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My Good Deed for the Day

I more than likely saved my next door neighbour's kid's life today or at the very least his braking system - ain't no big thing.

He's 16 and just gotten his motorbike learner's permit and a 250cc road bike to go with it. When he got it, I offered to teach him basic maintenance and upkeep, which he politely refused (I'm just an old lady to him, don't ya know - a nice one he likes and often asks for other mechanical, wood or metalwork advice when he gets stuck or to borrow tools from, but this is man's stuff... oh boy...)

How did I save his life (or at least his brakes)?

My son came and asked me if the kid next door could borrow my WD40. I was busy doing something and just said yes and carried on with what I was doing. Suddenly, I thought I'd better ask what he wanted it for, so called my son back. Boy, am I glad I didn't underestimate the stupidity of boys who feel they automatically know all about mechanics because they carry the XY gene.

It turns out he wanted to spray it on his front and back brake disks, pads and callipers because they'd been "squealing", before he took himself out for a nice, long, downhill most of the way on a truck filled highway, run into Sydney.

My son had just handed it over the fence to him, so I bolted at top speed,yelling 'NO! STOP!' and caught him just in time. He had the straw out, ready to saturate the callipers and pads, with the next stop being the disks.

When I told him why he shouldn't do it, his next question was "What if I use engine oil, or maybe some grease?" ...@_@

It took three goes of explaining how brakes worked to get it to finally sink in, but I fear he still really didn't believe me or how serious the consequences could have been.

The squealing was from some corrosion on his disks, which I cleaned for him and a piece of grit on one pad. He'd dropped it on a dirt road a few days ago and I'd told him to check, but I'm a female, so what would I know?  Luckily, it hadn't scored his disk too badly, but I told him to keep an eye on it, which I doubt he'll do. I told him he really needed new pads as his are pretty worn, but he basically poo poo'd that - he really hasn't a clue.

I told his mum what happened and she was really unfazed by it all - it seems she hasn't a clue either.

How did he get grit in his brakes?
His mates all have trail bikes and this one of his is a real roadie - not unlike the old Ducati 250's in balance, which makes it quite a bit front heavy compared to a dirt bike. I warned him that while great for road riding, it could be treacherous on the dirt, as the front end can go out from under you quite easily should you hit a sandy or rough patch of dirt road, and the clearance, of course, is quite a bit lower than a dirt bike, so you have to consider that too.

I warned him, but did he listen?

Of course not.

He took the bike on some local rough trails with his mates and promptly lost the front end and dropped it quite heavily, breaking his indicator, mirror, faring and denting his tank, ploughing his disk into the dirt, not to mention ruining his previously pristine paint job and getting grit in his brakes. He also lost a bit of skin, but luckily nothing too severe. It's actually amazing he didn't end up with a really razzed front brake, but luck was on his side, as it was today when I thought to ask what he wanted the WD40 for.

I've begged him to at least get a manual on basic motorbike maintenance. I really hope he at least does that.

He still won't ask me for help, I know, and I must admit, at the moment I'm hoping he only ends up ruining his bike and not killing himself because god knows what else he's done to that bike that I don't know about.

I'm sure if I were male, he'd not only listen, but gratefully accept my offer of help and lessons. Then again, maybe not - but I do think that me being female is a factor.

I don't claim to be an ace mechanic, but I admit I'm not bad. I don't do much any more other than maintenance on my own cars and if I feel I'm not up to the job, I'll get advice or help, but I've had a bit of experience from a fairly young age. I started helping my cousin work on his cars and bikes, avidly watching him and driving him mad with questions when I was about eight. I started off as his gopher and progressed from there to his assistant and eventually to him letting me do a few things on my own. I loved it and he was a very patient and good teacher.

Once I was tall enough to hold it up, I learnt to ride on his Triumph Trophy and had several paddock bashers of my own before I was old enough to ride on the road, all of which I maintained and repaired. At 15 I got my first motorbike intended for road use in pieces in boxes and a bare frame and built it from the ground up (an old Yamaha DT1 250) and it was passed as roadworthy when I'd finished and I had it for a year or so before I sold it on, I rebuilt and kitted out my Honda 175 trials bike to a 210 with a torque pipe and rebuilt my 1971 Norton Commando 750 fastback from the ground up, both being passed as roadworthy and ridden for quite a few years, not to mention regularly maintaining my other bikes and being spare parts officer and the go to person for mechanical advice (if I didn't know, I could find out) in two touring clubs I was a member of in my younger days until a back injury put paid to my riding. I also used to do up Chrysler Valiants as a hobby and sell them on.

I've changed many a motor and/or transmission over (with help from friends for added muscle power - I'm not supergirl) changed manuals to autos and vice versa, rebuilt clutches, carbies, front ends, replaced shocks, drive trains exhaust systems and diffs and have built a dodge slant 6 motor from the bare block up to see if I could do it - turned out I could (it was a lot of fun at the time) - and it passed engineering inspection with flying colours and ran in my car without a hitch for six years before I sold it and was still going strong for at least five years after that. I've also done quite a bit of work on hemi's, both straight 6 and V8, just to name a few things - but what would I know?

