Author Topic: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive  (Read 7524 times)

Flynlow

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Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« on: September 10, 2012, 06:48:13 AM »
Hi all,

So, I'm just getting started on the boards, having just found MMM, but I have lived a fairly frugal lifestyle since college, and had some great $$ habits impressed on me by my parents well before then (live below your means, minimum debt, save for retirement, shop for deals and only when you need something, etc.). 

Anyway, I'll do a proper intro post later, because I have some questions for you guys, but one place I thought I could help contribute some knowledge is in the automotive area.  I know most people here consider cars a necessary evil, and for them I'll try to help be a resource, but undoubtably there are others like me who are very Mustachian, with the exception of loving mechanical conveyances. 

Some background, my love of cars began the first time I drove one.  My first car was a little mid-90s Ford Escort, and I LOVED that thing, first time I got behind the wheel it was like someone clicked on the lights of my view of the world, and I suddenly realized the universe was a million times bigger and more exciting than I thought.  Since then, I've had 20+ cars, from all manufacturers (American, Japanese, and European), V8s, V6s, I6s, I4s, manuals, automatics, AWD, FWD, RWD, just about everything....and I'm 28.  I also worked 4 years as an engineer for a major OEM in their R&D department developing new cars. 

Sadly though, cars (and road racing (track, not street), which I got into after college) is one of the most expensive forms of entertainment there is, exceeded only by air racing, yacht ownership/upkeep, and burning hundred dollar bills to heat your house, and the last is probably only slightly more expensive.  So, how to scratch that itch without foregoing FI and the possibility of retiring before 80?  Well, here are some things that I've found effective over the years:

-Do your own maintenance, as much as you can stomach.  If you don't have tools, buy some.  People sell complete sets of basic mechanics tools used on CL, or at yardsales all the time.  Snap On, Matco, and Cornwell are all commercial-level lines of tools that can occasionally be a good buy USED.  New, they are eye-wateringly expensive.  Craftsmen (Sears), Husky (Home Depot), and Kobalt (Lowes) all offer lifetime warranties, with no receipt required, so even if you buy a set used, if you break something, you can walk into the store and swap it for a new replacement, no questions asked.  I bought a used car, and discovered a set of Craftsmen screwdrivers in the trunk that looked as though they'd been stored at the bottom of the ocean for 20 years, Sears guy swapped the whole set out with a smile on his face!  If used tools are not available for a reasonable deal, it is worth shopping Craftsmen, Home Depot, and Lowes at various times of the year (Father's Day and Christmas are good ones), or peruse their websites for online only savings.  Many times you can get the fantastic online deal and arrange to pickup from your local store that day for no charge, but they won't match the online pricing if you try to buy from the local store directly.  Go figure.  A NEW mechanics tool set should be between $200-300 for a good, complete set of wrenchs, sockets, ratchets, allen wrenchs, and few other niceties.  Take this set for example:

http://www.sears.com/craftsman-239-pc-easy-to-read-mechanics-tool/p-00934239000P?prdNo=5&blockNo=5&blockType=G5

Only thing I would add to the above is a screwdriver set, since that seems to be lacking:

http://www.sears.com/craftsman-23-pc-screwdriver-set/p-00931796000P?prdNo=2&blockNo=2&blockType=G2

And of course, a decent hydraulic jack and jackstands.  NEVER NEVER NEVER go under a car without jackstands, no matter how safe or sturdy you think the jack is, Murphy's Law says it will slip or break at the worst possible time!  I like Northern Tool or even Harbor Freight aluminum jacks, they're lightweight, easy to roll around, and all the brands (Northern, HD, Lowes, Craftsman, HF, etc.) seem to be the same anyway.  Wait for a special:

http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200221974_200221974

http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200305227_200305227

The side benefit is tools are tools, and the same set that you use on cars can also be used in home repair or improvements, working on your bicycle, or impressing members of the opposite sex with your mechanical prowess (ladies, there is NOTHING hotter than a girl who's mechanically inclined). 

