posted by Joe Anaya on February 6th, 2012

Recently, my “check engine” light came on. I hate this light because I never know if my engine is about to seize or if the step-light in the passenger door is out. So, for weeks, I drive around with a low grade stress wondering if I’ll make it to the store and back. The real problem is, I can’t resolve my stress without going to my mechanic and having him plug in some computer doohickey to gather the read-out and tell me, “It’s no big deal.”

My father spent a lot of time maintaining our cars. Often, my mother would force me to go out and help. This “help” usually consisted of me fiddling around in the garage until he said, “Hand me that wrench.” Despite my best efforts, I did learn a few things along the way. And by the time I had my first car, a ’72 Chevy Nova, I was more than capable of changing the oil, giving it a tune up, setting the timing etc. And by the time I had my second car, a ’70 Volkswagon Beetle, I replaced a brake pump, carburetor, and starter motor.

Admittedly, it was easy to diagnose and repair these classic cars. My Nova only had 5 moving parts. If the problem wasn’t electrical, it was probably the carburetor. There was so much room under the hood, I could store basketballs next to the engine. As simple as it was, I had a real sense of accomplishment, even a sense of manliness. But along came the modern car and their high-tech sensors and their super-efficient compactness. I realized even if I were inclined to, I couldn’t work on my own car without a lot of extra computer training and equipment.

Once on a lark, I thought I might change my oil on my 2001 Outback by myself. I opened the hood and literally had no idea how to get to the oil filter. I could see it, snuggly tucked in between the engine block and a bunch of stuff I didn’t recognize. Even if I somehow got to it (presumably from underneath), I couldn’t imagine how I would get it out of there. Okay then, plan B, the air filter. But there were three layers of things covering the air filter. The air filter for God’s sake. That should just be a wing nut and a lid. In utter defeat, I closed the hood and trudged back inside.

All the advancements in car mechanics have taken away one of man’s distinctions from the not-very-manly men. Now I’m just as helpless as everyone else. The only car knowledge left to pass on is how to change a tire. But really everyone who drives knows (or should know) how to change a tire.

File Under Mr. Cool