Home » It’s Wrenching Wednesday: Who Was Your Biggest Wrenching Influence?

It’s Wrenching Wednesday: Who Was Your Biggest Wrenching Influence?

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Geo Metro Mike
Geo Metro Mike
4 months ago

Mom. Was at the shop with her and just happened to ask the mechanic what he did to fix the car while thinking “I could do that.” She must’ve noticed because I got a Craftsman tool set the following Christmas!

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
4 months ago

Easily my paternal grandfather, Willard “Jack” Samson Carriker, born 1893, died 1968. He was a true mountain of a man, who grew up making railroad ties by hand but later moved on to building giant oil storage tanks as a riveter. Because of his era he was a true shade tree mechanic who had learned all manner of tricks, for instance, replacing a babbited rod bearing with a piece of bacon rind cut to fit, which held long enough to get him to Tucumcari!

During my formative years as a kid, I spent many an hour watching him perform mechanical marvels right before my eyes. One that really stuck with me was learning how to hand lap valves to their seats using Prussian blue. I used a stick with a suction cup on one end whereas G’pa used a marvelous hand cranked reciprocating device that did the same job but much quicker. He taught me to read sparkplugs! We cut our own gaskets for the waterpump, etc.

On and on. It truly was a wonderful time to be alive as a young pre-teen growing up in southeast Kansas. I remember it all through the gossamer strands of time. I dare not venture too far back for fear of becoming trapped like an insect, caught in amber, forever frozen in time!

Last edited 4 months ago by Opa Carriker
Mrbrown89
Mrbrown89
4 months ago

I dont have anyone in the family that has the same interest on cars as I do. Labor in Mexico is cheap so you always had somebody to fix your cars. Reading David on Jalopnik got my curiosity started, then Mercedes with her big fleet of cars (something similar to my situation today). The thing that pushed me to start working on my cars was my Beetle, something so simple but expensive to maintain if you take it to your specialized VW shop, parts are so cheap but labor oh lord. I said screw this, its time for me to start fixing stuff

Youtube is my friend and everything is in there. I have been buying tools slowly and my next project is to buy a lift to make my life easier. I found it more satisfactory that my job, you see the results right away. Gets me out of my house, away from the chaos and routine for a few hours, its me time.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
4 months ago

My dad, who was a mechanic to during his university days while getting his engineering degree. My entire childhood was him buying cheap, beater cars, fixing them up, and driving them until they died. While my dad was good at most mechanical systems, the electrical stuff was his Achilles heel but an area where I have a natural, and now professional, proclivity. I still carry some of that with me, always keeping a beater vehicle around to tinker with.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

My night school auto repair teacher was like that. When I started, I envisioned him driving some old musclecar or something, perfectly restored and maintained. I was shocked the first time I saw his actual ride: a dilapidated Crown Vic. But he explained that he liked the reliability and the ease of fixing it, not to mention that they just. keep. going.

I feel I’ll never quite understand electrics, so I have huge respect for those who do, esp. naturally. The complexity appears immense to me.

Last edited 4 months ago by Jack Trade
Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
4 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

My high school offered an auto shop program, but only at the other high school in town. One of our science teachers also taught the auto shop classes, and it was super strange the day I saw him roll out from our school to head to the other one in a Ford LTD. He always had stories of building race cars, dune buggies, and other interesting vehicles, so seeing a dull, blue velour interior LTD as his ride of choice was beyond perplexing. Kids tried to race him all the time without him ever engaging, but it was legend that he challenged the other auto shop teacher to a friendly race at the track in his LTD and ran a sub-8 second 1/8th mile time. He never confirmed the story was true, but the smile he gave each time he was asked hinted that it probably was.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Yeah, those are the kinda things you have to be careful to never confirm or deny…that’s how they become awesome legends, esp. in any school setting.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
4 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

That’s a good point. Maybe it was all crap and the smile was calculated to sell the lie. Dastardly!