Now you've got your tools, and its time to start working!  Great!  Presumably, you already have a car that is semi-reliable and a good source of transportation.  Perfect!  If you've never done this before, start small.  Ask a friend to teach you how to change the oil, or look it up online.  Usually doing it yourself is $20 or so for oil and filter, vs. $50+ at a shop.  I always use synthetic oil, so it tends to be a little pricier at ~$35 or so, but a shop likewise charges more for synthetic, usually $100+! 

Next, it's probably worth learning to change a tire.  Again, friend, google, or youtube your way to the required information.  I like to have friends practice with the spare, jack and tools that came with their car for a couple reasons: 1.) if you have a flat unexpectantly, that's probably what you'll be using, 2.) the tools, jack, and spare that came with your car will probably be different or less effective than your home tools you just bought, so its a great time for questions, 3.) if the spare, jack or tools are missing from your car, better to find out on a sunny day in your driveway than at 3am on the side of the highway in the rain. 

Once you've learned to change a tire, you can start rotating your tires to improve their wear and life, saving you time and money before replacing a set.  Beyond that, you can consult your car's owner's manual for other maintanence items such as air filter replacement, spark plug replacement, fuel filters (this can be messy), and others.  It should tell you the task and recommended interval.  Air filters, for instance, are typically 15K-30K miles.  Knowing how to jump-start a car safely is also well worth learning.  Carry a set of jumper cables in your car and you'll probably make someone's night (including your own, when your battery unexpectedly goes dead!).

If you can do all the above, you are likely ahead of 99% of the population when it comes to car maintenance and repair, including a fair number of people who fancy themselves gearheads.  Congratualtions!  Some stop here, and bask in the money savings their DIY skills have netted, while others move on to bigger repairs and sportier cars.

Next post will cover those unfortunate folks, I'll try and post that bit after I get out of work this afternoon.

Have a great day!

daizy744

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2012, 07:01:12 AM »
Great summary!

I married a gear head. Cars are his passion. Going car-free is not an option at all for us. Thankfully, he maintains everything himself, including replacing brakes and tires. We visit his mechanic friend only for non-regular maintenance problems.  He also helps friends and family with their small car issues, like swapping winter/summer tires, and repairing their brakes. It's win-win, as they help him out with other things when needed.



Posthumane

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2012, 08:51:55 AM »
Great post Flynlow, I had thought about writing similar but you probably worded it much better than I could. I'm very similar to you, 29 years old and a major gear head. I haven't owned as many cars as you, but I've had a decent collection of all sorts of vehicles (cars, motorcycles, bicycles, aircraft). In fact, now that I think about it, I have 4 cars at my house at the moment (two running and for regular use between my GF and I, one getting stripped down for parts to make another car, one that will get stripped down soon for parts and hauled away), plus one Locost frame that's being built up, two motorcycles (one regular street bike and one dirt bike I got for free to be fixed up), and probably 6 bicycles (road bike, old mountain bike, recumbent bike, recumbent trike, and some parts bikes I got for free). All that is after I've gotten rid of a few vehicles, such as another motorcycle I fixed up and gave to my brother.

I agree that racing is expensive, or at least I though it was until I started flying. Doing your own maintenance and being able to buy used saves a huge amount of money. Despite my vehicle hobby I still spend less on transportation than the average person in my town driving a newish F150 or the like. I recently added a blurb in the "how to save money on your hobby" thread regarding aircraft sharing to cover the costs of one of my addictions, and something similar can be done with race cars. When I used to autocross there were several people sharing track cars to save money.

Flynlow

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2012, 08:47:40 PM »
Posthumane,

Definitely sounds like we've got a lot of shared interests, I started in boats, moved to cars at 16, and have been getting into motorcycles the past several years.  I would love to get my pilots license too, but the time and money involved are, as you said, significant.  I'm happy to stay with the cars and bikes for now, but someday!



My other big post got delayed, work is quite busy this week, so I got out late.  Will shoot for tomorrow!

