Thursday, May 15, 2014

Introducing: Jeremy Hampson

Here’s the thing –

 I like to think of myself as a car guy, up until something breaks on one of my cars. Then, there I am wondering why in the hell there is half a gallon of coolant on the ground. And then I finally figure it out, asking myself why I didn’t think of that, and commit it to memory so it doesn’t happen again. Then, some other new thing I’ve never seen happens. Such is the vicious cycle of trying to keep a 30 year old car running.

For those that didn’t read the title, my name is Jeremy, and how I became a gearhead is a little strange. Allow me to explain. So I grew up mainly with just my dad, and he was (yes, was, not so much anymore, more of an armchair gear head then a ratcheting one these days) a pretty huge gear head while I was growing up. He took me around sometimes in his ’57 Chevy Sedan Delivery. It had a 454 big block, was fully restored, and done up for one of the stories in the magazine he worked for, Super Chevy. I grew up just looking at that thing, and also being hauled around in his ’95 Chevy Silverado. A Silverado that he put on coil overs and threw a supercharger on, just for the giggles. I’m pretty sure it was around that time he had the truck that I developed an unhealthy affinity for speed.

Let’s fast forward to my first car. While he may have been a gear head, and I learned car spotting from him, he never even taught me how to change my oil. But he did buy me my first car, a 1989 Honda Civic DX. It was one of those 3 door hatch backs, with a 5-speed, and power nothing. At first I thought he was crazy, no power steering or anything like that. But then I came to realize that it ended up making me a more cognizant driver, seeing as how I have to turn the wheels and all that before I stop moving. It helped me pay attention more. Anywho. So I blew the clutch in that thing, and he had it replaced for me for my birthday. That is when I learned the glory of a 5 speed, that is, being able to spin the wheels while changing gears, it was glorious.

Then, I joined the Army. After I got to my duty station, first thing I did was talk to my dad about getting my car. He said that it needed more work then was worth, had been sitting for roughly a year, and apparently the entire brake system needing replacing. Oh well. For a while I drove my wife’s Cavalier, but the gear head in me came out when I picked up a 2007 Chrysler 300 Touring with 27,000 miles on the clock. What had happened was the dreaded pink thingy problem, and after researching I found that I wasn’t going to pay a dealership several hundred dollars just to put in a new shifting column. Not when it was just going to happen again. So I took matters into my own hands, borrowed a tool set from a friend, and ripped my center console apart. It was right then that I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I ended up driving it around for a few days by sticking my finger against the pink thingy and getting it into gear that way. I ended up getting the replacement part, and it even came with instructions.

So, I ended up putting the new part in and putting everything back together. Everything was fine, except for the fact that tiptronic didn’t work anymore. Luckily that stuff doesn’t matter much to me anyways. It was like a light switch flipped in my head. All of a sudden, I had successfully fixed something that would have normally cost me hundreds of dollars to get fixed. It was an amazing feeling, and I had to do it again. I started getting tools, and workshop manuals, looking for something to fix. But nothing really came up on the 300.

So, I did what any sane person would do, I went out and bought a 1986 Porsche 944. Something I knew needed a bit of work. It soon came up that it needed a new clutch, and I’m in the process of doing that now. But that is a story for a different time. Sometimes, you may not even know that you are a gear head until fate forces you to do something, and all of a sudden it’s like a whole new world has opened up to you. You don’t even really have to know anything, you just have to be willing to learn, and that is what I did. Now, I have screwed up plenty of fixes, botched repairs just because I forgot one simple thing, and narrowly avoided dismemberment. I really don’t care when it happens though, I just look at it as a learning experience. It’s just one that hurts the wallet really bad sometimes, so it pays to remember.

~ Jeremy

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