I Love Cars. Thank You, Dad

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Celebrating my dad, the mechanic.

I knew how to change a tire before I could drive, and I knew how to change the oil if I really needed to. My dad, who worked for Toyota for 30 years, made sure of it, and this really came in handy driving the dirt roads of Michigan. Even though I have road side assistance in my car now, I feel more confident driving around the country knowing that if something were to go wrong with my vehicle, I have enough knowledge to fix the problem or know that a service department’s solution is the right one.

So, this Father’s Day, I am celebrating my dad, Ken the mechanic.

Yes, I Learned to Drive at 9 Years Old

Growing up in a small town in Michigan, with more lakes and farms than people, allowed me to drive tractors, snowmobiles, and boats at a young age. I started driving cars when I was 12. Not that my dad wanted me to, it’s just what we did growing up in Michigan, or as we call it, car country. I loved the muscle cars, and even though my first car was a VW Rabbit, it handled those dirt road corners like a Camaro, or at least in my mind it did.

Further Reading: How to Keep Potholes from Ruining Your Tires… And Your Day

Celebrating My Dad, The Mechanic

My dad loves to share mechanics jokes while we work on my Jeep. Photo: Gene Miles

Learning to Work On Cars by Being by My Dad’s Side

Or, maybe it was the other way around: If I wanted to by with my dad it was easy if I could work on cars with him. He would bring home cars to work on, anything from Porsches to Toyotas, and that love for all vehicles has stuck with me all these years. I loved when he would ask me to help him work on the cars. My hands were small, so I could fit into small spaces to check things where his hands couldn’t fit. One time I actually knew what was wrong with a car before he did (it was the fan motor) I felt like such an expert.

Celebrating My Dad, The Mechanic

Richard Petty Racing School – Photo by Vern Anderson

How I Became –and Still Am– Addicted To Racing

When I was about 13 we started going to the local racetrack where my dad would work on some of the stock cars. I loved the excitement of the crowd, the cars and the race teams. The smell of the dirt track and the gasoline sticks with me to this day. I was hooked, I couldn’t get enough of it. Racing was in my blood and I have been a race fan ever since.

People got to know him at the track and he became very respected in our town; people looked to him to fix anything that had to do with cars and of course, he loved that!

We still talk every Sunday when the races are on. Either we talk about our favorite driver winning the race, or complain about a driver we don’t like who won.

Further Reading: Why Correct Driving Position Matters: Driving Safety Lessons From Fiat and Skip Barber Racing School

Celebrating My Dad, The Mechanic

Photo: Hagerty.com

Another important Lesson: When Not To Buy That Dream Car

When I was 15 I saw a sports car for sale, a late 1960’s Opel. The seller only wanted $100 for this car. Too good to be true, right? I didn’t realize that the smashed up back end was where the engine was. I tried so hard to convince my dad that we could fix it up. We could replace the back end and with a little bondo I’d have a great little sports car. He was so sweet letting me know this wasn’t the car for me. He taught me a valuable lesson: when to walk away from a “great deal.”

My Dad: A Mechanic’s Mechanic

My dad worked on every car in the industry, from Subaru to Buick to Toyota. He would work on boats at the local marina on our lake and worked on pretty much every car in the neighborhood. Other mechanics would want his opinion, especially when he worked at Toyota. Before he retired, he started mentoring students at the local trade school. He told me his best student was a young girl who wasn’t afraid to hop in the engine and get the job done. He even boasts that girls make great mechanics because we were more analytical and never give up until the problem is fixed. I think he learned that from me.

A Girls Guide To Cars | I Love Cars. Thank You, Dad - Dad Frolic

Visiting my home town in Michigan with my Dad, who is enjoying the retired life. Photo: Gene Miles

Getting Car Buying Advice From a True Expert

When it came to buying a new car, of course I’d ask my dad. His top suggestion was often a Toyota, and as a result, I’ve owned a couple of Toyota Corollas in my life. My dad believed in them and he was right; they have a great resale value, are very reliable and are fairly inexpensive to work on. I could tell he was pretty happy that I listened to him and believed in his opinion.

Buying a new car, even if it wasn’t a Toyota, is always a good excuse to call my dad. Even though he’s retired he still has great advice, so I still call him every time I have a question. I love an excuse to call.

A Girls Guide To Cars | I Love Cars. Thank You, Dad - Fathers Day Car Tips Dad

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