Where Did Mr Fix It Go?

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Blog entry by Brad posted 03-01-2012 07:24 PM 2211 reads 0 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The other day my wife called me and said “Um my check engine light went on and my car won’t go.” I could almost hear my wallet gasp in terror as she told me this. So like any husband who gets a call like this my response was “Where are you ill come get you.” so I went and got her and the car home and tried to decide what to do next. I’ve been under,over, and through this Chevy Trailblazer a dozen times for various reasons but at 150k miles I’ll admit I started dreaming of a new F150 crew cab, then I started having nightmares about a new car payment. Ok I better try to fix this myself. So over the past few days I’ve been on the hunt with this car to fix the issue which at the end of the day seems to have been a bad accelerator position sensor about $160 part and two bolts to replace. When I retold this tale of auto issues and my ensuing quest for a fix a few guy friends of mine responded with “Really you fixed it yourself? How did you know how?” Now I know some of you are probably wondering if this is going to be some post on how awesome I am or how I triumphed over a mechanical challenge but my real purpose of this post was to ask the question ” Where has Mr fix it gone?” Why are the majority of people so surprised when we fix something ourselves or build a piece of furniture? Somewhere along our path in the past few decades as men I think we were told “Why do it yourself if someone else can do it for you.” This bothers me. I will say i might be a bit young to complain about “young people” but I find it scary that the younger generations are no longer being taught in school about auto shop, woodworking, metal craft, and just how to do physical stuff in general. I know as my young son grows up I certainly will be teaching him the determination of fixing it himself and the value and pride one feels when they can say “I did/made/fixed/built that.” I think our community of woodworkers and amateur tradesmen has a responsibility to mentor the younger generation in the art of DIY I guess my question to all you out there how did Mr Fix It turn into Mr Call Someone and what can we do to change this?

-- Brad --

23 comments so far

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 4895 days

#1 posted 03-01-2012 07:30 PM

Hey Brad, I have found this all my life, not just with ‘kids these days’.
People are blow away that I can replace a hot water heater. I mean – come on people.
I have never understood it. I love to fix things and design things. So did my parents, so I guess some of it is taught. But some of it seems to be inherited too.

Turn off ESPN and video games would be a way to start.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Manitario's profile


2818 posts in 3896 days

#2 posted 03-01-2012 07:42 PM

I grew up with a father that would attempt to do stuff himself, his father was the same way. Partly out of interest, partly out of financial necessity. I didn’t pay much attention and therefore didn’t learn much from my father, however, once I moved out on my own and had my own house learning to fix stuff became more of a need. Eg. I could spend $100 to have a plumber do a 20 minute job re-routing some copper pipes in the basement during renos, or I could learn to solder copper and do it myself. There’s a certain amount of pride that comes with fixing something yourself. I have a list of things that I’m willing to pay someone to do, not because I can’t do it, but because it is such a PITA that I’d rather just put out the money, eg. drywalling/taping/sanding. I guess if I’d grown up with a father who didn’t fix anything himself, I’d probably be less inclined to tackle projects myself.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View MOwood's profile


36 posts in 4795 days

#3 posted 03-01-2012 08:15 PM

I couldn’t agree more! I also grew up watching my father fix things. We grew up on a farm and that was just the way of life, if something broke you fixed it. I have been very concerned with how more and more schools today cut programs that teach wood working, metal working or even home ec but they wouldn’t dare cut funding to the football or basketball team. I have been away from the farm for about 15 years now and work in manufacturing. I am amazed at how many people cannot read a tape measure or a set of prints. It is a core problem in our country that no one seems to be addressing.

My kids call me “Mr Fixit” and I hope someday their kids do too!

