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Impressed my wife with my auto repair ability

I don’t have a lot of mechanical ability, but I have owned cars and done minor repairs for a long time. I think I know what I can do and what I can’t. When my wife said the 2008 Toyota Matrix “might” have a bad headlight I was able to immediately confirm, that yes, the right side - low beam- light did not work. I looked in that oft- overlooked glove box space-eater called the Owners Manual, got the bulb number and saw that it looked real easy. I know some cars now make headlight replacement a body shop experience but this is not one of them. Before I left for a local parts shop I went to pull the old bulb- I guess just to confirm what shade it was, now that bulbs come in several different prices for the same size. Naturally, it lit up. I put it back in the holder,tested it a few times, went inside, opened a beer and said its fixed. She was amazed at how quickly I bought and installed a new bulb. I did fess up that it must have been a loose connection, and of course tomorrow it may fail (which will make me look not-so impressive. But for today I’ll take the credit, and savings.

Anybody else got dumb luck auto repair stories?

Yeah, I’ve got a few if I can remember them. I think back about 1966 my dad had a Stude Lark for the 50 mile commute. He came home one night and the thing was running terrible. I opened the hood and looked around and found a vacuum hose off. Plugged it back in and the car ran great. Magic I said as I walked away.

Now you went and did it. Today a headlight, tomorrow it’s a new thermostat, and then that leads to a new alternator, and then a water pump.

It won’t be too long and she’ll pick out a new dish washer for you to install in the kitchen too.

Christmas is coming, so you can expect tools from now on.


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All of us here did the same thing and look at us now.

If some day when you have off work and your wife tells you as she walks out the door…“While you’re home all day, instead of watching that sports channel all day…it wouldn’t hurt for you to do a load of laundry”, it’s all down hill from there unless you know the secret.

The secret is the bleach the heck out of a load or two of laundry and she’ll never ask again.

I swear that is why my wife burns food so much. So I say “don’t bother honey…I’ll cook tonight”.


I’ve seen headlights come back to life by just by jiggling the wiring harness where it plugs into the light. Back in my auto parts days. Don’t know how long the bulb kept working but at least it got the customer home. We’d get people rushing in just before closing time with headlamps that didn’t work. Most of the time we did end up selling them a bulb but every once and awhile the light would come back on with a check of the connections.

Over the years I’ve noticed that most of those bulbs that “come back” after touching the connections are already totally blackened and several years old

In that case, might be better off just replacing the bulb

I suspect the ones that came back to life were replaced within few days. As I say it wast mostly the rare ones that would work. The majority of the time we sold the customer a new bulb.

I got to do this a few days ago. My wife was stranded in her brother’s car in another town. I distinctly remember him telling her not to use a certain key (it would open doors and trunk) but would not start the car. I simply got in the driver’s seat and switched keys and the car started right up. She was amazed. I would have told her she used the wrong key but I’m married to her and I didn’t want to open that big can of worms. Silence is golden.

The steering column lock function got my teen once. Had to instruct them on turning wheel to allow key to turn. None of our cars has ever been stolen so it must e a great feature.

I was tween-age when this happened. My mother had been complaining to my dad or anybody else who would listen for several months that her car made an embarrassing whistling noise, a very loud high pitched whistle almost like a train whistle, especially noticeable when driving around in shopping mall parking lots. She said everybody in the parking lot would stare at her car, wondering why it made such an annoying noise. One day she pulled into the driveway, again complaining about the whistling, which it was doing right then. She was right, it was really loud. So I told her to leave the engine running and I’d see what I could figure out. Knowing nothing much about cars, my method was to press on things near the origin of the whistle and see what happened. The very first thing I pressed on, the whistle stopped immediately. I didn’t know what it was at the time (the valve cover), but I got out a pair of pliers and tightened the bolt there, and the whistling was gone forever. I was the hero of the day, in my mother’s eye anyway.

My two great repair jobs that impressed my wife were: 1) getting the power locks to work on her 2003 Toyota 4Runner–I replaced the battery in the key fob. 2) I was able to get her wrist watch to work by popping the back off and replacing the battery. I have never told Mrs. Triedaq that these repairs are so simple that even a cave man could do them.
My son also thinks I am an expert electrician. He called me one night and said that none of the electrical outlets in his kitchen had power. He assured me that he had checked all the circuit breakers. He lives 350 miles away, so there was no way I could investigate. I thought for a second and realized that he lives in a house built in 2005. I reasoned that in recent houses, the kitchen outlets have to be protected by a GFI. I had him look at each outlet and see if one of the outlets was a GFI with the buttons. He had the power restored while we were on the phone. The following summer he called me and said that he had lost power to his outdoor outlets and also discovered that the indicator light was out on his freezer that was located in his attached garage. He said while using his electric weed eater, it had suddenly stopped. I reminded him of the problem in his kitchen and to check to see if any of the outlets in the garage happened to be a GFI. He called back 30 minutes later and found a GFI outlet in the garage that was behind a cabinet he had in the garage and that protected the other garage outlet and the outdoor outlets.

