Why I don't do it myself

A week or so ago, put in some new windshield wipers, as I’ve done before. Wondered why they fit loosely instead of locking into place. Finally got around to checking yesterday. Sure enough, I had put them in backwards. So, anything more complicated than cleaning the car, checking fluids/tire pressure, I leave to the experts.


Always good to know your own limitations I suppose.

Of course, many auto parts places will install wiper blades for you for free.

Don’t Give Up. Become More Astute. Careful Observation Is Key To DIY.

Wipers are perfect for beginning DIYers because there are two! Whenever you can do a pair of anything, leave one alone until you are done with the first one. That way you have one that’s correct with which to compare your work.

I wouldn’t give up. Much more comes from DIY besides convenience and cost savings. Finding solutions to challenges and honing observational and organizational skills can spill over into other areas of life.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going (not going to somebody else, either) ! They don’t fold their tent and go home.


Lesson learned, go over your work right after you think you are done and before you get back on the road. Now you are starting on the DIY’er path.

I Live Out In The Middle Of Nowhere. I Work On My Own Cars And Do Fairly Major Stuff. I Am Mainly Self- Taught, Starting As A DIYer.

I have a digital camera that takes excellent pictures, including close-ups. I have been known to take “before” pictures if a repair involves something new to me. I use this for things other than cars, too. A picture truely can be worth a 1000 words to me, or . . . a 1000 bucks, 1000 hours, or a 1000 gray hairs.

Repair / Service Manuals are handy, too.


If some other human being can install wipers, then you can also. As was said, use your error to do better next time. Did you hit the side of your mouth with the spoon when you first tried to eat with one and did you try again then? I will venture that the answer is yes.

Don’t feel bad. Years ago (like over 35) I was returning home at night from a trip out of town and the wiper blades were streaking the windshield. My wife was along and we stopped at a filling station and the attendant installed new wiper blades. These new blades were worse. We stopped further down the road at another situation where the attendant diagnosed the problem as “bend windshield glass” that couldn’t be fixed. A third station decided that there was grease on the windshield and poured a coke over the windshield to cut the grease. This helped a little, but not much. We gave up and drove home. The next day I found that the first station hadn’t installed the wiper blades correctly.

Years later when I replaced blades on a hook style arm I stared at the instructions and the blade for at least 45 minutes to figure out how it all worked. I used to do a lot of my own work–replaced ignition points a plugs, generators and alternators, fuel pumps, carburetors, water pumps, etc., but felt really dumb when I couldn’t replace a windshield wiper blade. After once figuring this out, I replace the wiper blades in a couple of minutes.

In your case, you did figure out yourself that you had installed the blades backward and corrected the problem. Even if you don’t do a lot of your own repairs, reasoning through the situation can save a lot of money. For example, last week my son called me from 350 miles away and said that his car wouldn’t turn over. Now my son doesn’t do much repair work, but he can think and reason. Furthermore, he and his family have to live on a very tight budget. His car is a manual shift and he was able to get the engine going with a push start. He didn’t think it was the battery because the battery was only a year old, but I told him to take it to an auto parts store and have it tested. He called back from the auto parts store and said that the battery was fine, but that the employee of the store thought it was either his starter motor or the starter relay. I asked my son if there was corrosion around the battery terminals. He replied that there was a little corrosion, but the auto parts person said that it wasn’t enough to cause the problem. I told him to buy a terminal brush and try cleaning the terminals. He tried this and got the engine to crank slowly but not fast enough to start. My son then noticed as he wiggled the positive cable, the light under the hood would dim and then brighten. I told him to take the cables off the battery and try again. When he did this, he said he noticed corrosion where the terminal clamp joins the cable. He asked if he should unbolt the clamp from the cable. I then realized that someplace new clamps had been put on the end of the cables. I had him go back into the store and buy new ends for the cables. He replaced the cable ends and the car started perfectly. His total cost was $5. He did spend about an hour figuring it out, but he solved his problem at minimal cost. The point is that if you can think something through, you know what to do about a problem. Don’t let the problem installing new wiper blades make you think you can’t do something.

