Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hello, Car

I'm short on Car Literacy. When dealing with mechanics, I don't try to fudge things because if you are ignorant about something, it just makes things worse. Turns out that is not such a bad way to do things in the first place.

What's good about Lisa Christensen's Clueless About Cars: An Easy Guide to Car Maintenance and Repair are the first few chapters. In clear concise language, she explains what's under the hood. But its how its done that makes it valuable.

Christensen explains basic concepts and then doesn't dive into details - which is often where most non-automotively inclined people get lost. In Chapter 1, Getting to know your car, for example, she explains how the internal combustion engine and transmission work. Its all of four pages, with key terms highlighted and two of those pages are diagrams. Then we're done. Its on to the lubrication and cooling systems in Chapter 2.

This level of detail makes the book a little less informative but highly readable. There are some great diagrams rendered in very clean line artwork with minimal shading. There is one per system explained and only the most important parts are labeled and explained. These first chapters were hugely valuable to me.

Christensen talks about more: car safety, a few do it yourself projects, diagnosing problems, buying and selling cars and finding and interacting with a mechanic.

"My car makes a funny noise," they tell me. I ask, "What kind of noise?" and things fall apart from there. "I don't know," they say, smiling sheepishly, "a funny kind of noise." Well, as a mechanic, I need you to make that noise.

Do all your legwork finding a good mechanic, the author tells us and she gives us some clues as to how to go about doing that. But having found one, learn to trust that person, she says.

There is a brief chapter on the car and your environment, which is probably the weakest chapter in the book and ironically enough touted on the cover as "a new chapter on hybrid cars". But its a minor annoyance in an otherwise fun book.

Also:

39 comments:

Mind Rush said...

This is starting to sound like the movie Swades, with a feminine twist. An NRI comes home to teach Indians how to find their soul?

un-Mind in a Rush said...

sorry, I put my comment under the wrong post...

musing said...

Cars ? Cars ! Cars !!

Hoping not to sound like a MCP or pose any allusions to gender bias but, I am as good as a lady when it comes to cars!

This book since its written by a lady sounds very promising maybe they have a deal at Amazon and include an Car Maintenance for Dummies (my auto-intelligence is probably much much lower than the average dummy, but with some coffee and some rasam's who knows?). So thanks for this topic Aspi..

Now onto some serious reading (which usually means about 5-10 months of 3-4 page daily consumption for me and discarding a quarter finished book).

Warcry - Carbetor's and Radiator's watch out, here I come !!!

-a musing

Anonymous said...

Thanks Aspi for this article.I being a lady myself ,even though not with blonde hair, am looked upon as one whenever I take my car to the car shops.I was thinking of joining some classes to learn about the BA ing and QAing the car :) And Musing even though you said you are not being biased you pointed out that the book was written by a lady.Amusing Musing.
May be no rasam or coffee today.
Hey on your blog you say you work in Afghanistan.True ? or simply thought it to be amusing.
Kovam pada venda.Sooma keten.
(Translated for Aspi gusso nathi.Aemach puchu chun.) Also Aspi,no topic on Navaratri.You can write one on how it was in Chicago.Lata P

Sidekick said...

Aspi, thanks for this review.... I wish I could say I'd read it coz I sorely need a basic education in car literacy. But when it comes to cars and their maintenance, I'm happy to pull out my "little woman" card and play the helpless wife looking to the big strong husband to rescue her :D . At any other time I'd be whipping out my feminist card and fighting the good fight that women can do everything that men can. But cars and their upkeep really don't interest me --- I'd rather read East Religions and Western Thought!---- so this is one time it works to play the helpless woman. I'm not even ashamed of it - more's the pity :P

Aspi said...

Sidekick, you're not the only one who does it :). And to be completely consistent around any one thing is unrealistic in any case.

How about driving places? That's another place where the card gets put away in my ho..

Ouch! I have to go....

musing said...

hey Lata,

actually I am very gender biased..I think the person who called ladies the better half had some insights into this man/woman inequity.

Since I am worse than a lady when it comes to cars(common assumption ladies are not good with cars and men are better) so I am relieved that this book is written by a lady..the first step would be to reach a ladies level of expertise the next step, become a real man :)

I am compensating this weekend..As quickgun murugan would say..won whiskhy and one masala dosai..for main entree..curd rice and loads of rasam :) To quote McD's "I am lovin it"

About Afghanistan, I did not even notice it..but now that I have seen it, it seems to be an omen. Next stop, the taliban stronghold!! here I go Osama searching..

-a musing

Sidekick said...

Thanks, Aspi... nice to know I have company :)

Driving places falls squarely into the BH's territory - sounds familiar, huh? That actually plays into both our strengths so I don't feel like such a hypocrite... I'm a super mellow and happy jumpseat passenger, while the BH is a lousy one --- he's always muttering instructions under his breath when I drive :P

Saritha said...

Thats so true!Although,I dont drive I have seen many haasbaands do that.So relax in the passenger seat,buckle up,play music,read a book or just take a nap.I suck at navigation too,so I prefer to snooze.

m said...

