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Fear of the unknown

I have a problem. I have a friend who needs a new fuel pump, '02 Corolla. I cannot work bent over due to physical issues. He has the body, I have the brains, and the plan is to work as a team. We have all the parts (including a new filter and strainer), and I have all the tools and more. I’ve sent him a detailed procedure, including how to remove the seat bottom, depressurize the fuel line, and disconnect the battery, as well as exploded view drawings of the seat installation, the fuel pump installation, and the fuel pump assembly. And he too is an engineer by trade (a very smart and respected one). But fear of the unknown has him scared, even though I’ll be right there with him AND even though that he’s done considerable work of the same level on his own cars.

My problem? He’s getting the willies. Any thoughts on how I might be able to give him some confidence? I was thinking of telling him we’ll remove the seat bottom and if he’s still scared we can it to a shop… an idea that gives ME the willies!

Please, don’t question the diagnosis. My problem here isn’t technical, it’s mental. I appreciate all suggestions.
Maybe I shouldn’t have used the term “exploded view” drawing to describe a fuel pump replacement?

Will you be there when he does this, or is this a remote operation?

Ask him if he would prefer to spend what less than a hundred for a try to fix, or just shell out 700 or whatever now. If we fail the shell out wil be the same, if he is still scared and wants to spend whatever bucks let it go, Grace Slick and Jeffferson Airplane, Don’t try to change people even if you can.

I’ll be there.
Good question, however, as I have been known to do “remote operations”.

Physics is so easy to understand compared to the human psyche. :confused:

Physics is so easy to understand compared to the human psyche

Not probably related, but I was at a friends graduation party last weekend, and I met one of the smartest people I have ever met. We talked at length about many things, his forte was encryption, and working on finding a universal key, now this guy is involved in processor operation, and design, we started at pnp transistors and worked our way up, covered my pet peeves with some scientific theories and his, so I met the smartest guy in the world I think I have ever met, but would he want to try and change a fuel pump? Probably not. But he was not arrogant to the point if I wanted to walk him through it he would not learn.

IMHO it’s his car and his decision. If he prefers the fuel pump not be replaced as a diy job, there’s really nothing left to discuss on that issue. Any good shop can easily do the job.

If he does decide to follow your idea, suggest to be sure to proactively discuss with each other all the common sense ‘working with gasoline’ requirements, including the elimination of all potential ignition sources from the job site (natural gas hot water heaters, furnaces, etc), and have a big fire extinguisher you know works on hand.

This reminds me, years ago I had a gf, and whenever she and I went out to eat, she never ordered fish. One day I decided to ask why not. She said ‘because my mother doesn’t like fish’. It turned out the gf had never eaten fish before, and hence decided she didn’t like it. I was totally ok w/her decision, didn’t argue the issue at all, after all fish is expensive … lol . .

Just talk to him in reassuring language. Reinforce that you are there to make sure he doesn’t jab a screwdriver in the wrong place or damage something expensive. Tell him he can do it and you can explain WHY you know this.

Then tell him another engineer just like him designed the part for an American high school educated union assembler that had a 40 oz beer for lunch so it can be EASY to assemble in 40 seconds!

Good points all, guys.
Mustangman, I like that explanation. :smiley:

But an excellent point has been made by George. If he doesn’t feel comfortable doing it, perhaps he shouldn’t try. My guidance was solicited, but perhaps mine wasn’t the best advice for this situation. I can live with that.

This job should not be complicated at all. Seriously. You could even ask him to head to Car Talk and read this thread. Maybe some self-assurance could be gleaned with a little reading here.

As long as neither one of you lights up a cigarette with the pump out there should be zero problems.

Some Toyotas require a line wrench to loosen the pump fittings. Whether this applies to the 2002 Corolla I do not know off the top of my head.

@the same mountainbike I share the same fear of the unknown with your friend. I always worried about tackling an automotive repair or a plumbing job and have it go sour. I’ve done small jobs on the first cars I owned–replaced fuel pumps, water pumps, carburetors, generators or alternators, but I never had the courage to remove a cylinder head even on a flathead engine. Part of the problem is tby I don’t have the dexterity with my hands. Electrical work, both in the car and in the house doesn’t give me a problem, but I can sweat a fitting on a cooler pipe and, no matter how careful I am, it will leak when I get through. If there are no moving parts, I don’t have a problem. I can follow a schematic diagram and kept my vacuum tube television and high fidelity equipment working back in the old days, out of financial necessity. I would never get up the courage to change an in-tank fuel pump on a modern car.

This thread reminds me of a coworker years ago, a highly skilled silicon valley electronics design engineer. The company trusted his judgment implicitly on product development decisions involving hundreds of millions of dollars without batting an eye. And he was usually right, that’s why they trusted him.

So one day he comes into my office, says “George, my hot water tank at home is leaking and my gf is complaining and I need to replace it and show her I’m able to tackle diy’er jobs like this.”
(Apparently the gf thought he was all theory and no practice.)

He continued “I’m told this job involves sweating copper pipe, do you think I can do that myself?” I said “Seems like you should be ok, it’s similar to soldering wire, which you do all the time out in the lab, I’ve seen you do it. You just need to use a torch instead of a soldering iron”. Then I explained a summary of how to do it.

He comes back the next day, I ask has he done it yet, no. Hasn’t even tried.

