Advice From A Retired Mechanic

old car engine image

As I approach my grandparents’ house I hear someone tinkering in the garage. Very close now, I realize it is my grandfather turning a wrench and working on something. I peer into the garage, but he’s nowhere in sight, so, where is he? Starting to panic I round his car and to my relief I watch my 85-year-old grandfather literally hop out from underneath his car, covered in grease and offering open arms for a huge hug. Naturally, I then ask, “Dedo” (grandfather in Macedonian) “what were you doing under the car?”

“I’m changing the oil and checking the fluids, you know the easy stuff,” he says as if those jobs were something he did during a nap. For many, those jobs are nearly impossible, but for this Macedonian with nearly 50 years of experience owning a service and fuel station in Cincinnati, regular car maintenance is no tall order. So after a few more turns of a wrench, some “can you hold this”, and a wipe of his hands a face, he was done. Oil changed, fluids checked, and tires rotated. The most impressive part of all this, it was only 9:15 in the morning.

While we sat there on his front porch drinking tea, he began talking about his craft that he has practiced for a half century, imparting his wisdom and talking as if he was taking a trip back to 1952. As we discuss cars, mechanic lingo, and the good old days, he gives me a few gems to remember as a responsible car owner. First, he reminds me to “use my eyes and my nose.” He explains that whether you are under warranty with your car or crossing the 200,000-mile mark, you have to be your own car’s advocate. At least twice a month you must check your oil, brake-fluid, wiper, and coolant fluids. Oh and using your nose you ask, he says that you can smell your transmission fluid, “if it smells burnt,” he says, then “like toast its time to throw it out and put in new.”

As we say our goodbyes and I get up to go, he reaches out and guides me back to my seat, “oh, I forgot one thing.” Sitting back down, with no other option and not wanting one, he reminds me that at least while you are young, you need to change your own oil at least once. He concedes that changing your own oil may be difficult, but helps car owners learn about their car and feel a sense of pride and satisfaction. Saying our goodbyes one more time, he tells me oh “you should put what I tell you in your blog.” Thank you for the advice Dedo.