Jamesqf

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2012, 10:56:08 PM »
I agree that racing is expensive, or at least I though it was until I started flying.

And I thought flying was expensive, until I wound up with a horse :-)

But I think this is one place where I disagree with a lot of people here.  The purpose of a general frugality isn't to become a miser, or even (in my opinion, anyway) to retire early and do nothing.  It's to optimize the use of your resources - time, money, etc - to give you the most pleasure.  Driving around in a new, upscale car or pickup (and paying for the gas it burns) gives me zero pleasure, so I don't do it, even though "society" says I should.

tkaraszewski

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2012, 11:11:17 PM »
I once built a supercharged Ford 306 smallblock V8 to put in a Mustang for drag racing. It was not frugal in the least. Eventually the car got stolen, too.

Posthumane

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2012, 08:38:46 AM »
The purpose of a general frugality isn't to become a miser, or even (in my opinion, anyway) to retire early and do nothing.  It's to optimize the use of your resources - time, money, etc - to give you the most pleasure.
I agree with this completely, which is why I won't give up my gearhead hobbies, including flying. However, I do think that in order to optimize the resource use it's important to look at each thing and see if it provides an amount of satisfaction that is at least proportional to the amount you end up spending on it. This is basically what's written in YMOYL, and to an extent in the MMM blog. So in my own life for example, I enjoy flying, riding bikes, and building/modifying various vehicles in approximately equal amounts, but the amount I spend on flying is far greater than I spend on cycling. Therefore it makes sense for me to try to drastically reduce my flying costs (either by doing less of it, or by other means as have been mentioned).

By the way, I've never owned a horse. What are the costs involved? I live in the prairies and many people in the area do have horses, but most of them also have land to keep them on. I walk by a few horse pastures every day.

Eventually the car got stolen, too.
Ouch, that always sucks, but especially after you've put a lot of effort into making something special.

mindaugas

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2012, 10:48:16 AM »
Great post, I am no gearhead but I learned basic maintenance out of necessity when I was young. Pus I love cars, I lost count of what I have owned after 18. I didn't have the money for a mechanic and thus didn't have the money for a decent car. So everything I had was old and needed something fixed. Head gaskets, water/oil/fuel pump, general tune up include plugs, wires, distributor, fuel filter, gasket for oil pan, stereos, speakers, window cranks and motors. I even traded labor (I'm in IT) with a mechanic and got to put tires on a rim and balance them.

Quote
The purpose of a general frugality isn't to become a miser, or even (in my opinion, anyway) to retire early and do nothing.  It's to optimize the use of your resources - time, money, etc - to give you the most pleasure.
Ditto, nicely put!

Jamesqf

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2012, 12:23:34 PM »
By the way, I've never owned a horse. What are the costs involved? I live in the prairies and many people in the area do have horses, but most of them also have land to keep them on. I walk by a few horse pastures every day.

Ordinary expenses aren't that bad, especially if you have land, or in my case, friends with land who already have horses.  It's those incidental expenses which bite, as when the horse kicks her leg through a sheet metal stable wall, and damn near cuts her hoof off.  That can run up the vet bills in short order - not to mention the fun of spending about an hour in the corral, in the rain, trying to hold a tourniquet on a spurting leg wound, while wondering if the critter is going to collapse on top of me.

But I worked out approximate costs for a hypothetical new horse owner.

  Hay, oats, carrots, etc - $50/month
  Farrier for shoes & hoof trimming - $80 every 8 weeks or so.
  Regular vet costs, shots &c - $250/year
  Misc equipment: curry combs, fly masks, manure forks, buckets - $200
  Saddle, bridle, and other tack - $1000
  Trailer to haul horse to riding places - $5000 and up
  Large pickup to pull trailer - $10,000 and up
  Land to keep horse on - $100,000 and up.

And 1 horse, was free to good home :-)

tkaraszewski

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2012, 12:34:50 PM »
The purpose of a general frugality isn't to become a miser, or even (in my opinion, anyway) to retire early and do nothing.  It's to optimize the use of your resources - time, money, etc - to give you the most pleasure.