I'll admit to being a bit rusty now I'm not as obsessed with my old hobby, but I do still have a few skills.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, my son, who I've tried to get involved in basic mechanics since he was little to no avail, finally did something with me on the car a few days ago... he actually got under and undid the sump plug for me when I changed the oil - and he even complained about that. I'm hoping now that he'll be getting a car soon, he'll change his tune, at least when it comes to basic things like oil changes, lubes, sparkplugs and leads etc, or he'll be up for a lot of money spent on services. I had to practically duck walk him to the engine bay to show him how to check the oil, water, transmission and brake fluid. At least he knows where they are now and where to put what - always a handy thing to know (double entendre fully intended).

At the moment, his reasoning for not learning anything else is that I know how so I can do it for him. I think he's in for a rude shock - lol!


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 29th, 2013 07:15 pm (UTC)
You've done your best. Has this lad heard of the Darwin Awards? Because he's a prime candidate to win if he goes on like this.
Nov. 29th, 2013 07:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, I know, but I can't help but worry for him.. I'm very fond of him and he's a good kid, but one of those that thinks they have a natural aptitude in somehting that they really don't.

I really hope he at least gets a manual and doesn't do anything even more dangerous than he's already done.
Nov. 29th, 2013 07:38 pm (UTC)
First of all, I must applaud you for kicking the notion to the curb that females are clueless when it comes to basic and not so basic motor mechanics. Secondly, I do hope the neighbor kid either gets a manual or seeks your expertise before he gets himself seriously hurt or worse. One would think that with the basic info you'd already given him, he'd get the hint that you know what you're talking about. Boys! *shakes head*
Nov. 29th, 2013 08:09 pm (UTC)
Why, thank you (takes a bow). I just had an early start and no one ever told me that girls couldn't do these things until it was too late and I was hooked, so it's really no big deal to me, just something I enjoyed and saved and, at times, made me a bit of money.

I must admit, it's gotten quite a few males' backs up over the years, but to me, that's just an added bonus! LOL!

I really hope he gets the message, too. He's a really nice kid and I'm very fond of him, and I can't help but worry. If all he does is ruin his bike, I'll be happy, and, to tell you the truth, very relieved as he won't have the opportunity to kill himself.
Nov. 30th, 2013 07:36 am (UTC)
My knowledge of mechanics is not exactly encyclopaedic but I know enough to know not to stuff with something I know nothing about! Having said that, my old car was a 1977 Ford Falcon and Dad showed me what to look out for and what I needed to know to ensure it would stay on the road. Admittedly servicing was left to one of my brother's friends but given he is a mechanic, and has worked on several old Falcons / Valiants / Kingswoods in his life, would at least know the sorts of things to look out for.

Nowadays it sits in the garage back at Mum and Dad's place.

As you can well imagine, being a female engineer has caused a few issues during my time. Most of the blokes are pretty keen to do the right thing but as soon as you put your foot down, some'll arc up and crack the shits. Generally speaking, it's pretty easy just to go, yeah no worries, then go and tell someone who will make them do the right thing and whilst they may not tell me that I was right, at least I feel good in the knowledge that they got told regardless of who told them and make them do their job properly. Unfortunately it's one of those things that I know is because I'm female (so yeah, what would I know?) but given I've never tried to tell someone how to do their job, just how we want it finished like, it's pretty easy to get people on your side.

Let's hope he doesn't become one of those stats that we so often hear about young males. I also know enough about bikes not to mix road and dirt bikes up - who rides a road bike in the mud?????
Nov. 30th, 2013 08:18 am (UTC)
It's weird how these archaic attitudes stick around, isn't it? I've worked in male dominated fields most of my life, so I know where you're coming from.

I've always found the 'Sergeant Major/Mummy' tack works a lot of the time with more stroppy types, and it's been amusing to see blustering blokes turn into little lambs when it's successful (I'm terrible, aren't I?) lol!

Having said that, it's awful that we have to stoop to those methods, not to mention tiring and time consuming. I'd much rather just do my job without that sort of crap, but needs must as the devil rides at times.

All of my siblings bar one are pretty handy in the mechanics and general handyman/DIY departments, which is strange, considering my mum was like my son is - completely clueless.

Mind you, I think that was because she'd had it rammed into her head as a young girl. She was a marvellous designing milliner and a great seamstress etc, and could pull a sewing machine down and rebuild it like a demon, so she had the talent, but I think it was more conditioning than anything else.

Garment making and millinery are construction, after all, just with a different medium and if she could work on sewing machines, she had the aptitude for mechanics. She just didn't believe she did.

I've had similar situations with teaching men to use a sewing machine, though. Many are convinced they can't until I say to them 'You can drive a car and feed a piece of timber through a band saw, can't you?' I also point out the fact that making garments is just another form of construction. They usually look rather gobsmacked then realise it's not the daunting 'Secret Women's Business' they thought it was.

As to the mechanics, I just stick to basic maintenanc mainly nowadays. I'll do lighter work, but my days of pulling engines down are well and truly over.

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


dark queen

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