Getting back to the basics in The Garage

Having worked in the car industry as long as I have, I’ve always wondered what prompts people to do things like change their own oil in the middle of winter. Really, the labour component of any oil change is usually somewhere between 8 to 12 bucks. Is the self satisfaction of changing one’s own oil really that great or are you just that cheap. I suspect there is a bit of truth to both. Personally, I’m cheap.

My actual career in the car industry (as opposed to my obsession with cars) began in a lube pit. My second job in a shop also put me in the pit for most of my working days. It was dirty, nasty work and I loved almost every minute of it because I was working with cars. Without exaggeration, I have changed the oil in literally thousands of other people’s cars.

As I moved onwards in my career, my time actually working on cars became few and far between. I might have done one or two oil changes a year when the shop was so busy that the job just had to be done. It is funny then to think that I haven’t actually changed the oil in one of my own vehicles in 20 years! That’s what apprentices are for! Likewise, I haven’t done an oil change on jack stands in just as long. Until today.

I learned a few things today. I need a new trolley jack, as mine came unglued as I attempted to lift the front end to put the second stand under the car. I tore it apart, replaced a bent pin and a blown seal and cleaned a spluge of hydraulic oil off my leg. My trolley jack now works properly, but I want a new one.

Next up: I have issues! Yes, I already know I’m a fat guy with a bad back. It had not occurred to me that this rotundity would affect my ability to crawl under a car on stands. Being wedged between a car and the driveway is not the most confidence inspiring position. The filter on Mamma G’s Mazda Protege5 isn’t accessible from the top, so I had no choice but to get up close and personal with the undercarriage.

Thirdly, I need to consolidate the locations of my tools. Since I haven’t had a project car in a while, it seems that everything I might need is in a different part of the house or in a different tool box.

What began as a simple oil change turned into summer tire install, brake service, wash and vac.

Beyond my sore back and dented pride, the highlight of the day was the assistance of my learner’s permit holding teenage daughter. It was really cool working alongside her and putting her to work. She has now taken part in her first oil change and the next one will be all her, with Dad’s guidance of course. I know that of all of her friends, male and female, she will likely be the only one who actually knows her way around the car.

Now if I can just get her to wear something other than a bikini while she’s working on the car…


  1. Leighton Irwin says

    The can of Castrol R brings back memories of the lovely smell.
    When I raced my sports racing car I was for a couple of years supplied with BP ‘R’ out the back of the BP truck as I was not a BP contract driver. I was contracted to another oil company and used their product in my thirsty tow car but ‘R’ in the race car. Then BP dropped out darn it.
    Later when Judy was running Methanol we added a little bit of Castrol ‘R’ to the fuel to provide lubrication for the valves. The Methanol would wash everything clean and regular mineral oil would not mix with the Methanol so ‘R’ which is vegatable based was used. Soon switched to synthetic and lost the lovely smell. There were other things added to the Methanol which I won’t mention!

  2. says

    May must have been the "do it yourself" month for many folks. Happy to see that you are crawling around cars.
    You did an oil change, and I did a brake job

    There is the sense of satisfaction in doing it yourself, and it does turn into a family project. The complementary wash/vacuum is providing "good service"!

  3. Crash Corrigan says

    Well done mate, I'm proud of you! One thing though…Don't ever think about following your daughter's ways and wearing a bikini whilst working on your car as that's just too hideous an image for my brain to handle :-)

    BTW: That can of Castrol R picture bought back some happy memories for me…We used to run that stuff in our two-stroke dirt bikes back in the 70's (Scramblers we called them in the UK) and I can still close my eyes and recall that fantastic smell in the paddock…Forget Brut or any other aftershave, sweaty worn leathers caked in Castrol R fumes is the way to go :-)

    • Viceroy says

      Do you know if Castrol R is still available. I introduced my son to it many years ago by putting a few drops on the lawn mower exhaust. Cutting the grass was a special time.
      If it is still available I would like to purchase some for similar "smellovision" experiences.

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