Coming out of the Tool Closet
By Matt Marine
“If you run with 37’s, you’ll need at least 4:10s or a .357, right?”
I was sitting across the table from a Jeep guy who was discussing the details of running different gear ratios and engine displacements, but he might as well have been speaking French.
He looked at me for confirmation.
“Sounds good,” I said, smiling and nodding politely even though I had no freakin’ idea what he was talking about.
This is not an unusual situation for me. Many (dare I say most?) Jeepers take a great deal of pride in being mechanical supermen – able to replace a driveshaft in a single bound, speak technical jargon for hours without ever taking a breath and perform trailside repairs that will astound all but the stoutest non-believers.
I am not one of those people.
There. I’ve said it.
This is my figurative way of coming out of the tool closet and proclaiming, “I am not a gear head.”
Whew. That’s a load off my mind and I feel better now. I know it’s not a popular declaration and that I may be shunned in certain 4WD circles, but it’s the truth. I also understand that owning a Jeep and not being a gear head is like being from Green Bay and not rooting for the Packers. Something only the bravest of Bear’s fans would do while living in the Cheesehead capital.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being a gear head. In fact, I have the utmost respect for those guys (and gals) who can diagnose their Jeep’s problem just by listening to the engine and then repair it with nothing more than a few wrenches and some duct tape. These people have saved my butt numerous times.
But that’s not me. Never have been. Never will be.
I believe my lack of mechanical aptitude is due to my genetics, not the environment I was brought up in. I got the “nerd” gene, while my brother and sister got the “mechanical” gene. My father was always a mechanical guy, from building his own bicycles and radios when he was a kid to rebuilding cars when I was growing up. I remember always having at least three cars sitting in various states of disrepair at his house. I would spend countless weekends handing him wrenches, screw drivers and beers as he rebuilt an old Corvair or tried to get a Vega running (he didn’t always have the best eye for reliable cars). My sister and brother are much more mechanically inclined than I will ever be.
As I look back on those times now, I remember that although it was cool spending my time with my dad, deep down I would have rather been reading the latest Clive Cussler novel or working on programming those new fangled devices called computers. I guess that’s why I now spend my free time writing books and building websites instead tinkering with my Jeep.
And truth be told, I hate working on vehicles. I’d rather get a root canal that spend 8 hours with oil soaked hands replacing some gears or valves which I only have a vague idea how they work. This doesn’t mean that I don’t wish I was as mechanically inclined as those vehicle savants out there for emergencies, but my poor brain is already overloaded. I feel as if I were to try to learn how to install a Detroit locker, I would lose something even more important – like the ability to drink without drooling.
I am not completely useless when it comes to automobile repair. I did learn some things spending time in my dad’s garage. I know how to do basic stuff like change the oil, replace an alternator and I recently installed front and rear bumpers on my Jeep. But beyond that, I wouldn’t trust my work. Sometimes I still have to mutter to myself, “Righty tighty, lefty losey” when tightening up a bolt.
To make my mechanical incompetence even worse, with the onset of MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) over five years ago, being around any form of chemicals makes me very sick. Oil, grease and gas? Big surprise – they are all chemicals. Bad, bad chemicals. Yep, I love them because they make my Jeep go, but they are my kryptonite. Changing my oil now could make me sick for weeks.
My mechanical incompetency is not just limited to my Jeep. I also don’t know much about mountain bikes (another passion of mine). I have a friend who relishes talking about all the intricacies of his bike frame angle, tire size, shocks, stem height and so on. Now, I know the difference between a 26-inch bike and a 29er, and one with only front shocks and one with full-suspension, but that’s about it.
A few years ago, he went on a 10 minute discourse about how is upgraded front shocks were ten times better than the stock ones that came with his bike. When he was done, he looked at me and asked, “What kind of shocks do you have?” Obviously, he was thinking I may also want to upgrade. I told him, “The kind that go up and down.” He was truly shocked (pun intended) that not only did I not know my shock’s response rate or amount of travel, but I didn’t even know who was the manufacturer. I told him all that really mattered for me was that they go up and down, and sometimes not even that. Once, I rode my hardtail for a month with the front shocks locked until I realized something was wrong. Obviously, I’m not the most observant person either.
The bottom line is that if you’re looking for someone to tell you why a certain transmission turbo encabulator is better than another or for help rebuilding your engine, I am not that guy. And if you’re talking to me about such stuff, I will smile and nod politely while in the back of my mind, I am mentally choreographing the final fight scene of my next thriller.
When you're going into detail about the inner workings of your Jeep, this is what it sounds like to me:
Anyone else out there like me? Comment by clicking here.
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