I recently learned to fill my own gas but i still haven't figured out how to like leave the hose type thing there without holding on to it. Lots of other ppl do it.

Heck I can't even drive that well, i get nervous everytime i have to park.

I remember when i first had my driving lesson, the dude was a total maniac.

We get introduced and am like cool and I get in the car and the first thing he said was
"WOMEN CAN'T DRIVE"

i was like HUH? then he went on and on about how women think they know everything and wear these high heels and drive and also put makeup on at traffic lights etc etc.. I was like "CAN I DRIVE NOW A**HOLE, you're wasting $25 bucks an hour with your propoganda sh*t????"

and the first lesson was "NOT TO WEAR HI HEELS WHILE DRIVING"

lol

he was desi so my parents didn't wanna make a complaint to the company.. that dude totally scarred me man..

Aspi said...

Lata P, for some reason I've only been to one Navratri scene in Chicago. I just don't get invited to any :( nor do I sniff around for one. Probably because I am deeply embarassed that I can only do the old beheno maate garbas - you know the one for the kids' grandmas that used to wrap up by 8:30pm.

Megan, so how did the rest of the classes go?

Sidekick said...

Meg, that was funny. Took me back to my first time at a gas station in the US. Fresh off the boat fm India, where of course i didn't need to know which side the fuel tank was on, I was all at sea in figuring out how to use a gap pump. I desperately called the BH (this was while we were still dating while living in different cities) for help. He walked me through the process, step by painful step and somehow i managed to get the mission accomplished. It's awfully funny to look back now but at the time i was all thumbs and a mass of nerves :)

m said...

lol sidekick i thought you were a guy before for some weird reasons

"Navratri scene"?? like when you do the sticks dance? never been to one.. btw is it like a desi version of clubbing?

Sidekick said...

m, default assumption for gender neutral handles! nope, i've always been a smart, assertive,sassy gal as the BH will testify in completely unbiased fashion :P

undercover said...

at the risk of sounding ignorant, what does BH stand for?

Sidekick said...

undercover:sorry, sometimes the short forms are more trouble than they are worth! BH = better half (usually) but i joke that it is bitter half!

undercover said...

luckily i was undercover at the time so I don't look like a fool...

Aspi said...

Meg, if you've never been at a navratri scene - you haven't lived.

When I was a kid, the sticks dance was my only way to get close to the women I liked (if the Drift memsaab had known what a loser I was growing up she would've dumped me promptly). Hmm..I should do a post sometime about my experiences.

Mind Rush said...

Taking a car to a mechanic is like going in for brain surgery. You close your eyes, fervently hope the surgeon/mechanic is good, and afterwards, hand over the Visa card.

anu g said...

When I got married, my husband decided to teach me driving.We were still going thru the period when both of us were on our best behaviour, impressing each other:).But on that day it all changed.Men have this very special equation with their cars, I still fail to understand.So when i was all confused, pressing the accelerator and shifting gears and the car kept jumping up and stalling, I got to hear all the gaalis.I had to deal with the accelerator,the gear,the road,the guilt that I was spoiling the precious car, and also see a very angry BH(thanks sidekick).I simply stopped, and staged a walkout!!!Never learnt driving for a year.Was very happy on my two-wheeler(I progressed from a moped to a Kinetic Honda).The following year when I decided to go to a driving school, my brother-in-law said "Bhabhi, why do u waste money on a driving school. Just give me the money,and i will teach u".But boy, was I mistaken.Men will be men, and it was pretty much the same except that the gaalis were brought down to angry mutterings under his breath cos I was the bhabhi after all.Finally I went to a driving school,and learnt it from another man who dared not say anything cos he was being paid for it. I was also at ease cos he had another control with him, and it was not my husband's car!!!!
So moral of the story: For those girls who r yet to learn driving, never ever learn driving from your husband or any male in the family.

Sunitha said...

12 years ago, when I had my first driving lessons, the instructor declared at the end of 14th class that I will never learn to drive. He he refused to go with me teaching as he said that he wanted to live...
Has some interesting experiences -
He said, pointing to the 3 pedals at the floor - that is brrreak, accelerator and "kilutch". Whenever he commanded "kilutch", I burst out laughing.
Soon after I went to UK on business. I learnt to drive again.. the instructor used to say "gas harder"...hmm.. another reaosn to laugh...he was thoroughly offended.
In the past 12 years, I changed 5 cars which included Mitshubishi Eclipse and Honda CRV. I have learnt it the hard way, know your car or else, the service centre will take u for a ride.
Now, I beat the guys at their game...Driving!

Sunitha said...

BTW, my son got a plain white Tee Shirt as gift. He wants to paint interesting Tee sayings. He is 12. Any ideas?

m said...

sweety saritha, its best if you ask him or like let him decide because back then whatever i wore, my parents objected and whatever they chose, i found very "uncool"..

Sunitha said...

Thanks M..
But, my son is typical Libra. He wants me to give him choices and picks one. And he thinks that I am cool. (few more months...he'll change....)

I just remembered one of queries when he was 1 year old. I used to drive a Matiz those days. We did a lot of shopping and were carrying many bags. After seated in the car, he said, 'mummy, how big was the bag when you bought the car? How did you carry such a big bag home?'

