Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Backyard mechanics

In a mechanic shop full of workbenches and hoists, Leonardo Moratti is working on his car. He pulls out a series of four iron pipes, joined at one end by a block of metal; it’s an intake manifold of a Toyota engine.

“Even as a child I had an interest in cars, and as I got older this interest grew,” he said.

Moratti is a student of the Motive Power Technician program at Centennial College’s Ashtonbee campus in Toronto. The program offers theoretical and practical training in car repairs.

He said this program helped expand his knowledge of car repairs. If there is a malfunction he can fix, he doesn’t hesitate.

“For example with this intake manifold, I know there are a few gaskets leaking. That’s something I know I can fix on my own,” he said. “If I took it to the mechanic it would probably cost $400 for the labour alone.”

He added that everyone should have some basic knowledge of car repairs.

“A lot of people get a basic kit, like a tire jack, but when there is a breakdown they don’t know what to do,” Moratti explained. “One time a friend of mine was replacing his tire, but didn’t know to place the jack under the frame. Why get the tool if you’re not going to learn how to use it?”

Dave Samalea is the co-ordinator for the Automotive and Motorcycle program at Centennial College and has been a licensed automotive technician for 31 years.

Samalea said technological advances are make it difficult even for experienced technicians who want to work on their own cars.

“You can’t do repairs anymore without the specialized equipment,” he said. “I can’t do repairs on my own car at home because I don’t have the electronic gadgets I need for diagnostics.”

Don Given is removing a tire from a car sitting atop a hoist lifted about 4 feet from the ground. Given enrolled in the Motive Power Technician program to save money on car repairs. He said before taking this program he made a few costly mistakes while fixing his car.

“It’s really important to have the right tools. It’s difficult to do this without the right tools,” Given said. “I found that out the hard way, I blew out a couple of spark plugs and started having problems with the engine.”

He said when there is a problem with his car he always wants to poke at it.

“When my brake pads wear out, I replace it myself. That’s something mechanical I can see it and feel it on my own,” he explained.

Given said a lot of DIY mechanics are so keen to save money, they’ll dive into the maintenance without any thought.

“Like with the spark plugs I blew, I tightened them with a tool that was a fraction of an inch too big,” he said. “I was looking to save a few bucks, but I ended up paying a
lot more. Having the right size tool and a little patience is crucial when you’re fixing a car.”

Like Given, Moratti works on his car to save money, but he said the most satisfying feeling for him is a job well done.

“For me there is a sense of accomplishment when you diagnose a problem and fix it,” Moratti said. “You say to yourself, ‘I did this and I did it on my own.’”

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