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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys,

While listening to NPR with my wife the other day, a book was reviewed that really made me think about how much our mechanic's world is changing. Cars are getting more mysterious to work on, becoming more inaccessible to the common mechanic. The author of the book "Shop Class As Soulcraft" proposes that this represents a shift in the consciousness of the world's mindset. People are afraid to work on their own appliances, vehicles, houses, etc. We are loathe to delve into a device and troubleshoot. We would rather send it to get repaired by a professional. And at that point, most professionals will replace components and assemblies rather than fix existing ones. Even more sad is the fact that our educational systems have shifted away from the idea that the trades are a viable and respectable way of life.

We need to remember how valuable these skills are that we hold. We need to take pride in the fact that we are always finding new ways to troubleshoot, that we learn and have an intense capacity to be creative in our endeavors to keep our vehicles on the road. The home mechanic has become less prevalent in modern society and we need to keep the fire alive by continuing to learn from our trials and each other. It's time we are recognized for the unique breed of intuition and intelligence that we possess. We are not just a bunch of blundering greasy ********.

Here's a link to an excerpt from the book:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106513632

What do you guys think?
 

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I quite agree with this, man. It takes a skill most people don't know, or care about these days, to repair a car, let alone finagle things together on a limited budget. Sure, it's not glorious, and we get dirty doing repairs, but there's nothing like having an engine come to life that was just a pile of parts a day or two before.

I also agree that people should shift back toward the trade mindset (if it's really that) or at least learn how and why things work so they can be a little more independent in today's world. For me, if something breaks, I take it apart and find out why. Because of that I've learned, as well as repaired a lot of "junk" that was given to me.

Here's a scenario: I get an Escort as junk. I have parts lying around and knowledge to fix it. I get a menial job cooking pizzas. It provides money to have machine work that I don't have the tools for to be done. I take care of the fine details, and am still driving on that car. Total cost was around $1200. Was it worth it? I couldn't have bought a reliable car around here for that price. Obviously I've spent more over the years to keep it on the road...but it was still cheaper, and I like the little thing.

"We are not just a bunch of blundering greasy ********...." I should put this in my signature.
 

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The problem now is that so many things are being designed by the manufacturer, from refrigerators to cars, to be non-serviceable. You just unbolt entire assemblies and replace them. I think electrical engineering knowledge is a lot more important now than mechanical engineering.
 

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I think both are pretty important, but as cars become more technologically involved, the mechanics are easily overlooked. I think that's why we have stupid things going out on cars today. One example is a simple belt tensioner on a friend's '03 Corolla having to be replaced by 50 thousand miles. That's a bit low. Another example would be how car makers claim auto trannies don't have to be flushed or have fluid replaced, yet this has been proven wrong almost as much as it's been proven right. We can also see new car bodies having odd rust problems, as well. I've noted a lot of Toyota trucks having extremely weak lug nuts, or brakes and rotors wearing out in less than 20 thousand miles. I think these are good indications that we've forgotten about solid mechanical engineering.

Remember that the modern electronics are not yet proven. Sure, 20 year old vehicles still roam the road, but they're not entirely common these days. Why is it they failed? Was it the electronics, or the mechanics that wore out? Or was the whole car designed that way?

Another way to look at things is this way: computers don't last that long anymore. Not just for obsolescence, but I've noticed a trend in faster computers breaking sooner. I've seen ancient computers still run just as fast as they ever did. I've had a few from about 5 years ago that were plagued with motherboard problems. The same goes for micro electronics. If we became a society of repairing instead of replacing, we'd likely find ways to improve or replace the very designs that give so many problems.
 

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Auto makers thrive on a market like this, considering they're making a lot more money selling new cars to people every few years rather than inexpensive easily serviced parts. After all, where would auto manufacturers be if the average car lasted even 20 years without major problems?

I don't even want to own stuff if I don't know how it works. That's why I build all my computers from quality parts instead of buying assembly-line junk of questionable integrity. People think I'm crazy for wanting to fix up a 20 year old car instead of just buying a nearly new one, but at least when something breaks I'll know why, and I sure won't be paying out the butt for an inexperienced mechanic to do it for me.