Sunitha said...

sorry, the gae was 5. when he was a 5 year old.

m said...

awww so cute!!! buying a car in a shopping bag!!

i was always a bratty sassmouth, i wish my mom had fond memories of me as a kid but at least that way they never had any great big expectations from me and i was allowed to do whatever i please..

Aspi said...

anu g, well said!

Someone once told me the biggest stressers in a couples' relationship are (1) buying a house (2) man teaching woman to drive.

Sunitha, what is your 12 year old into?

Saritha said...

hmm,is it really that bad,husband teaching his wife how to drive?Mine,sidekick,I think is more of a better-half than bitter..he he...has lost his cool only once while teaching me but then again he didn't say anything.Ofcourse it was not a big challenge to teach someone who could steer well.I drove our elegant Premier Padmini a couple of times in India but I must say,I was scared out of my wits to drive on an Indian road.

Besides,I find it difficult to manage the steering,ABC and gears.I prefer driving a gearless machine on US roads ,it's lot easier,only thing I shd learn is to yeild(that is an alien term in India),merge and look over the shoulder.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nk74G31y4LU

My friend who in my dictionary is synonymous with 'Super Woman',brilliantly managing work-home-social life,once threw this terrific line while driving her car - "Men excel at driving the way women do at cooking.We are simply oriented that way".That actually sounds like one of the cliches from my grandma's book but hey,but can't deny it's practicality.

Men can't locate the salt in the kitchen that's lying just in front of them when they decide to prepare a simple dish and you end up wondering if it's easier to cook the dish urself than give the instructions.

Saritha said...

Aspi,have you noticed that there are more women than men on ur blog.

We are like ur 'Charlie's angels'...err..'Aspi's angels';)

Aspi said...

Now that you point it out, Saritha. This could mean two things.

One, more women watch SRGMP and II than men or Two, I remind women of their favorite unkilji. I'd like to think its the former.

Honestly enough, you can guess from some names but with others I don't know immediately. Like I didn't know Sidekick's gender until she left a comment about envying her husband's two wheeler.

And that Mind Rush, mysterious character who we are all rather fond of, I still don't know...

Saritha said...

....and I always thought Mindrush is a woman!No logical reason.

Just like meg,I assumed Sidekick to be a man until she left that comment.And thanks to musing's rasam which cleared his sinus and our doubt:)

Sidekick said...

anu g, i empathize - there's something abt men and their toys! saritha yr husband is defi in the minority :). my first driving lesson was with my dad when i was a teenager. it was also my last driving lesson with my dad. during the lesson, i could see veins were read to pop, he was all flushed and he gnashed his teeth as i gnashed the clutch- accelarator combo! somehow he managed to control himself and not yell at his 'ladli beti', but wisely we both realized that b4 he blew a gasket or i burst into tears or walked off in a huff, it was time to call it quits! i took driving classes fm a professional!

Saritha, this place is defi turning into estrogen central. aspi, maybe more women dig the laid back witty pitch :)

i always thought of mind rush as a woman... something abt those insightful yet light psychological analyses or maybe coz my gender nuetral handle is always mistaken for a man's!

anu g said...

Uncleji, I think its only becos more women watch the shows:):).Relax!Just joking!

anu g said...

Sidekick,I must confess even I somehow assumed u were a male...maybe becos mostfemales here are using their own names/pennames (Is Megan really megan?).Somehow Sidekick reminded me of Circuit in the Munnabhai series.(No offence meant to u at all.Its just the name).Even when u mentioned about a family health setback, I was quite surprised that a male spoke about his personal problems!!It was only when we were discussing about movies, and u said u left the frat movies to ur husband(Aspi tut tut, that was before the 2-wheeler episode I think), that I went 'Oh!!!So Sidekick is a lady!!!".I am glad I was not the only one to be mistaken.

anu g said...

Saritha, Either u r a natural at driving, or ur husband is an extremely patient guy!But again,if u have been learning on a gearless car, then I guess its very easy. No reason for him to fret!!!

Sidekick said...

none taken, anu g..... i'm kinda used to it! circuit is munnabhai's sidekick and i can see the association - i like circuit ; more than i do munnabhai! sidekick is a blast fm my past. my husband and i date all the way back to our high skool days together and our gang of pals used to razz me abt being his sidekick :)

anu g said...

Wow, Sidekick.Thats a long time! And I m really impressed!I dont think u should be calling each other bitter half then!!!!!

Aspi said...

anu g, you have a memory sharper than Shatrughan Sinha's rampuri chakku!

Honestly, I'm usually not thinking gender when I read or respond to comments. Case in point is Mind Rush - I get emails from Rush now and then, not once have I tried to obliquely find out.

Any which way, I like having this crowd around for as long as you'll have time to show up :)

Now back to my NB post for tomorrow and making sure I'm set for Saritha's VoI stuff that should come in anytime now :)

Sidekick said...

O, i'm defi my husband's better half, he's the bitter one :D .... and that's very much in a teasing vein. bcoz we've known each other for ever, i poke fun at him all the time with impunity...