View Dchip's profile


271 posts in 4265 days

#4 posted 03-01-2012 08:23 PM

I would love to be able to fix everything myself, but there’s a limit to one’s time in learning. You’re fortunate enough to have learned it from someone willing to teach you for (I’m assuming here) free. What are the options of, say, a 27-year old who knows no one that knows how to do this stuff? I read books, watch videos and tinker, but often the first time you tackle something yourself there’s just as much of a chance of making it worse. And on a car, that’s a pricey lesson.

My dad actually taught me a lot of stuff (I can change a tire, oil, etc. which may not be a lot here but is still probably a small percentage of my generation), but he wasn’t a mechanic. Short of learning it through adolescence or a couple of stretches at technical schools, I don’t see how someone can master everything and still have a non- “jack-of-all-trades” career. And I do my best not to waste any time on TV, video-games, etc.

All this isn’t even taking into consideration the whole idea of it just not being financially worth someone’s time (assuming their time is far more valuable than mine). Sorry for the rant, this struck a cord as I will be bringing in my car for repairs quite soon and will most likely pay dearly for it.

-- Dan Chiappetta, NYC,

View ChuckV's profile


3358 posts in 4540 days

#5 posted 03-01-2012 08:41 PM

Another aspect of this is that some things are just not as fixable as they used to be. When I was young, my Dad was the electronic fix-it guy at his workplace. He was always coming home with a coworker’s TV or radio. I loved to watch him test tubes and other components and make the fix. But, what I learned no longer applies. The days of taking a box full of tubes into Montgomery Ward, using their tester and then ordering the replacement parts are gone.

Similarly, I was great at keeping my 1970 Dodge Dart running in top form. Now motor vehicles are not so easy for the average owner to maintain.

-- "Join the chorus if you can. It'll make of you an honest man." - I. Anderson

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4321 days

#6 posted 03-01-2012 08:52 PM

I am the same way in that I will not pay someone to do something I can do myself. I have never started a project that ended up having to call someone to come complete what I started. I feel that I am pretty much able to determine beforehand if I am knowledgable and skilled enough to take it on. When I buily my new workshop several years ago I paid a crew to frame it up and put the roof on since it was more than I could handle by myself…other than that I usually get on it myself.

View Richard's profile


1944 posts in 3703 days

#7 posted 03-01-2012 08:58 PM

If you buy a brand new car now and need to do a tuneup on it, you need a $250,000 computer to get it done. I could be off by a few $ on the price of the computer, bu t you get the idea. They just arent made for the owner to repair any more , just like TVs and and a lot of other things they have so many sealed parts that just can’t be opened without having a lot of special equipment to get them back together if you even can then.

View MOwood's profile


36 posts in 4795 days

#8 posted 03-01-2012 09:02 PM

That is a very valid point Chuck, we now live in a disposable society. Things are not meant to last 40 years like they used to, we are supposed to use them a few years and throw them away and buy new. That has become the corporate way, build it cheap, sell it cheap and sell a lot of it! Most cars now have the things you are allowed to touch painted yellow and everything else is meant to be serviced by a professional. In reality not everyone is supposed to be a “Mr. Fixit”, society needs to have all kinds of personalities. I know people that have zero mechanical ability but I would not even come close to competing with them on an intellectual level.
My point is and I think what Brad’s point is as well, the schools that used to promote teaching mechanical skills are no longer doing so. When I was in High School we had one of the best Industrial arts programs in the area but it was shut down a few years after i graduated. This is happening all over America and will ultimately lead to fewer and fewer skilled people in these areas.

View derosa's profile


1597 posts in 3848 days

#9 posted 03-01-2012 09:03 PM

I would agree with Chuck that part of it is just being due to things becoming way more complicated. A cam change on a 93 volvo involved 10 bolts for the cover, 8 for the caps, a cam gear removal requiring timing belt adjustment, and shims to gap the valves to the lobes. The whole job can be done in the driveway with basic tools in about an hour and a half. The same job on a 94 and newer requires so much more an all of it needs to be done in much smaller and more cramped spaces. Easily a 5-6hour job if you’re not too familiar with the job. I’ve done both and wouldn’t care to do the 94+ ever again. Also too many generations that found it cheaper to buy new then repair killed a lot of the do it yourself attitude. I wouldn’t be able to do most of the things that I can if it wasn’t for an obsessive need to know, experiment, and learn for myself. The internet has helped a lot.