OK, I’ll tell it again since it is my most glorious repair. As background, never had any mechanical or electrical classes after 7th grade but after college my lottery number was 5 so ended up in the Army Reserves. I was trained in teletype repair which meant that I got some training on circuit boards etc. One of the problems studied was cold solder joints in circuit board failures. So when I got home, I had some new talents.

My dad had a new 1970 Plymouth and he’d never let me work on it at all and would just take it to the dealer if there was a problem. He had a 50 mile one way commute so spent a little time in the car but the radio kept quitting on him. I begged for him to let me take a look at it but he wouldn’t let me. Three times he had it to the dealer and they took it out and sent it in for repair but would come back with the same problem. Finally in desperation he let me take it out and look at it. I saw what I thought looked like a cold solder joint as the Army had taught me to recognize. I went over the suspect joints, put it back together and walla, no more problem. He thought I was a genius. I really didn’t know what I was doing except checking for bad transistors or solder joints and just got lucky.

I fixed my battery charger the same way. It wasn’t turning on at all

I took it apart, cleaned everything up, and inspected all the resistors and solder joints very carefully

I resoldered one cold solder joint and replaced one burnt up resistor. After I put it back together, it turned on immediately, and it’s held up for months so far. Total cost about 35 cents for the resistor

When I was in high school in a small town, there was one gas station that stayed open till 10:00. One cold evening I stopped in for $2 worth of gas that would allow my MGA to go another 75 miles or so. There, getting fuel at the only other pump, was a pale yellow MGTD. It had black & yellow California plates. He was 1500 miles from home. There was only one guy left on duty at the gas station. He’d looked under the hood at the little 4-cylinder MGTD engine, but had no idea why it was going chirp-chirp-chirp. Since I was driving his car’s younger brother, the driver seemed to think I had some credibility, so I lifted the left side of the hood to expose the distributor. The driver started it up. I heard the chirp-chirp-chirp too. He shut it off. I’d never heard that chirp-chirp-chirp before, but I guessed that it was the distributor cam rubbing on the phenolic block of the points. The curious attendant/not very good mechanic, stared in awe as I pulled the dipstick, got a tiny bit of oil on my index finger, and wiped an even tinier bit of it onto the distributor cam. No more chirp-chirp-chirp.

On another note, his MGTD had no heater. That guy had crossed the Rocky Mountains in January. He was bundled from head to toe, including insulated coveralls, a stocking cap, gloves, and a heavy coat. He was still freezing. He was headed for Washington DC. I made the 1200 mile trip to DC a little over two years later, but my MGA had heat. Besides, I was smart enough to do it in May. I wished it had A/C.

My wife is thoroughly unimpressed with any car repair I make. I’ve done a head gasket that only cost me a hundred and a half, and it was …oh, hum!

Yes @CapriRacer, it takes a lot to impress a wife.

Since I used to fix cars and stuff way before we met, I think my wife hasn’t thought much of my fixing abilities. She is more surprised when she hears her friends using someone else for minor repairs and maintenance.

OTOH, when I was 17, our neighbors car would not start, he was a lawyer but both sons were mechanical engineers and all were stumped. Since they had seen me messing with cars and wrenches, they called me over. That make/model was notorious for stuck starter shafts, so after going over the symptoms, I banged the starter with my wrench and the car started right after. The dad would always joke that I was probably born with a set of wrenches in my hands and also that his sons should change path from engineering to something else.

I didn’t have my own triumphant moment repairing my car, but my dealer had one. When my car was only 2 months old it began making a loud clunking sound from underneath the driver’s side. It was a heavy metal-on-metal thud, usually in left hand turns, so it sounded serious & I took it back to the dealer right away. The service rep had me drive it to reproduce the noise for him. After he heard it quite clearly a few times, we pulled into a parking lot and he pulled a can of tomatoes out from under my driver’s seat - Problem Solved!!

MG McAnick In the early 1970s my buddy had a 1966 Midget and I had a 1960 MGA roadster. I had driven to his house and we went somewhere in the Midget. On the return trip less than a block from his house the Midget suddenly was running very rough and as we turned into his driveway it died. He cranked it a bit and I could hear a very strange sound from the distributer. When we removed the cap the phenolic block had disintegrated. “I can’t believe someone else knows what a phenolic block is”! I drove him to the fairly close independent BMC garage and parts store where he purchased a new cap, rotor, condenser, and points. The parts guy had never heard of this happening. My buddy had a good air compressor and was able to blow out the phenolic block bits. We had the Midget running fine in a little over 30 minutes.