How Important Is Wrenching to Being a Good Enthusiast?

There's no right or wrong answer here. Though we will judge you if you've never at least changed your wiper blades.

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I was in the process of cutting a power steering belt with a serrated bread knife when I decided this situation was... less than ideal. You, too, may have found yourself in despair over car repair. Forgetting the tools or torque specifications for a moment, how necessary is wrenching to becoming a true enthusiast? Now that we’ve told you where to wrench, The Drive wants to know how you wrench. 

As enthusiasts, we lust after a deeper experience with our cars. To truly know your car, some say you can’t just drive it—you have to crawl underneath it too. Being mechanically inclined, as they say, is something that you can learn, but more truthfully I believe it is an intuitive feeling. At least that what I’ve told myself during my numerous home-repairs turned garage-repairs. 

My mishaps range from as minor as the momentary loss of a drain bolt in the catch pan to removing my 11th-grade Spanish teacher’s door card and being unable to reinstall it. No matter if I actually knew how to perform the repair; YouTube videos are prevalent and I, an elevated enthusiast, am not paying anyone to work on MY car. (Even when I should have.)

I got lucky sometimes, flawlessly replacing the brake pads on a friend's Subaru Outback without no brake work experience. Often, and in a manner I actually preferred, repairs to my own cars would go haywire. A two-bolt distributor replacement on my Saab 900 Turbo went swimmingly until I destroyed the turbo oil line, spewing oil onto my neighbors Volkswagen Eurovan. I was surprisingly skilled at installing and wiring aftermarket head units though. 

Regardless, the reason I wanted to wrench was never that I enjoyed it. Sure, wrenching is supposedly a clear set of steps leading to correction or improvement. Turning bolts and draining fluids is a means of working with your hands, and a way to live if you’re good at it. But I always felt like I was fighting the bolts, that the wrench would never fit, in a personal affront to my self-proclaimed enthusiasm status. 

Wrenching does signify a further understanding of the mechanics of a car, no doubt. However, I’d like to imagine us “mildly wrenchy” folks can still fit in somewhere in the world of car enthusiasm. Our mechanics don’t want to see us go, I’m sure. 

Where do you land in this debate?