Sharing The Wealth
Things I Have Learned From Being A Car Guy
You would think that with cars having been around for a bit more than 100 years, that every bit of wisdom would have been squeezed out of them by now. Yet it seems like every time I take wrench in hand or foot to accelerator there is something new to be learned. It isn't that I am a particularly slow learner, it's just that automobiles are such an ingrained part of our daily existence, the lessons that we take from them apply to so much of the rest of our lives. In my own case, many of these lessons have come from working on, driving and racing European cars, many of them British. Anyone who has experienced the joys of English car ownership probably also appreciates the wearing of hair shirts and ritual floggings. To say the least, older British car ownership can be trying. Mind you, Italian, German and Swedish cars also have their moments. But every hardship brings with it a test of character and an opportunity to learn something about yourself. Sometimes what you learn is something that other people already know. Sometimes it's something about yourself that you really don't want to know. In any case, and in no particular order, here are some of the truths and half-truths that I have gleaned from playing with cars in almost every part of the world. If they sound like corollaries to Mr. Murphy's famous laws, try to remember that Murphy was an optimist.
* If you don't put the oil plug back into the oil pan, all of the fresh, clean oil you pour into your engine will run through onto the ground.
* Oil that is spreading into a puddle under your car is really hard to clean up.
* Recycling means never having to say you are sorry.
* If you use anything other than Castrol LMA brake fluid in an old British car, the seals in the brake system will fail and you will have no brakes.
* Every previous owner of any British car you buy will have never heard of Castrol LMA brake fluid.
* The amount of a liquid that is spilled is directly proportional to how difficult it will be to clean up.
* Tight enough is how tight the bolt was just before you decided to tighten it a bit more and it broke.
* A bolt dropped into an engine compartment will rarely hit the ground.
* If one rivet is good, a thousand are better.
* Anyone who says it is a small world hasn't gone on a long car trip.
* A decreasing radius turn for you is an increasing radius turn for the guy coming the other direction.
* Spark plugs never fail unless they are in a location that is completely inaccessible without removing the engine.
* Most electrical problems are caused by the person looking for the electrical problem.
* The funny noise coming from the engine is almost always worse than the worst thing you can imagine.
* Cars almost never fix themselves.
* Wire wheels were designed to be both light and strong. Consequently, they are neither.
* Anything that can be used on a racing car will be five times more expensive than its street counterpart and will last one-fifth as long.
* Trailer lights won't.
* Overheating almost never goes away on its own, and if it does you probably have bigger problems.
* Getting lost is an important part of every journey, the secret is to not stay lost.
* No race car that is listed for sale is ever really race ready.
* One man's folly is another man's new restoration project.
* Rust never sleeps; in fact, it never even rests.
* He who lives by the early apex into a corner better know a good body and fender man.
* The chance of rain at the racetrack depends largely upon whether you have decided to camp out.
* The further away you are from home, the greater the likelihood you will need that special tool left sitting on the workbench in your garage.
* Fan belts come in three sizes: Too loose, too tight and wrong kind.
* Warning lights on the dashboard can only be ignored for so long before you cover them with electrical tape.
* The tightest screws will be those whose heads are already chewed up by previous attempts to remove them.
* The word "affordable" and "racing" should never appear in the same sentence.
* Duct tape doesn't stick to wet surfaces.
* Timing lights make lousy flashlights.
* Every glorious perfect drive is paid for by the many that weren't.
* If you own a roadster, sunshine makes a good driving companion.
* Every true sports car must have a tachometer, which is perhaps the most useless instrument in your car's dashboard.
* The cost of a special tool is inversely proportional to the number of times you will use it.
* The chances of finding a nut dropped under a car sitting on the grass in a race paddock are zero.
* Using the biggest hammer and breaker bar you have, you will be unable to remove the lugnuts from at least one of your wheels, yet that same wheel will shed its nuts and come flying off just as you are entering turn one.
* Burning racing gas at the track doesn't make your car any faster, but it sure smells good afterward when the car is sitting in your garage.
* Nobody ever has enough horsepower.
* Enough horsepower can make up for almost any handling deficiency.
* If the deal seems too good to be true, it's probably someone else's failed restoration project.
* At the end of every engine rebuild you will have at least two specific-looking washers left over.
* No matter how cool and unusual a car you bring to an event, someone will always have one just a bit more cool and unusual.
* Every slow car you pass counts for extra credit when you get to heaven.
* Every problem has an easy-to-understand theoretical cause which is invariably wrong.
* If you have entered the first part of a corner too quickly, you will exit the last part of the corner too slowly (if at all).
* Rich guys get to go faster than not rich guys.
* The criteria of what constitutes rich changes with venue.
* Uncommon complications of common problems are more common than common complications of uncommon problems.
* What seems unbelievable, really isn't.
* There are no automotive problems that can't be solved with a healthy credit card.
* Surrender is never an option.
* You can never have too many cars, you can only have not enough space.