Want to feel better about yourself and life? Try changing your own tires. I’ve found that this common seasonal chore for people living in places that get winter brings all these benefits and more. After falling out of favour for several decades, running two kinds of tires over the course of the year is gaining in popularity again. This is precisely where a few tools and a little know-how can lead to personal satisfaction. The experiences of my youngest son, Jacob, are a good example.
Jake is 20, he’s up to his eyeballs in academia as he studies to be a veterinarian, but growing up in a home where we value hands-on skills he’s also learned how manual self reliance abilities can lead to greater mental stability and satisfaction. He grew up seeing this from me, and I’m happy to see the idea has taken root in him as he’s making his own way in the world.
Jake drives a 2003 Toyota Echo and when it came time to swap the studded winter tires for summer ones, he decided to do the job himself. Changing your own tires saves time compared with running to the auto shop and waiting around, and it soon saves enough money to pay for the tools you need. In my experience doing manual work is also a powerful antidote for the glazed-over feeling you get when you’ve been working too long and too hard in front of a screen.
“It was a sunny morning in April”, explains Jake. “The sky was beautiful outside my window, the thrill of lengthening days and returning birds was dampened by the writing, tweaking, rewriting and overanalyzing of my school work. Despite my fast-approaching deadlines, when I heard my new summer tires were mounted on rims and ready to pick up, I dropped everything to bring them home. I could have had the garage bolt the wheels onto the car for me, but I knew I needed a change of pace and the chance to get greasy and happy.”
Manual work that gets you dirty is an under-rated mental tonic and every time I step away from my desk to work outside it makes me feel better, just as it does for Jake. Have you discovered the value of working with your hands and getting dirty?
“After slipping into a well-worn pair of cutoffs and checkered flannel shirt I grabbed my tools and headed outside”, remembers Jake. “The latches on the case of my new socket set and torque wrench are still stiff as I open them up and get to work. The stones covering my parking lot bite into my back as I position the jack under the car’s axle and crank it up, but I like the work anyway.”
As a dad it’s my responsibility to teach my kids to take care of themselves, and I supply each of them with basic tools as they’re starting out. In the case of Jake, we went with a Craftsman socket set and torque wrench, the two main tools anyone needs for seasonal tire changes. When I was 20, my own dad gave me a Craftsman socket set that I still use today. It’s a family tradition.
“Growing up I was taught to care for vehicles and machines” says Jake, and even though it has taken me twenty years to embrace this for myself, I’ve found the work cathartic and restorative in a way that allows me to bring my best self to every other pursuit. Whether it’s scrubbing down a stained pair of white Converse or getting my hands dirty underneath my humble and reliable little car, I almost always take greater pleasure in maintaining rather than replacing.”
Want to make changing tires part of your self-reliance skill set? Watch the video below for a detailed tour. This video has been viewed and approved by a mechanic and tool manufacturer.