Best auto projects for father/son team

I have fond memories of working on vehicles with my dad (he was a mechanic), and I credit much of my shop knowledge and all-around tool skills to my teenage years working with him. Now as the father of two young boys (age 4 and 1), I’d like to pass those skills and that experience on to them when they’re ready. I am not a mechanic by trade, but I enjoy that type of work and would claim to have a moderate skill set for automotive repair. I’m looking for ideas for an automotive repair hobby that I can include my sons in. Some options I’ve considered would be rebuildable cars, classic car restoration, or a specialty such as bodywork/paint. Thoughts on which to choose and how to start preparing for that?

Ideally, this would be a hobby that might generate enough income to break even. I anticipate having a workspace suitable for 1-2 cars after several years. Right now I’m in the middle of graduate school and lack the time or space to actively work on projects.

Aged 4 and 1 . Who knows if they will even care about cares when they get old enough to do the tremendous amount of work required. Very few hobbies pay for themselves.

Since you’re just a hobbyist…
I’d buy something older that already runs without all these dang electronics.
Something that may only need some nuts-and-bolts type parts replacements like brakes, engine parts, body parts, chassis parts, tune-up and fluid changes . …maybe even some painting or upholstery if you’re up to that.
Something that they can learn the basics of wrenches and other hand tools.
( I have a 79 Chevy pickup in the driveway now that runs fine and goes to Home Depot and my rental house a few times a year. )

Not a body-off restoration or anything that big.

I now have 12 and 10 year old boys and a 15 year old girl who is learning to drive.
She said she’d like an older Firebird.
I said ‘‘oh, good, a father/ daughter project car.’’…and she looks down at her perfect nails…!

My oldest daughter (38) learned tune-up, belts and hoses, parts replacement like alternator and water pump, fluid changes etc…enough to now know when TO… and when NOT to… work on it herself.
My oldest son (32) ?..can’t open the hood !

Try getting each of them one of the models in the attached link. Build one with each when they get old enough and I guarantee that if they have any natural mechanical aptitude at all they’ll be totally absorbed in the project.

The best thing for cars today is checking fluids. Air filters are getting to be one of those “don’t touch anything” scenarios.

I started out working on simpler stuff, like fixing my bike. Might be a much more manageable first step, they could work on theirs. As for bigger projects, that would need to be something you really like. But forget breaking even, and forget bodywork/paint (in my opinion, of course).

I think they might be more inclined to be interested in a go kart or mini bike or something. With my son, once he got his own car, he got interested in fixing it together, but not much until then. I’ve got two grandsons and one is 4 and very mechanical and likes cars. The other is 2 and is more of a social animal. You just have to see what their interests are but when I was a kid it was lawn mowers, mini bikes, and go karts and most of our dads didn’t do much work on cars. A couple did but kind of shooed the kids out of the way.

A word of caution though if you do anything with body work. Those new paints are literal killers unless you have a booth and use self-contained breathing apparatuses. Not recommended for kids or even adults anymore. Too bad, its a lot of fun.

If you want an automotive hobby, you should consider doing mechanical work yourself and farm out body and interior work. My cousin did the mechanical work restoring Porsches and his partner did the paint and interior. You not only need equipment, you need a facility for this work. A paint shop seems like the most expensive part of all the equipment you might need. If your children become interested, start on simple stuff like bicycles and move to gradually more complicated stuff like go karts as mentioned above. All your rooks will work for those machines, and it will be easier for your sons to get a sense of accomplishment. That will build confidence and might help them gain interest in your car hobby.

The part I don’t grasp at this point is your comment about “generate enough income to break even”.

Any type of mechanical hobby is similar to a sponge when it comes to money; it just soaks it up but you won’t be able to wring it back out.

Actually I am trying to figure out someone in graduate school with two kids even has time to sleep let alone worry about a hobby 10 or 12 years from now.

Any expenditures incurred in this endeavor will be the best investment a dad can possibly make. He’ll be investing in the futures of his children. No financial vehicle in the world can top that.

As the kids get older they could hold the flashlight for you, while you do some task needing illumination on the car. And they can help wash and wax the car on warm sunny days. If they seem to enjoy that, then when they are old enough, they could help you change the tire, so they know how to work the jack and the order to do things and the importance of safety. If the change the tire thing goes ok, they could graduate to helping changing an accessory belt or changing the spark plugs.

I’d start with something like that. It’s quite possible they won’t be interested in this at all. If so, let them do something else instead. Don’t force them to be interested in car or repairing cars, it’s not for everybody.

starting so young…
Begin with other light mechanical projects as I did with mine. Household, small appliance, and toy repair using screwdrivers and pliers and such.
’’ But , dad, what if if we break it ?’’
’‘It’s already broken :)…so today you’ll learn several things. 1- how to take it apart and put it back together. 2- Why it should work. 3- why it doesn’t work now. 4- maybe, just, maybe, we can fix it. and 5- what to do different to not break the next one. ‘‘
And…even when something is broken beyond repair and we’re going to buy another…we’d take it apart anyway just fot the learning.
OR…not even broke…’’ Help me change the belt on the vacuum.’’

One of the best way for kids to learn mechanical stuff is by fixing their own bikes. Some will take to the idea like water, might even start wanting to modify their bikes to customize them, others won’t even pick up a screwdriver. For the latter, once their bikes break, they’d rather walk than fix the bike. It’s best not to force the issue, if the kids would rather walk than fix the bike, then walking is pretty good exercise.

Let me throw this in please, @gearheaddad, one of your sons might become a veteranarian and the other a professional soccer star. If you enjoy tinkering with automobiles it’s OK that you continue to do so within your budget and free time allowing for all the other family responsibilities and if one of your kids gets hooked on pistons and camshafts that’s great. But if they don’t that’s OK too. Regardless whether they become gear heads they can learn to be responsible and reasonble in their own pleasures and enjoy being together having fun at rodeos and soccer matches and under greasy hot rods.

And while we grew up doing mechanical stuff, today electronics are a BIG thing. At some point one of them may get a kick out of making a PC, that kind of thing.

“Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
Don’t let ‘em pick guitars and drive big ol’ trucks,
make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such.”
… - credits to Ed and Patsy Bruce -

It matters not what you do with them or what they turn out to be. Working closely on projects with them will imbue in them the love of learning, self confidence, a healthy self-image, and thinking abilities that will greatly improve their odds of succeeding at their chosen field, even exceeding your expectations. Working on projects with your kids is the best thing you can do for them, and I commend you for wanting to so.

I have to further say that one of the absolutely best things you can do with your sons is to get them and yourself involved in Cub Scouts and later Boy Scouts. They will be exposed to all kinds of subjects from business to marksmanship and the time spent will be life long bonding. Father of an Eagle Scout.

I went through bicycles first then lawnmowers then motor scooters then a 1950 Mercury that my dad got in a trade. Just pay attention and learn everything you can regardless of the thing you are working on. Experience is worth it’s weight in gold…maybe more.

Do they have shop class in school anymore?Used to be a big deal in the rural areas,building trades,one thing I learned early on,is most kids(boy or girl) love to take things apart then put them back together,take them to museums and the like,go to Home Depot and buy a few tools and 2x4s,you never know what might happen,but always stress safety.