Keeping the old cars running


Like most other folks, we spend a lot of time in cars. And we spend a lot of time on cars, too: gassing them up, maintaining them, troubleshooting their various maladies, and pondering whether and when to swap one of our existing vehicles for something else. They’re a big part of our life.

I think that, eco-wise, car travel is the single biggest disadvantage to living in a rural place as we do. You city dwellers, who can walk and take the bus, are of course slashing your impact in a major way compared to those of us who have to drive for every little thing (except recreational strolling). The best we can do is be judicious about our trips to town, arranging our schedules in such a way as to minimize the back-and-forth.

Actually, there is another step we can take, and that is to extend the life of our vehicles as much as possible. The key here is to have at least one family member who is willing and able to work on cars. That would be my husband, who has been known to change a fuel pump on the way to a concert in Richmond (that included buying a new pump–and he made it to the show on time!). As the line from Ghostbusters has it, he’s got the tools and he’s got the talent.

Numbers don’t lie.

Besides the obvious financial savings, being able to fix cars at home has another huge advantage: We’re not nearly as prone to giving up on them when they have minor problems. A car needs new strut mounts? Weird rattling noise coming from the engine compartment? Heater’s not working? In every case, Mr. Green Scene’s answer is to spend some of his own time rather than submitting to the mercy of a garage. And thus we are far less likely to end up junking a car that’s "too expensive" to keep on the road.

I know not everyone is interested in being a D.I.Y. mechanic, but there are lots of other things in life that need fixing (clothes, tools, furniture…), and I think it’s smart to be knowledgeable about at least one or two of them.

What do you fix yourself, thus saving it from being discarded?