This is why I'm not going to sell my house and move closer to work. I want to live *here*, so I will figure out a way to reduce my commute while keeping the house I want. It's also why I no longer have a sailboat. They are a lot of fun, but the pleasure per dollar is actually fairly low considering how infrequently you end up having time to take them out.

MsSindy

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2012, 12:44:50 PM »
I married a gearhead as well.  When we were first dating he spent an entire day fixing my Pontiac Fiero that had broke.  We were in a long-distance relationship, so he was only there for the weekend -- and not even a screwdriver in the house - he had to go to Sears to buy some tools.  I knew it had to be love!

He started out racing boats, and then got into customizing trucks, he had also started to get his pilot license (which he still wants to do).  We've agreed that we'll save for FIRE first, then if he still wants to get his pilot license, he can work longer to do so.  He's actually really interested in Trike flying and it only requires a Sport Pilot license (not as cool as a real plane, but MUCH less expensive).

Posthumane

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2012, 12:55:40 PM »
MsSindy - if he gets a sport pilot's license he can fly a lot more than a trike, although certainly trikes are inexpensive. In fact, if think if you're in the US you can fly a Basic Ultralight with no license at all (as scary as that sounds). In canada a Recreational Pilot permit is a good alternative to the full Private Pilot License if you just want to fly for fun. Also, I recommend paragliding as something to try, either powered or not. Btw, I had a Fiero too. :)

Flynlow

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2012, 03:51:18 PM »
So, picking up where we left off.  Undoubtedly some people are saying "Wow, I never knew that, I'm gonna try and save some money and increase my badass-ness".....and some are saying, "Dude, really, oil changes?  I've been doing those myself since kindergarten."  Disturbing childhoods aside, this next post is for the more serious gearhead.

Some people are true mechanics, and can take an entire car apart, nose to tail, and put it back together, better than new.  Which is an incredible talent that not many have.  The rest of us fall somewhere between them and the novices or maintenance-only type people.  Many of the very detailed repairs aren't "worth it" on a daily driver type car, because the effort required outweighs the value of the car.  A Corolla with 300K miles that throws a rod is probably NOT worth pulling the engine and rebuilding it with all new parts.  Or a $400 rusty Datsun with wiring problems is probably not worth buying and installing a complete new chassis harness (learned that the hard way, but a good learning experience).  You might do it because you love the car and its sentimental value justifies the extra costs, time and labor to keep it running, which is great, but not really the scope of this post. 

However, there are many jobs that are beyond a normal car owner that aren't beyond the average gearhead.  Timing belt changes, clutch replacements, headgaskets, and many others are VERY expensive if a shop does the work, but usually fairly reasonable (albeit time consuming) to do yourself. 

Here is where the Mustachian mindset comes in.  You've got your tools, you've got some knowledge, and you want a nice car, but would like to save (or even make money) in the process.  I love to search for reasonably sporty cars on craigslist in need of some basic work.  I've bought Miatas needing exhaust work, BMW's in need of a new clutch, and plenty of others.  Typically, the car is in good shape otherwise, but the car's value has plummeted because a shop will charge several thousand dollars to fix it.  Obviously you'll need a fairly experienced eye to assess the cars condition and make sure there aren't a thousand maintenance issues waiting in the wings, but that's the beauty of craigslist.  You look at 100 cars, inquire about 10, and pick the 1 diamond in the rough that's a really great deal.  Show up with cash in hand, no games, and a trailer to haul the car back to your garage, and most people are happy to cut you a deal.  If they're not, I typically say, "Well, its a great car, and I'd be happy to give you $X, here's my number, call me if you change your mind.  Thanks for your time."  90% of the time, I get a call the next day after they've had a number of other buyers flake or otherwise cause them aggravation, and they ask how soon I can be there. 

