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Monthly Archives: July 2010

Girly vs. Burly

Ever have one of those super productive days where you stop and sit at the end of it all and can’t remember a blasted thing you did?

That was this morning at the garage for me.

Highlights as they make sense in my fuzzy brain:

-Drove the Bobcat in order to get my project engine to and from the wash bay.
-Discovered that diluted oil looks like brownie batter.
-Replaced a resisting resistor.
-Shagged cars.
-Puttered around at Master Chief’s elbow all morning.

Etc. Etc.

Did I mention the Bobcat? I kind of geek out whenever I see a Bobcat now. Johnny likened it to a set of video game controls. Only bigger. And diesel. Apparently you can also do tricks with them. This may in fact be one of my new aspirations in life. Doing tricks with a heavy piece of machinery.

Replacing the resistor, however, demonstrated that in the automotive industry, size really doesn’t matter.

After her route this morning one of the drivers brought in a Suburban with a complaint about the truck’s fan settings. The A/C worked on high but at no other point. Based on his previous experiences, Master Chief surmised that a resistor had gone bad and set me to work at removing it.

On these older Suburbans, the fan motor is behind the glovebox in a nest of wires and relays. With the glovebox insert out, it presented little trouble for me to remove the series of relays bolted in front of the resistor in question. It took me a good 15 minutes longer than it would have taken Master Chief, but because of the confined area I could get both hands in there to finesse the old resistor out and the new one in. Whereas he would have found it a bit more of a tight fit.

Sometimes wrench turning’s like that. My transmissions instructor often made a point of that. In some situations a bigger hammer is necessary. But others require more of a soft paws approach.

When torquing down the wheels of the Suburbans to 120 foot pounds, I need to be a burly. But on other things, having small hands and slender forearms — essentially being just a bit girly — is more of an asset. It’s all about learning how to get the job done with the tools you have.

In this field I’m always going to be slight in stature in comparison to my male counterparts. It’s just going to be a matter of figuring out how to work it without being mistaken for being weak.

Ninjamechanic does not do weak.


The Man Card and the Minivan

Recently, the Chicago Tribune printed an editorial about “Chrysler’s manly minivan.” In it, Chrysler’s vague rumblings about introducing a new contender, a man van, in the minivan category are discussed and dissed.

Here’s the rationale:
-It’s not macho enough.
-It’s not sporty enough.
-It’s not ballsy enough.

Never mind that SUVs effectively replaced minivans as the way to shuttle the family around. Never mind that with today’s technology Chrysler stands a good chance of producing a more fuel economic vehicle in this size vehicle class.

I guess this is why I’m into cars on the wrench-turning side of things rather than sitting down at the drawing board. I’m just too dang practical.

The minivan seems forever cast as the vehicle of soccer moms and even though it’s the 21st century this is the conversation we’re having.

I’m a proud VW owner but my Beetle is often referred to as a “girl car.” In my case, it’s true. The yellow Beetle is just so dang chipper I always have to do a double take whenever I see a man behind the wheel of one. But I wouldn’t classify the Beetle as an outright “girl car.”

It is compact but does petite stature necessitate such a designation? What about the MINI Cooper then? Or any other compact with aerodynamic design?

When I worked as a reporter in Georgia my co-worker and friend, Michael, also had a Beetle for which he received a trunkload of flak from our city point of contact. He went as far as to suggest revocation of Michael’s Man Card because of his “girl car.” To which Michael responded by driving to city hall in his 2001 Mustang Bullitt GT and promptly ending any future Beetle sass.

If Chrysler wants to roll out a minivan that appeals to the mass male market then there’s nothing a Ninja Mechanic to do to stop them. I’d just rather stereotypes and other unrealistic expectations not play such a large role in determining what a buyer wants.

Bring on the man van with a hemi I guess.

Cleanliness is Mechanically Awesome

This is just to say that mechanics are not filthy human beings.

In fact, I am of the opinion that any mechanic worth his or her snuff probably has a cleaner and more organized bay/garage/workspace than clothes closet. I’m not a full mechanic yet but my closet is a disaster area. Meanwhile at the garage, I’m very aware of putting everything in its place and fastidiously cleaning once a job is done.

Beyond the safety element of maintaining a clean garage it’s also a really great way to save hassle further down the line.

Today I saw a great example of why this practice is far more common and more productive than you might expect. We started another annual on a Suburban today, but about halfway through the morning one of the maintenance team’s vans came in needing a brake job. Since the other light fleet mechanic is out on holiday this week we planned to pull the van into his bay rather than work in the yard and the hot sun. The other mechanic had just finished a job before the long weekend, but hadn’t had time to spit-shine his bay so we did some prep sweeping of his area.

Although the van’s just in to have its front brakes inspected, it now has a ticket in to replace the water pump as well. While I removed its tires for the brake job, the van dripped antifreeze onto the freshly swept floor — a detail we would have missed had we not taken the time to clean up.

Since I’m interning in a fleet environment this will be a relatively painless fix. The maintenance team will be down a vehicle for a few days but in the long run the problem’s been identified and caught before it could lead to a much more expensive repair. In a dealership or independent garage environment, however, Mr. Customer might get his finger waggling and accuse that dirty rotten mechanic of breaking things on his car and expecting him to foot the bill. This isn’t necessarily so but would be a bit more arduous to explain that sometimes having a clean parking surface can uncover a lot of hidden problems.

So yes. When your car’s in the shop for routine maintenance and the service writer comes back with a grocery list of things to fix, don’t be too quick to think the mechanic is out to get you. Chances are the troubles were just lurking under the hood like gremlins waiting to sully up the clean garage floor rather than creations of the greasy mechanic’s devious mind.