We live in a namby-pamby world where kids are not exposed to the real world enough to make a difference in their lives.

Over-protective and obsessively interfering parents embrace a sanitized and safe world that offers too few challenges and too many participation trophies to kids.

Just for the record, video games are not legitimate life challenges — unless you live in cartoon world.


There are many ways to change that grim reality and we at MyStarCollectorCar believe the car hobby is one of the best ways to build character through challenge for younger generations. The safe cocoon of a disconnected cyber-world stunts their emotional growth and prohibits entry to the real-life world of challenges and potential failure where character is developed along the way. 

The first lesson? Get rid of the kid’s cell phone, possibly as a trade for (or down payment on) an old car. Either that or run the phone over — several times for effect if the spirit moves you. Take the kid back to a simpler time and introduce Junior to a vintage ride with mechanical everything in its major DNA.

There is no electronic barrier between a modern kid and an old car, unlike every element of today’s cyberworld. The skinned knuckles, scrapes and bruises are real in the car hobby, but so are the challenges and rewards of a successful project. 

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The second lesson is simple: teach the kid how to change a flat tire. Changing a tire should be a rite of passage on the road to adulthood, but it has become a lost skill in this dial-a-tow-truck age. Know what happens when a tow truck driver changes your flat tire? He also hooks up to your adulthood and drives away with that priceless asset.

The third lesson is also pretty simple: teach the kid how to change the oil on a car. The process will connect the kid to the vehicle in a tangible way, plus it will answer a question about the daily duties of the people who perform this task every day on the job, plus it will eliminate the need to hand them a debit/credit card to settle the bill for their services. Hands-on oil changes are not rocket science, but they are automotive kindergarten for budding car guys.

The fourth lesson helps build the library of experience and character for prospective car guys: teach the kid how to replace the spark plugs in a vehicle. The process may also seem simple, but it will be a more difficult task if, for example, the plugs are hidden behind an exhaust manifold in a crowded engine compartment.

The lesson will become even more complicated if the prospective young car guy breaks a stubborn spark plug during the removal process. Sure the stakes will get higher if there is a breakage problem, but it will be a real-world problem with strong potential for a real-world happy ending once the faulty spark plug is finally removed from the engine.

The fifth and final lesson follows a pattern because MyStarCollectorCar has showcased some extremely basic car guy skills and realize they will develop complicated car guy skills during their learning curve in the car hobby. They need to start somewhere in the car hobby and number 5 on our list follows this pattern: teach a kid how to change out the light bulbs on a car.

Our final addition may seem too simple: bulb replacement, but it is important to note our MyStarCollectorCar list includes dash lights, as well as headlights and taillights in the mix. Instrument light replacement may require a neurosurgeon’s manual dexterity or slight dash disassembly (maybe both) to achieve success.

Headlight replacement may appear to be a basic process, but rookie car guys need to avoid messing with the adjustment screws when they remove the headlights. Additionally, they need to avoid breaking park, signal and brake lights when they replace them.  

As mentioned, these junior car guy lessons are uncomplicated by comparison to the daunting mechanical challenges faced by more experienced car hobby practitioners as they advance their skill set, but every car guy knows it is difficult to dive into the deep end when you don’t know how to swim.

The lessons start with a missing cell phone.     

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.