When looking for cars, I like to stick to ones that are reasonably popular.  That Peugeot 208 GTi might be a screaming deal, but owning the only one in the US is going to have drawbacks.  There won't be a knowledge base to bounce ideas off of, and parts are going to be non-existant.  Now if I buy a 1995 Miata for $1000 that needs a timing belt, there are detailed write ups with pictures all over the web to help me if I get stuck, and I can get the parts from any one of dozens of suppliers for ~$100 (you ARE doing the tensioner and water pump while you're in there, right??? ;) ).  Much easier, plus you'll have a larger audience if and when you go to sell it as a nice, running vehicle. 

So, you've got your project, you've got your how-to guide for fixing it, and you've ordered the parts, but you're nervous because you've never done this before.  Here's what got me over that hump.  I bought an old Camaro in highschool, because I was young and dumb and wanted a fast car.  It broke down CONSTANTLY, and I had no mechanical skills to speak of.  After nearly going broke getting it on the road, the exhaust needed to be replaced.  The dealership wanted $1200.  A good aftermarket system was $380 through Flowmaster, Dynamax, or many others.  I realized I could do the job, completely screw it up, have to buy all the parts again, do it a second time, screw it up again but a little less, buy everything a THIRD time, and if I got it right in three tries or less, I BROKE EVEN.  Which is pretty good odds for a Mustachian.  If you get it on the first or second try you come out far ahead, and usually re-doing it doesn't even require re-buying parts.  And in any case, you learn a valuable skill.  So first I did that with an exhaust replacement, then it was a brake system rebuild, then it was a clutch, then a timing belt, etc., etc.  Each time I was able to get through the DIY guides, and each time I got better as a mechanic. 

Now I can buy an MR2 with a bad clutch, drive it home on the bad clutch, swap it in a weekend, and enjoy the car for 2-3 years before finding something else I like.  When I go to sell the car, I typically net at least $500, sometimes more, but very rarely losing money.  And that is quite far ahead of most car owners.  Hopefully the advice above can help those of you that are interested do the same!

Flynlow

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2012, 03:54:54 PM »
Also, I definitely agree with the people citing their love of flying, horses, and other expensive hobbies.  If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would have a Jay Leno sized garage full of all kinds of interesting cars, bikes, probably a couple WW2 aircraft, etc.  And it's not to show off, or flaunt wealth, or anything else.  I simply love tinkering with mechanical things, and very much appreciate the history and engineering accomplishments that their development over the last century or more represents.

:)

Posthumane

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2012, 04:44:05 PM »
Another great post Flynlow. I'd like to add that it is a lot easier to get started in mechanical repairs yourself as a mustacian because you know that you don't have to absolutely rely on having a car. Quite often when you do a "big" repair on an old car such as a clutch replacement you will run into unrelated issues that slow you down - rusted bolts, cracked plastic, corroded wiring. These are annoyances that slow you down, but often don't add much cost to the work. The trouble for most people is that they can't possibly fathom living without a car for a few days, which makes them afraid to tackle any of that kind of work and they just drop it off at a shop and be done with it. If you can spend a few days bicycling, taking a bus, or bumming rides (carpooling..) then the thought of accidentally screwing up a job and having to do it again is much less scary.

Jamesqf

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Re: Being Mustachian and a Gearhead NOT Mutually Exclusive
« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2012, 05:15:12 PM »
The purpose of a general frugality isn't to become a miser, or even (in my opinion, anyway) to retire early and do nothing.  It's to optimize the use of your resources - time, money, etc - to give you the most pleasure.

This is why I'm not going to sell my house and move closer to work. I want to live *here*, so I will figure out a way to reduce my commute while keeping the house I want. It's also why I no longer have a sailboat. They are a lot of fun, but the pleasure per dollar is actually fairly low considering how infrequently you end up having time to take them out.

Pretty much the same here.  Though I'm not absolutely fixed on living HERE, the place is a lot more than an upholstered cave in which to park a bed & TV set.  I like being able to eat peaches, plums, cherries, and so on that I pick off trees that I planted.  I like sitting out under my shade tree, and knowing that there'll be others coming along in a few decades.  Most of an acre of flowers & shrubs doesn't hurt either...