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
4 months ago

My favorite wrenching teachers name is “necessity”.
(If you want this? You’ve gotta do this…)

Last edited 4 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Oldskool
Oldskool
4 months ago

That would be my grandpa. He always found a way to make something out of nothing. He would bring back about as much from the dump as he dropped off, and would make something out of it. Or rob it for parts and keep things appliances and yard equipment running. When I was 5, he made me a puzzle of like 20 real spur gears on dowels on a board that all meshed if I assembled them correctly, both ends had a crank. About the same time, since I liked to shift the car while my dad drove, he made me a real gearshift in a metal box with shift gate to play with. When I was 7, since I liked the local drawbridge, he made me a metal drawbridge with crossing gates and lights that was strung with a piece of twine so the whole works would all operate with a turn of a crank. Over 40 years later I still have that. He taught me how to wrench, fabricate, solder, and engineer. I was too young to weld but he did that too. When I was like 3 he gave me tools and let me tear apart his old washer and dryer. There’s a picture of me somewhere when I was 2 or 3 playing with one of those old meat grinders that clamps to a table, taking it apart on their kitchen floor.

Parsko
Parsko
4 months ago

When I was young, my Dad fed my mechanical ability. We got a go-kart in 1983, when I was 6. I remember the first day we had it hanging the back end out clear as day. I adopted an ’82 Accord with 241,000 miles at 15. I remember brakes, fiberglass work on rust, general maintenance. He guided me through it all.

Nowadays, you all. This past year has really brought my brain back to the hobby of cars. Not that it left, but for a long time it’s been work and maintenance. Now, I find myself very fulfilled reading and communicating with other people in this community. So, thanks!

notoriousDUG
notoriousDUG
4 months ago

I don’t have just one; some are people in my life and some or ones I’ve only known via print.

Top of the list is my Dad, he worked as an aircraft mechanic his whole life and inspired me to follow in his footsteps until 9/11 changed my life plan. He taught me how to be methodical, have a plan ahead of time and a second plan for when that one went tits up, that amateurs get mad, the importance of taking a break when frustrated and proper troubleshooting. He also stressed the importance of continuing education; he started on recip engine, evolved with the rise of the jet engine, and was still a relevant worker through fly-by-wire and glass cockpits.

One of my A&P instructors Rev taught me to always make it fun and taught me the importance of always remembering the basics.

I weird old hillbilly named Mark I worked on small aircraft with taught me to never be scared of a job because everything, everywhere, no matter how big and complex, kinda works the same way and follows the same rules. He also taught me that if you can step across a gap you can probably weld it up.

Wiley from the transmission shop taught me how to keep track of complex assemblies and the business end of running a shop.

An old head named Don that I worked with in the equipment world showed me that if you keep current you can stay relevant and in demand as long as you want to keep working. The man literally started in the industry the year I was born and could troubleshoot and deal with the newest equipment better than most of the young kids.

In the realm of reading about them we have the real greats; Jenkins, Yunnick, Lingenfelter, Banks, and a bunch I am sure I am not thinking of right now.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
4 months ago

Not only Dad, but his Dad as well. Grandpa was a machinist, toolmaker, welder, etc. etc. etc. One of his first jobs was assembling Cadillacs. This was around the time cars showed to to the dealership in a box and required assembly. That assembly was done by Grandpa. When I came along, I was quickly put to work as the assistant for bleeding brakes, both feet on the pedal, bottom rim of the steering wheel about level with my chin. It’s one of my earliest memories.

Dad had a sign in his garage that has informed most of my life:

If you can’t find the time to do it right,
How the hell are you gonna find time to do it over?

LTDScott
LTDScott
4 months ago

I’m not really sure to be honest. My dad liked cars and was capable of turning a screwdriver and doing minor fixes, but he was never really much of a wrencher. My uncle in Australia was a mechanic and amateur race car driver, but I moved away when I was 8 years old so he wasn’t a direct influence. A lot of my skills came from high school auto shop class, either formally or just by figuring things out hands-on. That’s the same way I taught myself to drive a manual transmission, by practicing on teachers’ cars when driving from the parking lot to the shop compound.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago
Reply to  LTDScott

My first experience with a manual was an ancient F-series-based dump truck at the summer camp I worked at as a teenager. It wasn’t street legal, so it was grounds-only. Which made it perfect for trying to learn stick, though it didn’t exactly drive like a regular road-going vehicle.

At the end of the day, what really cemented it was when I picked up my 5spd Chevy Beretta at the dealer in the ’90s. I kinda had to get good at it fast to get ‘er home.

Shooting Brake Advocate
Shooting Brake Advocate
4 months ago

For cars I think it was just curiosity, and an inability to sit still that did it. For motorcycles, that’s another story. I got a new drive chain put on my Bullet after the last one started failing in the weirdest way, and my motorcycle mechanic said I’m going to want to check the tension and adjust it in a few hundred miles, and I asked “so should I just bring it back to the shop in a couple weeks?” thinking that since they installed the chain, it would logically follow that they would want to be the ones adjusting it.