-- A posse ad esse

View ClayandNancy's profile


532 posts in 4028 days

#10 posted 03-01-2012 09:08 PM

My father died when I was 5, so I really had no fatherly training. As a kid my friends and I were always taking apart our bikes or trying to build go-karts. I believe that a lot of being able to fix things depends a lot on your self confidence. Through trial and error over the years and the fact that I became a Chrysler mechanic gave me the lets say urge and necessity to learn new things. I have now over the years built 3 homes the last I was the general contractor and did about 75% of the work on it. Now I want to be good at woodworking and LJ’s are helping greatly with that. There’s many places you can find answers to now with the internet. If you believe you can fix it, then try and try again.

View DS's profile


3686 posts in 3433 days

#11 posted 03-01-2012 09:17 PM

Richard, those computers were federally standardized into the OBD II system in the early 90’s. You can get a basic code reader from a local auto parts store for around $75 anymore. Most OBD II systems also have a manual mode where you can read codes and program certain functions without the reader.

Still, there are some things, like programming key codes, remote and alarms codes that require the service computer, but it is a lot more reasonable than it once was. I found the local locksmith had this computer for rekeying cars, so it is not nearly as inaccessble anymore.

As far as the younger generation not being mr fixits, I am not sure. It seems to me there is a lot less initiative, self-motivation, or, ownership of problems as there once was.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View MrsN's profile


988 posts in 4539 days

#12 posted 03-01-2012 09:29 PM

I blame the disposable nature of most of our products. That and the fact that it seems that each generation has fewer people fixing things, so the next generation has fewer role models.
My husband is a 29-year-old mr. fix it. He is proud of the fact that he fixes things that some of his friends dont even know can break. Last winter we replaced the engine in my car, which wowed his buddies for months.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3703 days

#13 posted 03-02-2012 02:12 AM

I can build/fix a lot of stuff but raising the hood on cars just baffles me. They no longer have carbs, distributers, etc. I don’t even recognize half of the ‘stuff’; under the hood. You have my respect for fixing this one!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3500 days

#14 posted 03-02-2012 02:46 AM

YEars ago while I was still turning wrenches, I often had to diagnose and cure problems on ECM controlled vehicles. Ford’s ECC III and IV, OBD, OBDII etc. I finally bought an OTC MT2500 scanner that cost around $2500 used from the Snap-on man. It was great! I could do all kinds of stuff, but it needed new cartridges and hook ups every year.

Now I can use my Android Smart phone and with a $4.95 app called “Torque”

and a $20 ELM327 OBD-II Bluetooth I can do so much more than I ever could with the old MT2500.
It can monitor and diagnose not only code problems, but can tell you in real time how the engine is running and performing. Torque, Horsepower, Injection, Transmission, just about anything is monitored. You can even see the vehicle on Google Earth if you so choose.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View DamnYankee's profile


3320 posts in 3575 days

#15 posted 03-02-2012 02:58 AM

While it certainly helps, I did not get my DIY ability from my father as shown when years ago we had to by a new fridge. My parents were at my house visiting when I brought it into the house. My parents stated “you’ll have to call the plumber to hook up the water for the ice maker”. As she was talking to my wife about something I connected the water replacing the older copper tubing with a new flex tube in a matter of minutes. We then realized the door opened on the left side (hinged on right) and we wanted hinged on left. My father then says “you’ll just have to live with it”. Meanwhile I pulled out my screwdriver and switched it as it was obviously designed to do. Nothin special but really? I need a plumber to hook up a water line to the fridge?
I keep trying to explain to them that there is a whole industry out there for DIYers supported by Lowes and Home depot and others

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

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