Life is a big classroom of education for car guys.


Smart car guys consult with even smarter car guys who have accumulated a wealth of mechanical knowledge over the years.

The smarter car guys have used common sense to fix a mechanical problem over the years and apply their expertise to the issue at hand. Some of them are naturals who can see the big picture while others rely upon their experience to solve the problem.




I was none of the above when I was a young car guy and was even able to create more problems along the way to a solution. I had the unique ability to turn a mechanical molehill into a mechanical Mt. Everest when I was a kid who employed a scorched earth policy when it came it simple repairs.




The first time I realized I was a mechanical idiot was an embarrassing moment when I got advice from a plumber about a car repair. He advised me to apply glue to a head gasket and I listened to him. The result was a huge flood under the hood with headwaters located just below the cylinder head.




I never asked a plumber for mechanical advice again-but I did learn how two trades are completely different in every way-including use of glue.


The second time I sensed I was a mechanical idiot was a memorable time when I confused the headlight support screws and the adjustment screws on a sealed beam headlight. The result was predictable: I screwed up the headlight alignment in a big way.




Eventually I realized my mistake and got the headlights back into their proper place. Unfortunately I was only able to light the tops of tall trees and mountains after I got the headlights back into the car.


The third time I was a mechanical idiot was also a completely unnecessary act of unchecked stupidity: I turned a simple brake shoe replacement into a major brake job when I hit the brake pedal with the drum removed from the car.




The highly predictable result was an explosion of brake fluid and wheel brake cylinder parts. The only silver lining in this IQ-free cloud was my impromptu and highly necessary education about hydraulics as they apply to a car’s brake system.


The fourth time I was a mechanical idiot was a long pointless battle to mate a manual transmission with a new clutch assembly. I was young, stupid and convinced I could jockey the tranny into position without the need for a pilot shaft.




There is always a hard way to do mechanical work and I was able to seek out the path of most resistance every time, including this scenario which was also completely unnecessary in the grand scheme of things-except to me when I was young and stupid.


The fifth time I was a mechanical idiot was actually pretty simple: I attempted to remove the lug nuts on an old Dodge truck with threads that were the opposite of typical lug nut threads. Most garden variety mechanical idiots are motivated enough to snap off wheel lugs before they figure out the program.




The saving grace for me was my age at the time because I was old enough to question why the lug nuts were stuck on the truck, so I phoned a tire shop buddy who gave me the skinny on the lug threads. I should add he gave me the answer after he stopped chuckling about my problem.


The fifth part of my confession is actually part of the learning process for mentally-challenged   mechanical students like me. Most of us learn the hard way every time we get under a hood and we should not be embarrassed or afraid to consult with the real pros when we need answers.




We just need to make sure we consult with mechanics and not plumbers when it comes to car guy issues.


BY: Jim Sutherland


Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.