Car Repairs

I learned how to work on cars out of necessity, after buying my first one, a 20-year-old clunker that despite being garaged most of its life, had certainly not been cared for. I soon discovered that I actually enjoyed tinkering around with my engine's fiddly bits, and I resolved to remain a grease monkey forevermore.

Then in 2003, frustrated by my lack of a garage and lured in by easy credit, I did the unthinkable: bought a brand-new car. It was cheap and utilitarian; a Kia Spectra with a stick shift and no frills whatsoever. I have to say, this little car has been one hell of a workhorse. It has transported me without complaint for over 8 years, even when I had a trailer hitch bolted onto it and made the poor thing haul an entire apartment's worth of furniture and boxes across the Rocky Mountains to California. The only work I've ever needed done on it was an alignment readjustment after I spent a week tearing around deeply-rutted gravel roads. Oh yeah, and one brake job. Not bad at all for over 100,000 miles.

So when it started dripping oil in non-trivial quantities, I was a little sad, but also kind of excited. After eight years, here I was, with a fixable problem, and tools and space to work. I was back, baby!

I performed some exploratory surgery, did some extensive research online (YouTube will be the Haynes manual of this generation, I suppose), and ordered some parts. In one afternoon, I replaced the valve cover gasket, spark plugs, and air filter, and gave the old girl her first at-home oil change. This was by far the most satisfying bit of auto repair I've ever done. I did everything I set out to do, I never had to backtrack or undo anything I'd done, and I never got stuck and had to ask for help loosening a bolt or holding something up while I screwed it on. And when I was done, my little Kia was running better than it had in ages--plus, the awful gasoline smell it had been radiating when the engine was cold had disappeared. (Really, I should have replaced the spark plugs a loooong time ago.)

After a couple of showers and some me-time with a nail brush, I really enjoyed basking in my victory. I have to admit, I'm kind of looking forward to the next repair I have to do.

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