Instead, the mechanic pointed a wrench at my chest and said “no. That’s something you can do yourself.” and I felt the universe peer into my soul. I realized that in no uncertain terms am I to let this man down. So I did it myself. And I did a lot of other things – including rebuilding the engine when I was dumb enough to blow it up.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
4 months ago

This is a good story. Thank you for sharing it.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
4 months ago

My father. I didn’t have to do the work myself, more understand why a shop charged what they did.

A. Barth
A. Barth
4 months ago

Another vote for Dad. 🙂

He was a Mech E who had worked his way up from draftsman, going to night school and working with a great mentor, but during his formative years he worked after school at an auto shop. He and my uncle modded some cars, including at least one manual swap, and may or may not have participated in (and won) a race or two. When I was a lad he gave me and my brother unfettered access to tools and materials (within reason, of course) and helped us when we needed it.

Several years ago I was doing some outside work and lawn mower wrenching, and as I was wrapping up thought to myself “The job isn’t complete until the tools are cleaned up and put away.” That was the Dad-est thought ever, and he was quite amused when I told him about it.

He’s been gone several years now but I still can hear him.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago

Perhaps not the inspiration, but my guide along the way: Matthew Crawford, author and philosopher-mechanic.

I was 6 months into going to night school to learn auto repair when his first book, Shopclass as Soulcraft came out. He put into words a lot of things that had led me there, things I’d been trying to sort out in my own mind. Like the philosophical connection between thinking and doing, the unexpected intellectual joy to be gained from repairing things, and most of all, how connecting with the objective world (e.g. at the end of the day, it either works or it doesn’t, and how you feel about it is largely irrelevant) can promote a more balanced and full life.

I’m not nearly as hard-core as many here (I love that about this place…I learn so much from everyone), but even at my level, I find the connection between human and machine that wrenching promotes to be something rare and energizing that helps counteract our often suffocating day to day world.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
4 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Agree completely. Shopclass as Soulcraft is a great book. I was already way down the wrenching rabbit hole when I read it, but it really clarified a bunch of stuff for me.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

I really enjoy his conversational style…it feels like you’re sitting in a garage working on a car with a friend while talking about why exactly it’s so much more fulfilling than scrolling away on your phone.

My favorite parts are the random, big-think ideas he throws out for you to consider yourself, rather than him just telling you what to think. It’s rare to find an author these days that extends that sort of respect to their readers.

A. Barth
A. Barth
4 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Thank you (and MATTinMKE) for the recommendation! I added it to my cart.

One of my favorite books has been John Muir’s How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive. It’s notionally about fixing air-cooled VWs but includes educational tips and some philosophical ramblings. It was first published in 1969, which may offer some insight into the nature of the book. 🙂

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

You’ll esp. enjoy it then…he’s got a whole section on Muir’s book, as Crawford is a big Beetle fanatic (as of his latest book, he bought and is hot rodding a ’75).

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
4 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

A spiral bound copy of the Idiot’s Guide came into my life around the age of 11. I devoured it long before I took apart anything bigger than Mom’s alarm clock. Simple diagrams and non-technical descriptions were instrumental in giving me courage to tackle tasks. I’d recommend it to anyone—even if you don’t have a Beetle. It does an excellent job of explaining what various components are and how they function.

obviously, no computers, abs, or airbags in there, but still a great confidence-builder

Paul B
Paul B
4 months ago

Flipping through the Haynes manuals at Canadian Tire.

I was always helping my dad around the house growing up, so working with tools was not new to me.

Staffma
Staffma
4 months ago

I worked with my dad fixing small planes at the local airfield during high school. I learned how to work hard, deal with frustration and be gentle with expensive aircraft. As far as automotive work I am all self-taught as my dad’s idea of fixing a car is bodging it together with duct tape, zip ties and head gasket in a can. Watching YouTube (Project Binky, Roadkill, etc.) and reading forums showed me that it was possible to do anything you needed/wanted to do to your automobile and be proud of it.

