Opinion: Maintaining happy status quo between generations of car DIYers

Motoring editor Andy Russell still has his box of basic tools and bits from 40 years ago for fixing

Motoring editor Andy Russell still has his box of basic tools and bits from 40 years ago for fixing issues on his car. Picture: Andy Russell - Credit: Andy russell

A special find while spring cleaning the garage brought back happy car maintenance memories for motoring editor Andy Russell.

Regular readers may recall I recently gave the garage a spring clean, tidying the trash and clearing the clutter. It still looks pristine although I'm having trouble finding things that are no longer where I usually leave them!

What I did find though was a small metal box which was key to launching me on the road to freedom.

My late great uncle Ben, a second world war 8th Army Desert Rat and mechanic who went on to run a big company's in-house garage, had given it to me when I first started driving 40 years ago.

It wasn't very big but it was carefully packed with everything I needed for simple roadside fixes including:

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Double-ended screwdriver (flat and crosshead).

Pliers and wire-cutters

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Feeler gauges and emery paper for checking and cleaning spark plugs and contact breaker (points).

Spare tyre valve, valve remover and dust cap.

Tyre pressure gauge.

Various spanners including a plug spanner,

A small adjustable wrench.

With it came a piece of advice – if I couldn't sort a roadside issue with what was in the tin, the car needed to go to a garage.

Fortunately I never needed it but at least I knew what to do. It helped that a mechanic friend taught me how to service my Mini – I still have the special brake adjuster and bleed spanner.

The last time my elder son, also Ben, was home I was doing the good old dad thing and checking tyre pressures on his car. He does the bare minimum of checks for levels and tyres, has his car serviced yearly and never has an issue. Forty years ago regular maintenance was a necessity just to keep it running but, now, I'd have trouble removing the plastic engine cover.

I asked him if he knew how to change a wheel if he got a puncture. His answer was simple – call his breakdown provider. I know he is not alone in doing so.

That seems to go against a recent survey by insurance company LV which suggested half of 17 to 24-year-olds felt confident enough to perform basic car maintenance, compared with 31pc of drivers aged 45 or more. That makes them more confident than their parents which contradicts the stereotypical view that older generations have a better mechanical knowledge than young people when it comes to repairing cars.

One reason for younger drivers knowing more is changes to the modern driving test curriculum. Since 2004 stricter testing of motorists' knowledge about the inner workings of vehicles has been gradually implemented.

The internet is another contributing factor, with trend data from Google showing searches for how-to videos for car and home maintenance growing 70pc year-on-year. And 95pc of young drivers use YouTube for research, compared with 68pc of people aged more than 35.

Mind you, I'm happy to continue doing routine maintenance on his car on the condition he helps me and his mum with anything to do with computers, WiFi, Bluetooth and tuning in TV paraphernalia. That's a fair exchange in my book.

Do you have any memories of car maintenance successes or disasters? Email motoring@archant.co.uk

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