There comes a point where failure is imminent and you have to get serious about fixing things. Lately I’ve been thinking about the reasons we strip things down and start over. When do you make the call?
The miles add up quickly.
If you’ve ever bought a brand, spankin’ new machine, you know the bittersweet novelty of watching the odometer go from single to double, to triple digits. Assuming you love what you’ve got, you’re halfway to 100 in the blink of an eye. What was once new is now decidedly not new anymore.
Have you stayed on top of routine maintenance? Did you invest in quality advice, tools, and parts or cheap knockoffs? Is the engine getting tired or are you just getting tired of it ticking, leaking, or smoking? Do you find yourself wishing things were a little bit faster, or lasted a little bit longer, or looked a little bit better?
What about suspension and handling wear? Things don’t feel as stable and predictable as they used to. Sudden course corrections or bumps in the road get a little scary. Damn these inescapable potholes! Once upon a time, you could stop on a dime—could you still do it?
Fuel and cooling systems wear out, too. You don’t get as far as you used to on a tank and quality fuel keeps getting harder to find and more expensive, right? And what’s up with the random overheating doing stupid, simple stuff like—oh, I dunno—idling or cruising?
Meanwhile, the body has more than a few dings and scratches. It doesn’t shine like it used to because you had other, more pressing goals. The interior creaks and rattles; it’s probably missing a few pieces here and there. The seats aren’t what they used to be. Loose change and french fries in every nook and cranny. And that suction cup navigation system looks SO dated.
Does the AC still work? The heat exchanger? Are you finally gonna HAVE TO replace a heater core? Ugh.
And then there’s all the little electrical gremlins—the light in the compass doesn’t work, or the ones in the doors—but the one for the engine keeps coming back. You’re running old software on obsolete hardware with sketchy ECU caps, loose connections. Should you rip it all out and go stand alone?
Maybe worst of all, what if everyone you used to hang out with moved on? They’re not interested in doing the things we used to do the way we used to do them. When do we strip it all down to the frame—or part it out—and start over?
And what if this one has nothing to do with cars?
I don’t know about you, but I’m in my early-forties. Looking back, looking around, I can see the effect of all those miles. My low-mile, new-car days are behind me. Years of lax maintenance and delayed repairs, combined with cheap, hastily acquired parts and advice have taken a toll—and not just on the sheet metal, if you know what I mean.
I’ve been filling up with cheap, low grade fuel and neglecting my cooling system for years. Smoking a pack a day for most of my 20s and 30s was like never changing the air filter and then wondering why you can’t maintain speed uphill on the highway.
I dunno. It’s interesting, I guess.
When it comes to our machines, we’ve got all kinds of standards and rules for how we care for them. We’re particular about the oils and filters we run and we change them on strict, clearly defined intervals. Every mile past 60k on a timing belt is pure, dumb luck—but we’ll let the rest of our lives slide.
We spend hours researching parts to find the best combination of quality and price. We invest in the best parts and tools and advice we can get our hands on when it comes to our vehicles, but how often do we put that much concern into the rest of our lives.
Not to say we don’t care about the rest of our lives, or even that most of us are lazy in this regard. It’s just an observation I’ve made. When it comes to my truck, I can explain the reasoning behind every part and mod I’ve installed—because I’ve got specific goals, specific INTENTION behind them.
What are your goals for your vehicle?
What are your goals for your life?
I want my truck ready, willing, and able to go anywhere in the world I might point it. With my family and friends comfortably and safely along for the ride. Those goals make it easy for me to decide when to prioritize maintenance over mods, and which mods are worth the investment when the time comes.
But while it’s easy for me to figure out what my truck needs to be able to do those kinds of things, it’s not so easy figuring out what my life needs to be able to make the most of my truck, ya know? Oh sure, I can over-simplify and say something like, spend less than you make, pay off debt, and put your money to work for you, but that’s like saying maintenance before mods, armor, and performance mods—technically correct, but generic to the point of being useless.
I mean, think about it.
I’ll probably need new tires this year. Six-plus months from now, I might need to replace my 31-inch BFG AT KOs. I’m already researching 16-inch wheel upgrades to get more tire size options because I want to run “skinnies” on Fezzik. I’m also comparing the weights of no less than four different tire brands because I want to reduce unsprung weight and hopefully eek out another sad MPG.
Imagine if I put that amount of thought into my 401k. How much am I contributing? Where is it invested? What kind of return am I getting? What’s my balance? Will it be enough? (And, if it isn’t—it isn’t—what should I be doing right now?)
See what I mean?
I’m not saying everyone, or even most people, are this unbalanced. But I’ve spoken with enough people to know I’m not some kind of crazy rare outlier, either. We hoomans are REALLY good at spotting and pointing out problems. We’re not so good at seeing faults in ourselves.
As I see it, as gearheads, we have a couple unique advantages. First, we’re really good at researching potential solutions to problems. And second, we’re even better at putting our heads together and solving problems as a group.
I know where to go when I need help figuring things out on my beloved old Mitsubishis. I’m sure you know where to go to get help figuring things out on whatever you drive, too. But have you ever noticed how many of your gearhead friends aren’t actually professional mechanics? What do they do? Have you ever asked them for help with NON-automotive stuff?
I have a gearhead buddy who can help me build and secure my home network. I have a gearhead buddy who’s a professional chef. Another is a licensed therapist. Others are teachers, carpenters, electrical and mechanical engineers who can design anything. Is there a doctor in the house? I don’t know, but I know there’s a physical trainer. And OMG, how many gearheads do I know who can handle a real, actual camera?
Today is as good a day as any to start over.
To start fresh. To take stock of what we have and really think about where we want to go next. And you know what? It’s a good day to think about how we might start putting as much attention to detail into our lives as we do our machines.
We’re pretty lucky to have this shared passion for all things automotive to open doors for us. The cars come and go over the years, but the people we meet along the way are what keeps us coming back. We help each other build high performance machines. We can help each other build high performance lives to go with them.
I know some people think this is a corny sentiment, but I just can’t shake it. Sorry. Not sorry. I’ve had gearhead buddies come over and help me fix things on my cars and my home. I know I’ve helped gearhead buddies work on their cars and homes. Is there anything we can’t do if we put our minds to it?
If you get to the point where you’re looking at your life like you look at your machine, where you’re data logging and comparing wideband O2 readings to timing advance and boost, or thinking about tire size and crawl ratios—but for your actual LIFE—you know you could use a bit of expert advice.
You could google the nearest expert—but wouldn’t you rather speak with an expert who’s also a gearhead like you? At the risk of over-simplifying our mission, that’s a big part of what gets me jazzed about TGP. When we talk about helping gearheads build better cars, businesses, and lives, that’s what we’re talking about—building a diverse community of relative experts who can help each other solve ANY problem that comes our way.
Like I said way back at the beginning, there comes a point where failure is imminent and you have to get serious about fixing things. Lately I’ve been thinking about the reasons we strip things down and start over. When do you make the call? And who ya gonna call?
I’m calling gearheads like us. If that clicks with you, I hope you’ll consider joining us in the forum.
Until next time, keep going fast with class and press on regardless.