Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oily to bed, oily to rise

As far back as I can remember, I have changed the oil on my cars by myself. It's a small thing, I know, but one that gives me just a little bit of satisfaction, as if my car's performance is, even is a tiny way, due in part to something I did myself. My dad showed me how to do this most basic aspect of auto maintenance on my Ford Tempo many years ago, and even though he has performed the operation a few times here and there while I was indisposed (thank you very much, Dad. I appreciate it), I have, for the most part, done it myself. That is to say, I have never taken one of my cars to a mechanic or auto shop to have it done. Since most places charge around $20, and a do-it-yourself job costs around $12, I'm not exactly saving a lot of money. I do it just to provide myself with membership in that echelon of dudes who do their own car work, even though it's really nothing that special. I can't remove an alternator, rebuild a transmission, or tell what that clanking sound coming from the back tire is, but goshdarnit, I change my own oil. So there.

One problem inherent in the changing of one's own auto oil, though, is the concept of space, and for me, a distinct lack of it. We live in an apartment, and even if it were not frowned upon to perform car maintenance in the building parking lot, I would be hard-pressed to store the used oil or even make sure none of it got spilled on the pavement. As such, I have to use my cousin's house, my dad's garage (I change the oil, in whatever car we drive, ever time we are in Lincoln), or my friend Sarah's father's garage. And lately it has been the latter, for which I owe a great debt of gratitude. He doesn't mind if I come over, take up half his garage, and spend a half hour maintaining one of our autos, all the while (more often than not, anyway) unwittingly spreading a fresh coat of Quaker State on his concrete floor.

But today I experienced the most dreaded of all oil-changing problems: the filter would not come off.

There I was, lying on the floor, my hands burnt in two places from the engine manifold, wrestling with a stubborn Wix filter that was firmly ensconced on its post on the underside of my wife's 1992 Geo Prizm. See, the trouble is, I usually go for the Fram TG4967 filter, but the last time I had given this car a new 3,000 mile lease on life, the parts store I went to only had the Wix equivalent (and I'm not talking Drew, mind you). And my filter cap ratchet wrench attachment was just slightly too big for the filter. I could not get the thing off, despite many attempts with and without the adapter. Sarah even drove me to Checker to get a different wrench, which did not work, and I thought I would have to resort to the "jam a screwdriver through it" method.

But then, wonder of wonders, Sarah's dad, who got home while we were at the store, came out and was able to get the filter off with his bare hands. It took a great deal of heaving, grunting, and wide-eyed stares from me and Sarah, but the man actually did it. And all I could do was watch and stare, while my sense of dudley-ness drained out like so much 5W-40.

But now George the Geo has a brand-new Fram, and is good to go for another 3K, so I have that much time to brush up on the ol' biceps, just in case. Now if I could only figure out that clanking sound...

1 comment:

s to the j said...

don't worry dude, you're still pretty manly :) you'd never find my guy doing manly things like changing his own oil...or anything car-related. he can't even get to the oil-change place on a regular schedule. so cheers to you for doing what you can do! :)

and see ya tonight ;)