April 10, 2017 Matthew

How to Turn a Six Year Old into a Mechanic in Two Minutes.

The neighbor kids, three boys between 4 and 8, came over the other day as they often do to watch me work on a 1974 Land Cruiser restoration project.

How the bumper is supposed to look. #fj40restoration

A post shared by Matt Pennock (@motoclimbermatt)


I had a variety of tools on the ground which, as always, seem to catch their attention. In fact they were only interested in the tools, and what I was doing with them. They could care less about the classic 1974 FJ40. As they saw I was O.K. with them checking out all the tools lying around on the ground, they began to pick up the larger more powerful tools like the torque wrench and the tie-rod pry bar and proceeded to experiment with “helping” me on the Cruiser. I instructed them to be careful and let ’em at it.

When I was their age it was at this point I would hear “DON’T TOUCH THAT” when it came to just about anything in the adult domain. Whether distant family members or other elders, the communication was clear. Things of the adult domain were off-limits for kids. I don’t think I began to experience a little bit of responsibility stretching exercises from my elders until I was fourteen. Even then, it was rare.

Kids at this age need exposure, trust, and responsibility exercise. What they miss out on here at this stage of life they will inevitably make up for later in their adult life as seen through the all-too-common attitude, “Why should I do anything for them? Nobody does anything for me.” The early years of our lives is where that attitude gets birthed.

Don’t be that guy.

After the boys’ mother called for them to return for dinner, the youngest struggling to peel himself away from the raw power in his hands, I heard the middle brother run off saying, “I’m gonna tell my mom I’m gonna be a mechanic.”

Believe it or not, the nation’s supply of mechanics is in decline. And 98% of the nation’s mechanics are men. It is supposed that the advent of high-tech careers have caused other careers such as mechanical repair to lose their luster. I’m sure this is a factor, but what if we were also to factor in that 30% of boys grow up without their father at home? Add to that the percentage of fathers who are at home but still “gone”? And how many times have parents gawked at their children, “DONT TOUCH THAT” rather than taking the time to instruct them? Do you think that mothers, with their ever gentle and protective love are so apt to introduce their sons to “dangerous” things?

And now the demand for auto repair is very high, the supply low, and the wait lists long. But where we are really paying for it is that some 80%+ (by my counts and others) of auto repair shops are ripping the shirt and pants off you because they can. I have seen women from my church and elsewhere coming to me with quotes for repair jobs at $150/hour and parts that have been marked up 130%. I recently was handed a quote by a lady from church that had listed a part for $747 that I could have ordered for a little over $100. Another woman was minutes away from taking her car into a shop to have the ignition repaired for $350. I told her to bring it over, and I did it in a couple of hours with a $20 part. What’s particularly sad is that these shops are particularly taking advantage of women. They know they have money, they know they have jobs, and they know that they have no clue.

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