Ownership In the Garage: Keeping DIY alive in a small space

17:01  15 may  2018
17:01  15 may  2018 Source:   driving.ca

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Little details, such as the orange colour of a Fram oil filter, are some of William Ha’s earliest memories about cars. His dad would take the family car to a friend when it needed attention. There, Ha would hang around as the oil was changed or the brakes were serviced.

The car lives in the garage at his home in Milton, Ontario. That single car garage , Ha says, “Is a super, super small space . It’s a postage-stamp size, but I make do with what I have.”

a man sitting in a car© Provided by Driving.ca

Little details, such as the orange colour of a Fram oil filter, are some of William Ha’s earliest memories about cars. His dad would take the family car to a friend when it needed attention. There, Ha would hang around as the oil was changed or the brakes were serviced.

“I’d watch and be impressed,” Ha explains. “From that point on, I always had an interest in cars and looking after them.”

While Ha has a career in the field of nutrition, he has spent time working in a Canadian Tire auto parts department. He’s also worked for Kia and Mercedes-Benz in their head offices. Those experiences have enabled him to learn more about cars and their various parts. While he was at Canadian Tire, for example, he also had access to the technicians and could ask them questions.

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Currently, Ha is driving a 2014 Lexus. The car lives in the garage at his home in Milton, Ontario. That single car garage, Ha says, “Is a super, super small space. It’s a postage-stamp size, but I make do with what I have.”

Ha makes use of both the garage and the driveway, and will service brakes, change oil and do tune ups, replace sensors and perform seasonal wheel swaps. He also enjoys making small modifications to cars, including wrapping interior parts in carbon fibre film, and has taught himself to install 3M paint protection films.

“As well, I like to do simple paint detailing, fine finish corrections and polishing,” Ha says. “My space doesn’t look like much, but it is a spot where I’m able to do things that gives me a sense of accomplishment.

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“It’s enriching for your spirit, and the more successful at making repairs or doing maintenance you become, the more confidence you’ll have when performing even more complicated chores.”

The only reasons he has to take a vehicle to a shop are tasks such as tire mounting or exhaust work, or something that requires a hoist.

“Otherwise I prefer to do it on my own – when you take a vehicle to a shop, it’s not their car, and for them time is money,” Ha says. “The value of being able to do it yourself is you can take your time and do it properly.”

Q What tools are in your collection and where did they come from?

A My first set of tools was a simple 3/8-inch ratchet with standard sockets. My tool collection has grown incrementally with the types of jobs I do. To become quicker at doing things, for example, I bought a Mastercraft electric impact gun, I bought it 10 years ago, and I highlight that tool because it’s lasted that long and I use it a lot on wheel lug nuts, suspension and brake bolts, etc. It’s probably removed 300 wheels over the years. Every tool is special for the job at hand, and I’ve purchased many of them simply as I’ve needed them.

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Q Which tool or tools do you use most often?

A Definitely the hand tools, such as a screwdriver or a 3/8-inch ratchet and socket. Most of my tools are Mastercraft; Canadian Tire’s house brand. I have a couple of Craftsman pieces, too, including sockets and ratchets. I do have a service jack I bought at Costco that I’m always using in conjunction with jackstands. That jack has a low profile and it can lift higher – I’ve had it for six years and it has given good service.

Q How did you learn to use the tools? Did you go to school, did someone teach you, or do you watch YouTube videos?

A My skills were mostly self-taught, but I’ve had the help of technician friends like my mechanic, Paul. I also briefly worked at a dealership service department, and have chatted with handy Internet car club members. As well, when I was in my 20s, a family friend who was a professional technician allowed me to watch him work on my cars. It’s easier than ever now to learn how to do things with the Internet and YouTube. Chances are good someone has recorded a video about what you want to do, but you still need a certain amount of experience – it’s never as easy as someone else might make it look.

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Q What’s the most important project in the garage right now?

A On the agenda this spring is the task of servicing the front and rear differentials in the Lexus. I save over $300 if I do it myself, and although I have never serviced a differential before, I see it as being a good challenge. And, I’ll be detailing the car for the spring.

Q Is there anyone else in the house or in your life interested in working in the garage?

A I’m single so it’s more of a personal hobby and a personal passion for me. Around the neighbourhood there’s not really anyone interested in what I’m doing. I’m afraid to say that much of this do-it-yourself stuff is a bit of a dying art. But, I’m encouraged by the interest Postmedia’s Driving is showing with this In the Garage series.

If you have a workspace filled with tools, projects or memories and are willing to share, let me know; I’d be pleased to write it up. Email me at gregwilliams@shaw.ca

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