If you’re like I was when I was younger, you’re interested in cars but there’s not a clear path to become a bona fide car enthusiast. Today, we’re going to see if we can help.
First of all, cars can seem intimidating, but don’t be intimidated. Being into cars is all about what you like and what you want to know. You cannot possibly be wrong about what you like.
Sometimes people who have a lot of knowledge but not a lot of social skill will make it seem like you’re in the wrong for not knowing a 350 from a 383 from a 454. Pay no attention to those people. They’re jerks. A true master has time for simple questions, because he or she knows car culture is a community, and that community always needs new people because old timers, unfortunately for us, die off.
But sometimes it’s good to get the right answer in the wrong way, so, now and again, you might have to deal with people being a little crusty. With that in mind, let’s get going. Here’s step one to becoming a car enthusiast:Embrace not knowing.
Embrace Not Knowing
At our homemade car show Crossthreaded, we embrace not knowing as if it were our long lost Papa back from the great war. It’s better to be delighted when something appears to occasionally go right than to get depressed when things have a few flaws.
On to step two, or possibly two and three.
Try Everything and Let it Take Time
You might know you think cars are cool, but you might not realize there’s some facet of this giant world that really does it for you more than the rest. The best thing you can do is try absolutely everything, and I mean from NASCAR to autocross to changing your own oil.
I can go ahead and tell you that for me, changing my own oil is a pretty boring job and I’d just as soon have a couple of fellas down at the Lube and Stroke do it for me for $20, but maybe you find it to be meditative. The only reason I know I don’t care for it is I’ve done it. I’ve also tried meditating and it ain’t for me either, so there you go.
Car enthusiasm is something that can bring you joy for your entire life until you’re a wrinkled old wheeze bag on your deathbed. You’ll call your great grandchildren close, and whisper to them, “Hodgson was right about oil changes. They aren’t fun.”
But seriously, try everything, have fun with it, and let it take time.
Let’s do step C.
If you’re going to wrench, get the right wrench.
Understand that if you’ve decided to work on cars, you are now not only a car enthusiast but a tool collector as well. That’s because using the wrong tool leads to abject misery. Would you use an adjustable wrench as a rectal thermometer? Probably not.
You will run into enough stripped out fasteners in your life without rounding the good ones off with the wrong tool. So use the right tool. Lots of places like Autozone and Advance Auto will let you borrow specialized tools like left handed screwdrivers and fallopian tubes.
Just kidding, don’t ask for those. Screwdrivers work in either hand, and fallopian tubes are out of stock. But you can go on Advance or AutoZone’s web sites to see what tools they loan out.
On to Step Five(?).
Forums are your Friend, but Manuals are your guide
It seems to me like Facebook groups are slowly taking the place of forums, but my point is that you can look up almost anything you’d need to know online. Someone on the enthusiast forums for your make and model will have the answer.
For an even faster response, post the wrong answer, and someone who needs a little self-esteem boost will correct you. That internet phenomenon is called Godwin’s Law.
But lots better than forums or facebook are the factory service manuals. If you can get your hands on those for your make and model, they’ll seem pricey, but worth it.
Damn the Torpedoes!
That’s a phrase supposedly uttered by Admiral David Farragut at the battle of Mobile Bay. Historians question that it happened, but the story goes that Farragut wanted to know why the ship he was on wasn’t advancing. He was told there were torpedoes, or naval mines in their path, to which he supposedly responded, “I just peed my breeches!”
No. Not really.
You are going to have problems as a car enthusiast. Floor pans are going to rust out. Head gaskets are going to fail. Electronics are going to conspire to bedevil you until you’re ready to chuck a cup of gas and a kitchen match into your car and kick the whole burning mess into a lake.
You just gotta soak that up as part of the game. Don’t let it discourage you. It helps if you’re not attempting an engine swap the day before you have to drive to work, but, if you have to take a cab or walk, well, consider it a learning moment.
So, to sum up:
Embrace not knowing.
Let it Take Time
If You’re gonna Wrench, Get the right wrench
Damn the Torpedoes!
I say all this because it took me a long time to get properly into cars. No one in my family gives half a fart about them as anything more than an appliance that moves far away places closer to you. I had to teach myself, so my hope is that this series can be the guide I wished I had as a kid.
Thanks a bunch for reading! Come have a look at our YouTube channel, Crossthreaded. We’d love to have you as a subscriber and we’d love you even more if you could throw us some support on Patreon. Check out our web site at http://crossthreaded.us and if you see any torpedoes in your path, give ‘em a good old damning for me.