I hate cars so much right now.
I learned about basic scheduled maintenance the hard way when my heat started smelling like anti-freeze and my windows became coated with a greasy condensation that no amount of defrosting could vanquish, so I pulled into my local Midas to get it over with. Fingers crossed, I put my trust in the good people at Midas and hoped and prayed that my car was OK.
Two hours later I get a bill for $2800. Apparently, my car is in an imminent state of screwed. Here's all that was wrong with it:
- Heater Core is leaking (thus the smell and fog)
- Radiator is leaking oil
- Brakes are about to be metal-on-metal
- Timing Belt is cracked
- Cam Shaft Position Sensor is malfunctioning
Most people are lucky to know what half of those things are and what they do. But, the friendly and slightly country fellow at Midas warned me that I better get this stuff done lest I die in a flaming conflagration of car parts and gore. Alas, I could not afford to pay all that, so I began my quest for a second opinion.
Enter Brian. Brian is about as country as it gets, and he's an honest guy. You may not understand half the words that are coming out of his mouth, but you can be sure he'll give you a deal, and be honest about what really needs to be done. So I bring my car over to him, and he takes a look-see. Not only did he work minor miracles with the old Suzuki, he managed to fix the heater core leak with two tablespoons of black pepper. Yes, you read that right. Apparently, you can put pepper in your anti-freeze and it will go through your coolant system fixing leaks. It does this because of the inherent property of pepper to expand and solidify when dried. Or something like that. Either way, the point is that he could have charged me 800 bucks for that alone, and he ended up fixing it with pepper, and charging me with labor. He pointed out to me some other things I needed to look at, but assured me that it could wait a while longer, and come back when I could afford the various fixes.
He was a lifesaver, and I saved thousands of dollars by getting a second opinion from him. But that doesn't make me feel any better about the whole situation. You see, IT mechanics are just like car mechanics. We prey on the laypeople who are computer illiterate and take our every word as divine nerdy truth. When we tell people they need a new hard drive, they don't even ask why. They just pony up the cash. They need their computers so badly that they pay for anything, and don't stop to get a second opinion or second-guess the knowledge of the mechanic. It's a powerful feeling being respected for your opinion, and abusing that power is simply part of the status quo best practices of the IT industry. When I deal with car trouble, it's very uncomfortable being on the other side of that playing field. I'm the one that gives expert advice, figures stuff out, and finds deals on things. I'm not the guy who is at the complete mercy of a high-school educated car mechanic.
Every time I feel that pressure of not knowing, I get angry at myself for not being educated about cars and their innards. I mean, cars are really no different than computers. The job consists of troubleshooting a machine made up of various interchangeable and necessary modules, and deciding whether or not to fix said modules or replace them. The difference is mainly in the tools (and the amount of grime). Just like I learned 50% of my IT skillz assembling and disassembling an old computer, the same could be said about cars. I should be able to get an old junk car, pop the hood, break stuff, and fix it again. I see no reason not to be perfectly capable of changing a tire, refilling oil, draining coolant, finding leaks, replacing cables and hoses, etc. If I can assemble a working motherboard from disparate parts, I can replace a battery. It kills me that I'm making myself pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to do a job that's probably simpler and sometimes even more rewarding than what I already do all day.
This is something I will learn how to do. I can't accept paying so much money for things that I should know how to do, and would most likely even enjoy doing, myself. Over the past few days, I have learned a lot about cars, about engines and coolant in particular, and how maintenance on your car is just as important as keeping your Anti-virus and Windows Updates current; about how flushing your coolant is as important as a defrag and disk cleanup; about how replacing your brake pads is as important as replacing your hard drive every few years; about how putting pepper in your anti-freeze is kind of like.... well, nothing really. That was just friggin' nuts.
So, here's to my pledge to learn how to fix basic car trouble this year. No more getting screwed by Midas for this technologist (I'm not a geek).
P.S. Extra points of you laughed at the picture.