The next day after that, still hasn’t tried.

Finally after about a week I say “Steve, what’s the problem? you haven’t had any hot water for an entire week, I’m sure your gf isn’t too happy about that, right?” And Steve says, “George, I can’t figure out why they call it “sweating”, and until I understand that, I’m not going to try.” … lol

Eventually he figured it out. I told him to start by first soldering some pipe together on the work bench as an experiment, to prove to himself it can be done. But it was touch and go there for a while whether he and his gf would ever have hot water again …

You don’t have a car or DIY problem, you have a psyche problem. Different people are different with their manual skills and comfort level. Being a brilliant engineer might not help.

We had a neighbor one, both sons were mechanical engineering students, very bright. Even if their life depended on it, they could not even jump start their own cars. They would call me for help (I was in HS at the time). Their dad who was a lawyer, once watched me going at the started with my wrench and said, some kids are BORN with skills, mine weren’t.

Give the guy some room, if he would rather pay someone else to do it, then that might be the most peaceful solution.

OK4450, it doesn’t matter if it requires a line wrench (it does). Not knowing what he has for tools (and his being 70 miles away making it inconvenient to check) I planned to bring a set anyway. Along with a set of box/opens, 1/4" drive sockets with all the fixtures, and even a click-stop torque wrench that measures in the range required (35 in-lbs on the bolts that hold the pump assembly in). I even planned to bring a pair of tube pliars and turkey-cooking pans to place the pump assembly in while it’s removed. The only thing I can’t bring is confidence for him.

As for safety, as long as the fuel line is relieved of its pressure before starting, the battery disconnected, some common sense used (we’ll skip the cigars) and the job done outside with the windows and doors open, it isn’t any more dangerous than filling the gas tank on the lawnmower.

But I think George hit the nail on the head. It matters not whether my advice was solicited, whether I’ll be right there, or whether I’m fully prepared. If he’s not comfortable doing it, my job is to be supportive. That, in the end, is what makes a good friend. When I said “Cool. We’ll replace the fuel pump. I’ll bring everything we need. You provide the muscle, I’ll provide everything else.” it didn’t occur to me that it might raise anxieties in him. I just figured it was no biggie. Guess I was mistaken.

Physics is so easy to understand compared to the human psyche

A physics professor at Princeton said this to an accountant “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax” There’s no shame for the brightest bulb in the room to engage the service of others

I know “the fear of the unknown” well but it’s never been a problem for me in most areas. I talked my niece through a water pump change on her truck when she lived in Alaska. She hesitated several times but she needed the vehicle and her husband was away in Washington state. The “over the phone” procedure went well and she saved a lot of money.

Sometimes…you need to tell a person that you think they CANT DO IT… For some this is motivation…but these days…you never know. Could turn into a lawsuit for bruising an ego…

People are funny…more funny than money… Some respond to what you say they cannot acheive…while others need to hear examples of unrelated skills they possess and hear you cross pollinate those skills with the task at hand. You need to figure out which type of person you are dealing with…LOL

In this instance I would just focus on the person… Dont tell them the job is simple and that anyone could do it… No… You need to focus their attention toward highlighting the skills you see in them and how they translate to the task at hand methinks… Ensuring that together you make the perfect team for such a project.


I used to work a lot on my cars. I trained in the army as a mechanic. However things were simple in the past and engine compartments were roomy enough to get access to most components.

With today’s vehicles, the electronics, cramped space and other restrictions make working on your car very difficult, if not impossible.

I no longer recommend that anyone do their own work,. except things like oil changes, tire rotation, changing some filters.

One thought to share is that all of us who have worked on cars have frequently stepped into the unknown. New kinds of problems come in the door all the time. MSB, it’s clear you’ve experienced taking on new “unknown” automotive challenges for many years and have built a vast skill set to deal with them.

The fact that you’ve operated successfully in the “taking on unknown” challenges for years has only solidified your comfort that you’ll be able to guide him out of any unforeseen predicament.

Would it help to share this mindset with him?

If I have a plumbing emergency, I can do a temporary repair to solve the problem. If I have to think about a non emergency job which I should be able to handle, I think about all the ways I could mess up and hire someone else to do the job. (Mrs. Triedaq says I am lazy). One problem that always seems to happen to me is that I get into a job and it gets more complicated. Last year I volunteered to replace toilets,in the women’s restroom in the church I attend. I thought it would be an afternoon job. I pulled one toilet and found the floor had rotted. I had to scape up tiles, cut out the bad section of floor, lay in new plywood and seal it, retile the area and set the new toilet. I then had to do the same thing with the second toilet. That got even more complicated because when installed the new toilet, it leaked between the toilet and tank. After three hours with trips back to get new parts at Lowes, I finally determined the toilet had a bad casting and returned it and picked out a cheaper toilet. I had it installed in 15 minutes. I once put new generator brushes in my old Buick’ s generator. It worked except that it was overcharging --the ammeter was pinned on the top of the scale. I decided I needed a new regulator. Bought and installed a new regulator --made no difference. I finally found out that when I put in the brushes, I had shorted the field coil to ground. At that point I bought a rebuilt generator and solved the problem. I would have saved money just taking the car to a shop and bad the 75 cent brushes replaced.

I take on the “Unknown” every single day… Wouldn’t have it any other way… Repetition is one of the circles of Hell I believe…No ?