is mentioned in the description – if that didn’t work – try another part”. Needless to say, there were a lot of new parts bolted on everywhere you looked. The problem, a pretty simple one, if they would have taken the time to diagnose it, and not just throw parts at it, but that’s not how some people operate. All it needed was a new vacuum hose and two of the leads to the O2 sensor were cut by a careless mechanic who left the harness dangling near the alternator pulley. Easy fix.

But, that was just the start of the story on this one. Then it was a starter lead that fell apart, and a battery terminal, connections here and connections there. Most the problems I found were the results of somebody fiddling with it and not securing clips and fasteners. Some of the fasteners even looked as if they were trying to take them apart with a crow bar. It took a bit of work, but it was up and running in no time.

The last trip in was for new front brakes and rotors. Not a fault of shoddy mechanic work, but your average wear and tear. Although with a newbie driver things can get a lot worse than they really needed to be. A lack of experiencing the sound and feel of the metal backing plate grinding away on the rotor could be one reason, or it could be they are concentrating so hard on staying between the lines and stopping at intersections that they don’t notice it at all, I’m not sure which it is. There’s a learning curve there that each teenage driver has to go through. They’ve got to learn about the gauges and warning lights, how the car handles, and how important it is not to let the wiper arm drag across windshield without a blade attached.


It’s not the first time (or the last) that I’ve had mom or dad at the service counter handing over the credit card to pay for the repair with that parental look (Yea… you know the look.) while saying to their offspring something like, “You know, you’re going to have to work this off!” Yea, yea… sure pops… say what ya want, but the next time the car breaks down you’ll be back here handing that same card over, and giving that same speech again. (Chuckle, chuckle)

Like I said, “Kids are great!” their great for business! Every year there’s a new batch of them, and another batch of second hand cars that need attention. Then they’ll head off to college and I probably won’t see the car again until spring break. Hopefully, as time moves on so will that dilapidated second hand car. These future leaders of the world can take these years and learn a little something along the way about proper car maintenance and remember what that awful sound is when the brakes are metal to metal. Lesson learned.

They’ll get older too, and they’ll start a family of their own. Then the whole cycle starts all over again. More second hand cars or another hand-me-down archaic 4 wheeled dinosaur comes out of grandpas shed for the youngster. Because, you know, those old “tanks” are a whole lot safer. (Pffft … yea right, not like I haven’t heard that one before.) It’ll need some tinkering to get it road ready for the next teen driver in the family, and I’m sure I’ll be called to duty to handle it. Yep, job security at its finest.

Over the years I’ve loved to watch kids come in with their parents when I’m servicing their cars, and then to see that same little one now behind the wheel. I guess I’m part of the family in a way, just not the one paying the bill. Cause ya know, those teenage drivers like their freedom to drive but they haven’t left the nest entirely, at least not financially. They still need a little help in that department. I’m just as guilty, because I do the same for my kids too.


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Nice change, enjoyable article, and one that I can relate to as a parent and a shop owner. All my kids drove an old jalopy that I hand-picked. Perhaps the most terrifying day as a parent was the day my oldest son got his driver's license and took my other son and daughter for a ride. I stood there watching the car fading into the sunset with my three kids in it. I must have been nuts!

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Yes, it's a nice change, and such a true depiction of the real world out there. To watch my daughters and now my son drive off out of sight is not something any parent enjoys.... But life goes on. Great comments guys.

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  • 4 months later...

Being in a college town I work on these things daily. All they want is to get it patched up enough to bring it to their regular mechanic back home. I don't understand why parents put their kids in junk, wouldn't it be better to give them the more reliable car to take to college?

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