In Missouri, as in many other states in our blessed Union, one must obtain a “safety” inspection slip from a private shop before registering or renewing tags on a car. I have my thoughts about this little system, but I’ll spare you. However, when the mechanic invited me into the bay to show me how dangerously thin my brake pads were getting, and when I recovered from my shock that he didn’t try to sell me a new set, I made up my mind to switch them out on Saturday. So I did. And I had some help.
Saturday afternoon I pulled into the garage of my friend, neighbor, and erstwhile faux-German-accent juggler Jason. His genius of a four-year-old son, Jacob, was on hand to help. A word of warning to dads, uncles, and adult friends: letting a small child help with your project might slow it down a bit. But it’s worth it. Here’s why, and how you can encourage the littlest generation to share your love for cars.
Invite them. Jason gave little Jacob a choice to stay inside and play, or come out to the garage and work with us. He picked the latter, naturally. Kids, especially boys, want to prove themselves. They want to know that we big people think they can accomplish something. A smiling invitation to help is a big self-esteem booster.
Make them feel strong. “When you turn four,” I told Jacob, “you’re big enough to lift up a car.” We set the jack and let him work the bar until he was hanging on it. He was pretty thrilled pumping the whole wagon off the ground. I also told him to grab the insides of the four-way lug wrench I was using to loosen the lugs. After we’d gotten the car up, he spun the lugs off himself.
Be patient. This likely goes without saying, but it took Jacob a bit longer to crank those lug nuts off than it might have taken you or I. And the three of us spent about ten minutes hunting down the fifth nut that he accidently kicked into a cobwebbed corner of the garage. But we didn’t get mad at him, instead letting him help us look for it. He took better care of the hardware after that, and had it ready whenever I needed it.
Explain things. I didn’t know how brakes worked until I was in my 20s. Jacob now has me beat by quite a few years. The caliper, we explained, was like a big hand that grabbed down onto the disc. We didn’t overwhelm him with explanations of semi-metallic pad compounds, or even what the pads do, but he has the concept, and it’s a great start.
Let them figure things out. Jacob worked the front lugs while I set the rear jack stand. At one point he said, “Am I turning it the right way?” Which, admittedly, is a common question for every mechanic, four to forty. I bestowed upon him that immutable adage: Righty tighty, lefty loosey. He got the picture, and it also gave us a good chance to review the difference between right and left.
The job took us about two hours for all four corners, which is what I’d planned, expecting everything to go horribly wrong as usual. Somehow nothing did. Jacob learned about lug nuts and brake calipers, and I learned how to compress a dual piston caliper.
As I was rolling out, I told him I’d need his help the next time I was working on my car. He smiled and nodded, and I think he meant it.
By the way, the Yellowstuff pads are awesome so far. They’re not quite bedded completely, and they’re already blowing away the OE pads. I’ll have a full review soon.