Sometime near the end of summer last year my aging Toyota truck blew the AC clutch/compressor unit and I found myself driving a vehicle without air conditioning for the first time since about 1996/1997. I wrote about this experience then and about how I was being forced to break a vow I made to myself all those years ago. The vow was how I would never again drive a car without AC no matter what the cost. Well, as we all know, things over the past few years have not been good economically and I have not been spared the pain of financial struggle. I could not afford to fix the truck then and even now during the hottest summer on record I drive a vehicle whose only cooling comes from rolling down the windows and driving really fast. For most of the year this is not a problem but during the summer it is fairly uncomfortable. I have learned to live with it though and have been happy to be driving a vehicle that overall runs well. At least up until last week.
On Wednesday of last week I pulled into my driveway after a particularly long and hot drive from work (my drive home is about an hour long) and as I exited the vehicle I could hear what sounded like boiling water. Upon popping the hood my worst fears were confirmed. My 13 year old truck was overheating. Being the pessimist that I am I instantly assumed the engine was blown and that the final straw had been placed on my back. I envisioned trips to the bank to beg for a loan to get the truck fixed or worse.
After calming down a bit I sent a note to an old friend asking if he had any advice. He knows about car repair and maintenance and had tried to help out when the AC blew out the previous years. After a few emails back and forth and some preliminary checks on my end much of my fear was dissuaded in the hopes that the fix would actually simple, quick, and quite economical.
After a few days the weekend came around and on his advice I bought some parts and other supplies (spending less than $40.00) and awaited his arrival to see what could be done about my friend, the Toyota. We drained the disgusting liquid from the radiator (flush your radiators regularly kids!) and replaced the suspected culprit, the thermostat. Soon enough the truck was driving like normal and the problem was solved. Although I didn’t do the repair completely by myself I was able to follow along and learn quite a few new things about vehicle maintenance of which previously I had been unaware.
The end result of the experience was that learning to do things for yourself is economically imperative in the world today. In the past few weeks I have repaired my Xbox 360, an office fan, and the truck. Professional service on these items would have cost me hundreds of dollars and over all the repairs I think I have spent $50.00. Not only am I saving money but there is a particularly nice feeling of accomplishment when you can handle things on your own.
I have been thinking lately how a barter economy could grow within a depressed capitalist economy. We all have skills that other people need. I can build, repair, and network computers and my friend can repair and maintenance cars. Between the two of us we have shared skills which have benefited us both without an over expense of the almighty dollar. How much of our incomes could we all keep if were were willing to trade services and skills more often that just exchanging cash? While this type of exchange is an everyday thing all over the country I wonder if there is a way to organize such trades on-line. Kind of like an EBay for swapping knowledge and know-how.
Anyway, I am happy beyond measure that I have a better concept of how to take care of the cooling system in my truck. Next up…learning how to replace the AC compressor!