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Mr. Fixit’s Legacy

Thanks to Dad, I’ve checked and refilled oil, changed spark plugs and batteries, tightened wires, satisfied in the knowledge I could do it

While in the service, my father learned to fix cars and engines. His later-life tag of Mr. Fixit stemmed from that time.

My father, Marlow Hankey, came back from the Army in 1952 after a few years in Korea. While in the service, he learned to like the work of fixing cars and engines in the Motor Pool. His later-life tag of Mr. Fixit stemmed from that time.
    I remember him working on his cars, changing the spark plugs, the oil and filters. Most of the cars were Fords. When I was 16, I remember him buying a 1956 Ford Fairlane — but at that age I was not very interested in cars.
    But when it came time to change the brake pads on that Fairlane, I became pretty adept at giving my father the tools that he requested, like a three-eighths-inch wrench rather than a three-sixteenths. Seemed like every time he was fixing the car, I was right there by his side, soaking up the information about how the car was supposed to run.
    I remember my father trying to fix my first car, a light-green ’52 Ford convertible with a white top. He went through a series of if the problem isn’t this, then it is this. If it won’t start, then maybe we can clean the spark plugs with sandpaper or run a wire brush over them to get the ick off. Then, of course, he went to the parts store and bought new spark plugs. That helped but he wasn’t satisfied. So he replaced some little square rubber brushes in a metal cylinder, and the car ran much better. The next problem was the battery. We charged it, but it was still too weak, so then he went out and bought a new one. A few months later after I had taken the car through a field a few times just for the fun of it, the muffler came loose. I never told him how that happened.
    My father bought me more than one used car. One was an orange taxicab from a junkyard. I wish he had left it there. The brakes were nonexistent. Another was a junked police car. Those two cars I never drove.
    Usually I was right with him when anything had to be repaired, no matter if it was a screen window or a furnace filter, the car’s oil, oil filter or air filter. I watched him do the repairs and learned my lessons well. I learned to pay attention to the normal car sounds and the feel of the car while I had my hands on the steering wheel. Tactile is the word that tells you things through your hands. Like if the right wheel is wiggling, you may be getting a flat, or the front end might be out of alignment.
    He taught me things that I do with my car now to keep it in good running condition. When the oil gets nasty and dark, it is time to take it to have the oil, the oil filter and the air filter changed. Then I check the antifreeze in the radiator. Regularly I check my tire pressure for safe inflation, windshield wipers for wear; annually I check the spark plugs. He taught me well, and I remember the lessons.
    When I go into an automobile parts store, the men behind the counters don’t look at me as if I don’t know what I need because I tell them exactly what I need, sometimes by brand.
    I chuckle at the times I have watched my grown son change the motors in his cars, explaining to me what the parts are for. He talks as if I understand it all. I make believe I do even if I don’t, because cars are made differently these days.