Ncbrit
Ncbrit
4 months ago

Absolutely my dad. He ran a dealership for a while, and spent most of his career as owner of a bodyshop. I grew up around mechanics. Wrenching runs in the family.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
4 months ago

I got a very late start in wrenching. As a kid I was actively discouraged, if not out and out prohibited, from wrenching by my dad who had been a mechanic for several years before I was born and absolutely hated it. I didn’t really do any proper wrenching until well into adulthood, with the safety of a vehicle I new could get me to work, I began having fun with various shitboxes.

Honestly, it was reading David Tracy’s and Tavarish’s articles that gave me the confidence boost I needed to just start digging in on things, even when I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.

You may be puzzled looking at my screen name, and wondering how a shop teacher didn’t do any wrenching until so late in life. Well, I’m a middle school shop teacher. I teach woodworking, and sheet metal working, and CAD. I have absolutely zero training in mechanics.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago
Reply to  Shop-Teacher

I still, decades later, have my first middle school woodworking project – a wall-mounted key rack. I still remember learning to use the router to painstakingly carve “KEYS” into it, semi-stylishly.

It was the first time I ever got to use power tools, and was taught that tools can be incredibly dangerous or amazingly helpful, but it was entirely up to you which.

Thank you to you and your colleagues for planting the seed, all those years ago!

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
4 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

That’s awesome! And thank you!

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
4 months ago

Chuck Sparks
In order to fight in WWII, he lied about his age to join the Marines at 14, turned 15 on a ship in the Pacific. Later on, during R&R in Japan, he met Chesty while wearing an Army Captain’s uniform.

Taught many people wrenching, but in the late 90s he taught a teenager with a car 3x older than him to be smarter than the tools he was working with or the thing he was working on.

He’s the reason I’m an engineer now. I think he’d be proud of me.

10001010
10001010
4 months ago

Like a lot of other folks I’m going to credit my dad for this. He has big hands that couldn’t get into places and he’d call 8yo me over to throw my little hands into places to fix things, usually electrical. He taught me lessons the hard way too, get a shock from a couple of phone cables? “Now you know phone cables carry voltage.” Get a shock from a condenser sitting on the counter? “Now you know condensers can hold a charge even when unplugged.” He could have just told he these lessons :-/

For the most part though he just let me figure things out on my own only stepping in if I asked, which has helped me. Later in my pre-teens computers got added to the mix with the same philosophy, let me monkey around on it until I broke it, then leave me on it until I figured out how to fix it. I’ve turned that into a career in IT.

A. Barth
A. Barth
4 months ago
Reply to  10001010

He taught me lessons the hard way too, get a shock from a couple of phone cables? “Now you know phone cables carry voltage.”

Fun fact: the original copper landlines carried (IIRC) 63VDC at low amperage to ring the mechanical bells in the early phones. Not everyone had electricity at the time (early 20th century) and I believe the goal was to ensure the phone’s functionality was self-contained.

This is also why those old landline phones worked when the electricity went out, e.g. during a storm. Bear in mind that this was before mobile phones. 🙂

Hiram McDaniel
Hiram McDaniel
4 months ago

Easy, my Dad. I don’t remember him EVER taking a car to shop for repair until he was well into his eighties. Of course these were the days before computerized everything, heck it was even before fuel injection. He did everything from regular maintenance to engine rebuilds, all in a one bay unheated garage. Could weld like a mofo!

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
4 months ago

My biggest wrenching influence was my Dad. He did pretty much everything on all our cars. My parents would keeps their cars for a very long time. I would always sit out and watch him. Then I got to the stage of handing him the tools, then to the point of actually helping him. It all culminated when I rebuilt the engine of the 67 MGB that he had since brand new. He had never tackled a full engine rebuild, so I was in the lead on this and he was my helper. (I happened to be in my 1st year of automotive school at the time and had access to everything a machine shop had).

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
4 months ago

I started wrenching when forums were in full-swing. So while my dad taught me the basics of turning a wrench and working on cars, it was mainly internet strangers that gave me the confidence to do my own repairs and mods. “If this jabroni on the internet can build his own intake, I bet I can too”

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago

There’s a cool book called “Roadster”, about a guy with zero mechanical ability who decides to build a Caterham Seven in his garage.

His epiphany comes when driving his daily home from the shop and he nearly loses a wheel b/c the tech didn’t bother to tighten the lug nuts. After his heart calms down/the adrenaline wears off, he mentally notes “you know, I just as easily almost kill myself this way all by myself without the indignity of paying someone to do it for me…”

Last edited 4 months ago by Jack Trade
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