I feel eternally indebted to my current auto shop teacher, and my high school as well, for allowing such a class to even exist in a world where the average kid is mercilessly pushed through the academic system to wind up in the highest paying desk job they can get. Repairing cars may not be glamorous, but to me it's a far more appealing prospect than wasting away in some cubicle.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Amen to that. I worked in an office environment for 7 years. For the past 10 years I've been working on my own stuff, learning by mistakes, learning by problems. I never went to any school to learn what I know - and now I work in a dealership. Granted, I am VERY green on a lot of things, but I've had enough experience through the necessity of fixing my own things to figure things out.

It's a shame that mechanics are not respected for the work they do. It's s job you can't take to someone overseas. Without us, this nation's transportation infrastructure would collapse.

With the way the economy is, I see more and more people holding on to their older cars. I predict that people will have to start re-thinking our "throw away" consciousness. It's a shame that people have to be pushed into a corner to realize that self-reliance is the way to go, but that's humanity for ya.

I wish I was a teenager in the 50's though. Getting to work on old cars, rebuild alternators, starters, engines, heads, brake cylinders, etc. Those guys are the backbone of the knowledge that the assembly-replacing automotive world stands upon.
 

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I'll be back in an office environ it seems....not too bad for the back problems, but I do like working on my car.

Mechanics aren't respected because they're hidden away behind OSHA regulations that keep the public away for the most part. Plus, people don't want to see the dirt and grease that most cars accrue over the many miles. They don't care how it works, so long as it works just how they want it. I've heard of people having problems with squeaks when hitting bumps....seriously. They think a squeak is the end of the world, and have no idea how complex a car is to make, or the amount of energy goes into making one, marketing, design, or even the individual pieces. They're still considered one of the hardest things to make, despite all the technological advances.

I attended a couple years of college, and learned literally nothing usable. I taught myself how to play guitar, how to repair electronics, how to cook, how to build and repair computers, how to work on cars. It came from being dirt poor, with barely enough money for food (and sometimes we didn't eat). That trend continues a little to this day, but it's not as bad...especially since people give me their "junk" since they don't know the value of it. A dead mixer to one church is a gold mine of home-brew guitar effects pedals to me. An "old" computer can be overclocked, and made to run much faster than it used to...sometimes faster than the person's new computer they paid 3 grand for :p.

I think people will eventually come to this way of life while the economy stinks. If it gets worse, the more people will come this way. It's been proven that repairing a car is cheaper, and I've heard ads about just that.

I do have to admit I'd also like to live in the 50's, when things were so fresh it seems. Heck, 3 speeds was bleeding edge, and mechanical injection was extremely rare and almost cult-like it seems. Maybe it's a romanticized view. I just like fixing things, dangit! Does that make me an idiot? Nope...it's saved me many, many thousands of dollars. Do that Geico!
 

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UnexplodedCow said:
I attended a couple years of college, and learned literally nothing usable. I taught myself how to play guitar, how to repair electronics, how to cook, how to build and repair computers, how to work on cars.
I had a similar experience. Remember the Chris Rock routine from his first HBO special where he cracked on community colleges? It was exactly like that for me. Open book tests, no roll call, etc, I could sleep through classes and gets A's and B's. A complete joke. Anyway point being, educational standards are so watered down that you can learn a lot more by teaching yourself.

UnexplodedCow said:
I do have to admit I'd also like to live in the 50's, when things were so fresh it seems. Heck, 3 speeds was bleeding edge, and mechanical injection was extremely rare and almost cult-like it seems. Maybe it's a romanticized view. I just like fixing things, dangit! Does that make me an idiot? Nope...it's saved me many, many thousands of dollars. Do that Geico!
Yeah but if you lived in the 50's you wouldn't have any of that new stuff like refigerators and Ford-o-matic. You'd be down at the shop talking about the best ways to keep your '32 Model A running. :lol:
 
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