News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists


This man is no quick oil-change artist

A real man changes his own oil.

He doesn't squander money in the service department at the car dealership. He doesn't let those quick-change guys touch his vehicle.

He marches into the auto parts store, looks up the oil filter number himself to make sure it's right, pulls on his old coveralls and crawls under the engine.

This is the maxim of my family.

So when I mentioned to a relative recently that I needed to take two vehicles in for an oil change, he derided me for the extravagance.

Then another relative squinted and told me he doesn't trust those 10-minute oil-change places.

"They're right," I thought. "I used to do this myself and I can do it again. What could go wrong?"

After spending $35 for two filters and 10 quarts of oil, I drove home enjoying the $20 savings for labor.

I should have used that savings toward a pair of car ramps because, as I was about to learn, the modern automobile has just enough ground clearance to render a man immobile.

Stuck beneath the car, I couldn't actually see the oil filter, but by extending my arm as far as it would go I could feel it. I put the wrench on and turned. The wrench got wedged up in there somewhere, well beyond my reach.

So I jacked the front of the car off the ground and put a concrete block under it in case it fell. Then I scooted under there farther than I really wanted to go and retrieved the wrench. When I removed the filter, oil poured all over me.

This ominous start set the tone for the rest of the day.

And I do mean day.

The $20 savings looked like minimum wage when Mr. Do-It-Himself divided it by the hour.

By the time this dirty ordeal ended I knew Jenny probably wouldn't let me back in the house — ever.

I thought of my brother-in-law. Gary can pull a big-block V8 out of a muscle car and come out clean enough for surgery.

In contrast, I looked like I had just massacred the Tin Man. Oily handprints covered the carport floor. Pools of oil spoke of the carnage.

I finally finished and sprinkled kitty litter everywhere to absorb the evidence. Then I hosed myself off outside so no one would ever know.

When I walked into the house, however, Jenny jumped back, obviously startled.

"Have you seen yourself?" she asked.

We decided to toss my clothes into the garbage can. Then I headed for the shower with a can of Goop hand cleaner.

A real man changes his own oil.

In about 3,000 miles, however, this man is driving to the quick lube.

Scott Morris Scott Morris
DAILY City Editor

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