Here is one of my great goofs. I installed new spark plugs and ignition points in my 1947 Pontiac that I had purchased for $75. When I tried to start the car, it wouldn’t fire up. I went back, snapped open the distributor cap and checked the point gap. It was right on the money. I tried again–it still wouldn’t start. I then pulled the coil wire out of the cap, held it next to the block and flipped the points open with a screwdriver. I had a good, healthy spark. I replaced the cap and tried again. It still wouldn’t start. As I was mulling over the problem, my dad walked up and picked up something off the front fender. “Does this part go someplace?” he asked. It was the distributor rotor. I had forgotten to put it back in. When I installed the rotor, the car started and ran perfectly. Don’t feel bad about putting your wiper blades on backward.

The mistake I made putting a set of wiper blades on was that I didn’t realize I bought 2 of the same size blades before I installed them(driver’s is 20", passenger’s is 18"). The passenger side wiper would come off randomly as I used the wipers and was glad for the Rain-X I used on the glass. After about 6 months or so when I replaced the blades again(with the correct sizes in place) I found out my mistake.

You should own a base model Ford F-1 pickup made in 1950 or earlier. The passenger side wiper was optional. You didn’t need wiper blades of two different lengths.

Show me any skilled and experienced mechanic, and I’ll show you someone who has made numerous mistakes over the years.

Good judgement comes from experience,
which comes from poor judgement.

Another corollary (or 2):

If you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t trying hard enough.


If you live within your limits, you’ll never grow.

Hi guys,

Thanks for the encouragement/advice.

CSA, you’re right re benefits of doing different things. In a sphere I know, playing chess and later Scrabble has helped me focus on problem solving/thinking of solutions when things go wrong and time budgeting, so I am sure more DIYing would help with observation and organization as you say. And I should have looked more carefully at the one wiper blade while doing the other.

Triedaq, those were good stories re the wipers and your son’s battery cable issue. Also about installing the spark plugs. Haven’t done anything like that yet, although I expect I will if I do go on to do stuff myself. (but see below re cookies)

BTW, my absent-mindedness is legend. Once went to make oatmeal cookies. For those of you who don’t know the drill, SOP is to mix up the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda), mix up the wet ingredients (sugar, vanilla, butter, eggs), mix the two together, then mix in the oats/chocolate chips and bake. Well, this time I mixed up the dry ingredients, mixed up the wet, added the chips and oats, and baked. Notice I didn’t mention adding the dry ingredients to the wet. After the cookies came out as a gooey mass from the oven, I found the dry ingredients where I had left them, on the microwave.

Also BTW, one of my pet peeves is poor instructions. My current job is about 90% reading and writing, and I used to teach writing for a living, so poor writing offends me. In the case of the wiper blades described above, the wiper blades contained no written instructions, just a number of mostly indecipherable diagrams. So, I went off of memory, which turned out to be faulty.

Check out http://www.ehow.com/ and yes, they do have wiper blade installation instructions.

I think it was Dirty Harry who said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I have learned the hard way that my limitations are gasket seals and anything with brakes other than a simple pad/shoe swap. When it comes to these things, it is less expensive to hire a professional than do it myself.

“No Guts, No Glory.”

I DIY so that a “professional” doesn’t screw up something.

I had the guts to try it once, but the intelligence not to do it again. Besides, I have to pay for my own screw-ups. If a professional screws up, he will pay to fix it, not me.

I know just enough to be dangerous, both to myself and the professional who screws up, which reminds me of a story.

I was getting my cracked exhaust manifold/catalytic converter replaced on my Civic, and when I picked up the car, I discovered the handle I pull to pop the hood was broken. I marched into the shop to ask “what the hell?” The guy tried to claim it had been broken before and glued. I told him I bought the car brand new and it had never been broken. It was obvious to me the guy had pulled up on the handle when he should have pulled the handle out. Frankly, I had been pulling up on it for years, so it might have been weakened by me, but timing was on my side. The guy had to replace the entire cable since the handle was permanently attached.

You’ve got your approach and I’ve got mine. Knowing my limitations saves me time and money.

“Experience is the toughest teacher. It gives you the test first and the lesson after.”

i know seatbelts were optional back then. Lemme guess, turn signals, brake lights, reverse lights, headlights and spare tires were optional back then too. :stuck_out_tongue: