Farm Life: Under the Hood

Traditionally, we think that boys on farms learn to run tractors and fix things at an early age.  After school or on Saturday, the sure place to find a farm boy would be under the hood.  I grew up in the suburbs, but my father, maybe out of an ambition to teach his sons to basic skills of auto-mechanics, or may because it cost less, taught me to change the oil and filter, drain and refill the radiator, change spark plugs, and rotate tires.  Quite frankly, I had other ambitions and am happy to employ someone with mechanical skills to do those tasks for me.  Recently, I heard a few stories about auto-mechanics that got me thinking. 

First, a friend recently purchased a new car.  She told me that this car does not have a key.  Rather, she uses the electronic gizmo that you use to automatically lock/unlock the car to start it.  Furthermore, the car does the parallel parking for you.  Hmmm.  Then another friend told a story about part of the electronics going out on her car.  She could not roll down her windows.  Try to approach a toll both, drive a little too far forward, then get out of your car to pay the toll because your window will not roll down.  That kind of makes for a scene.  Then on NPR, Frank Deford, on his weekly sport analysis piece talked about a study that NASCAR did to try to figure out why younger generations were not as enthusiastic about attending the races as their fathers.   NASCAR’s surveyors returned with the demographic news: their fathers were under the hood during their teens; their sons are on FB.  Their fathers understood all the engineering that made those cars whiz around the track and roar.  Their son’s just pull up the replay clip of the big crash or last lap between checking out YouTube clips.

1991 Ford Ranger

Is the demise of American’s love of automobiles because I have more money than interest in mechanical things, or because teens are in social networks?  Lets back up a bit.  We have three vehicles.  Looking under the hood of our 1991 Ford Ranger, I can find most of the parts that I could do something about: check the oil, coolant level, master cylinder for the brakes, air filters, spark plugs.  Sit in the cab and you can turn this crank on the door and WOW! the windows roll down.  Push this button and the doors lock.  Pull it up to unlock them.  Look at the dash board gauges, and notice that they all have little pointers, and the odometer has wheels with little numbers that count by rolling. What is missing? Electronics.

2004 Subaru Legacy

Step over to our 2004 Subaru Legacy.  Well, I can still find most of the basic engine parts.  I even changed the battery myself last year.  Sit in the cab, and without putting in the key can you see anything on the dashboard? No.  Can you roll down the windows? No.  The car’s computers has you captive.  Do I know where those computer elements are or what to do about them? No.

2005 Honda Civic Hybred (cat not included)

 

Look under the hood of our 2005 Honda Civic Hybred.  Huh?  What’s that.  Need I say more?  Now our most recent car is 7 years old.  It does not even have GPS, hands-free phone interlink to the Smart Phone that we do not have, rear view video technology, or most of the other standard packages for cars on the lot today.

My hypothesis is that all these wonders of technology make being under the hood nearly impossible without advanced training.  The other day a co-worker asked about an engine light that came on while she was driving.  She was looking in the owner’s manual, but could not figure out what this light meant.  I told her “That’s the light that tells you that you don’t know what to do and have to have someone at the dealership turn it off for you.”

Do you like to get under the hood?  What do you do when the electronics go on the blink?


(P.S. Don’t ask if this phenomenon applies to health care…)

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About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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7 Responses to Farm Life: Under the Hood

  1. Barneysday says:

    OMG! My grandmothers best friends husband had a small NE farm, and had a McCormick Farmall tractor JUST like the one in you pic. I have a picture of me sitting on it when I was about 4. I always thought that was odd, because every other farmer in the area, including my Grandfather, had Case tractors. John Deere was unheard of in that area.

    Love your post. My dad was a mechanic by training in the CC Corp in the depression, and I was “spinning a wrench” at an early age. I could tear down and rebuild an engine by the time I was in middle school, and completely rebuilt the engines on my first two cars. Brake jobs, oil changes, carburetors, differential work was something for a Saturday morning, no sweat. This is how bad it was, when I went in the Air Force and got my assignment to pilot training, while other guys in the BOQ were buying new stereos, I bought the first parts of a basic tool set. Still have it all.

    Sadly, its impossible to work on a car anymore. Spark plugs don’t need changing, distributors have gone the way of the Dodo bird, Fuel injection replaced carbs, and the computer controls everything. Other than an oil change, there are no real things left to be done by the guy in the backyard.

    No one seems to want to believe it, but the computer and electronic games have become the detriment to youth today. Where I spent all my free time as a child outside, until dark, and long after the first time my mom called me in, now its rare to see kids playing on the street. We both find it interesting that since we’ve moved up to the mountains, we see the kids in the area out playing all the time. It is refreshing.

    Thanks for a great post. Keep up the good work

    Barney

    • hermitsdoor says:

      We were fortunate to grow up in an era when we could do things with relative security; when our families has resources to provide those activities; and we all knew who the Beaver and the Eddie Haskel of the neighborhood were.

      I think that this week, we have seen the result of all of our electronics in our lives. As you mentioned, children do not play outside. When adults do not see the children they do not get to know them, and to know who is a good kid and a risky kid who needs some supervision. Then one evening, in a gated-community, the Neighborhood Watch guy encounters a youth, whom he does not know is his neighbor, and because the youth wears a hoodie, the guy perceives that he is dangerous and shoots him. Were did the youth learns that hoodies are the cool style? Probably YouTube videos and MTV. Where did the Neighbhood Watch guy get his vigilante attitude? Probably YouTube, TV crime dramas, the news.

      We see what we train ourselves to see. When we start believing what electronics brings into our homes, rather than being out and interacting with our neighbors, the world is a dangerous place.

  2. The Vicar says:

    While some of those old skills like changing oil (to hard to get under the car any more), rotating tires (I just buy new ones), and replacing the spark plugs (glad they last 100k now…. I think) were useful in the day, it seems like your youthful driving experience may not have given a well rounded automotive education. Due to some poor choices while driving, I also had to learn how to replace broken headlights, chain a bumper to a telephone pole and back the car away in hopes that the bumper would straighten (hint – once bent always bent), sourcing fenders at junk yards to replace the crumpled one. Nothing like and olive green fender on a beige car to say “good as new”.

    While these skills from my youth have certainly atrophied, I do still pump my own gas and wash my own windows. I don’t watch NASCAR, don’t own one of those jackets with all of the sponsor decals plastered on it, nor do I have a baseball cap with a big # 88 proudly displayed. But every now and then my little brother allows me to chop wood at his place and I feel a little more in touch with life….. hmmmm, I wonder if there is a Wii wood chopping game for when I’m in the city?

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Maybe NASCAR needs to develop a Wii Monster Auto Shop game. They could develop virtual tools, use the balance board as a dollie to roll under the virtual car, etc. Hey, they could even have a virtual telephone pole and fix our own wreck game. Quick, market that idea!

  3. Mother Suzanna says:

    This was a blog I wasn’t going to reply to because I don’t relate to any of that stuff. Since my first car was a four door, 1939 Dodge that I bought from Aunt Barb for $1.00, you can see why I don’t relate…I just wanted to get in my 2 cents.

  4. walkingsmall says:

    Our truck still has roll-down windows, and every time I get into it I think – ‘if it starts to rain, and flash floods come and roll me off the road into a growing river and shut out the electrical system, I can still roll down the window and crawl out.’ It was a true-life experience of an acquaintance in Texas years ago, but paranoia can last a long time in the face of engineering I will never understand.

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