You want to spend time with your lover and introduce them to your hobbies, but initiating somebody into the often-frustrating and always-filthy world of wrenching on cars can be a tough sell. Don't worry, It Can Happen. With the right approach y'all will be having fun getting greasy together in no time.
Adopting the most tragic 1964 International Scout in the Tri-State area meant several unintended consequences in my personal life. The worst of which: I now had to chose between the siren song of that smoldering rust heap and the company of my girlfriend every time I had a nice day off work.
The two lights of my life were ostensibly rivals and take it from me; this is not a situation you can carry on for long. So I figured out how to break that wall down, bring my two favorite companions together, and it was everything I hoped it could be and more.
I gotta admit, I had it kind of easy... my special lady likes to play in the dirt so my truck wasn't much of a reach. But if your girlfriend, boyfriend, or whoeverfriend loves ya (and I'm sure they do... you read Jalopnik so I gotta assume you're delightful) will almost definitely probably at least try to happily join you in your automotive endeavors if you work through these steps together.
Spread the love and pour on the PB Blaster my friends.
1: Start with an idea of your partner's aptitude.
Teaching anyone anything can put a little strain on patience of both parties; for that reason alone, I can't confidently recommend "a garage tutorial" as a great first date.
More importantly, it'll be a lot easier to explain things in a context your special somebody can understand after you've spent some time with them. And finally; if you fail and make them totally miserable on the tools, your likelihood of being forgiven rather than walked out on is a little better.
2: You don't have to be a credentialed technician to share your love of wrench-turning.
Teaching somebody something as a non-expert can be a little intimidating. You don't want to pass on any bad habits, and obviously your biggest fear should looking like a clueless jackass in front of the person you're sleeping with. (That's a joke, relax already.)
Just remember you're not training an F1 pit crew here; your primary objective is to create a fun atmosphere that you and your lover can enjoy each other's company in while sharing your favorite hobby.
If you're not completely sure "what that part is" or "which way this flange goes," don't be afraid to say so and even ask your "trainee" for their opinion. The more collaborative the process is, the more fun you'll both have.
3: Start with a project you can afford to fail on.
Maybe you don't have the space or resources to have a car solely for the purpose of entertaining your rust fetish. Well, bummer. (Actually, you're probably better off.)
If you do have a "true" project car; that rust bucket you're well aware may or may not get restored is a perfect teaching tool. You can let your understudy off the leash a little sooner without worrying about much collateral damage.
Otherwise, you can just keep your "trainer projects" around the less sensitive components of your car... and I'm not just talking about expensive parts. If you're going to have a heart attack when someone bumps a ratchet against your precious red JDM valve cover, maybe make sure you stay away from that or tape up your tools real good.
Keep your emotional focus on the person you're with, not the equipment. Temper tantrums are unsexy as hell.
4: Be prepared to bribe your way into your first "wrenching date"
Sometimes we don't know we'll like something until we try it, and sometimes we're too stubborn to even get that far. There's no point forcing the issue, but you might be able to get your special somebody on the tools with you if you offer something in return.
Compromise is Healthy Relationship 101, right? And bribery... I mean, it's sort of the same thing.
I'm a farmer's-market-trip in debt for getting a certain someone to help me put new brake lines on my truck last weekend, but she had so much fun hanging out in the rust pit she probably forgot all about that! (No fucking way did she forget.)
I'll keep up my end of the bargain with bells on, because I want bribes to work again in the future and so should you!
5: Remove "barriers to entry."
Spending money on something you're not sure about is annoying. To make it that much easier for your SO to get onboard with getting dirty, hit Wally World or wherever and buy some them cheap work clothes. Your partner will be way more willing to get free clothes filthy and they'll probably be smitten by your thoughtfulness. Besides overalls are in, y'all.
If all goes well and your get yourself a second "wrench date," maybe hit Harbor Freight and set them up with a few tools of their own. You could really bend the throttle and try to bring your special somebody to the tool store, but you better know what you're doing if you're gonna fly that close to the sun.
6: Give the project a little backstory– but don't lecture.
If you're into cars the way some of us are, it's easy to get carried away and catch yourself starting the explanation of an oil change with Karl Benz's Motorwagen and walking through every technological advancement since. Don't do that.
Don't start at the middle of the story either; "we need to replace the brake master cylinder." The what has a what?
You know your mate, you're going to know the best way to break down mechanics for them. You might already discuss volumetric efficiency at dinner, or you might explain an engine as "a pile of spinning and pushing rods."
A lack of technical specificity doesn't make the experience any less fun. In fact, keeping it simple will probably make the project less daunting.
7: Set achievable goals that will be (at least a little) exciting.
What better way to illustrate the Power of Mechanical Skill than "this didn't work, now it does!" Maybe you start as simple as pulling a headlight fuse and showing them how to replace it. Car people forget stuff like that isn't common sense to everybody.
I had a lot of trouble at this stage with my truck; because everything is so completely fuct it's hard to imagine anything working... but it becomes less horrifying if you look at it as a bunch of little problems rather than one big one. That's basic Project Car Psychology.
We ended up getting some interior dash lights to come on, and the windows to roll halfway down after a few hours with the Scout. Not exactly the extreme makeover anybody might have been hoping for, but... yeah I kinda came up short on this one.
8: Explain what you're doing, and why.
Even something simple as oil change requires steps to be done in a specific order for a very important reason– mess things up and you've ruined an engine. But someone who hasn't been nerding out about cars since they could read might not realize that innately.
9: Actually let them do things.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite things on this Earth was "helping" my grandfather with construction projects. Bright and industrious as he was, I never learned squat from him about building because my tasks never upgraded from "hold the flashlight, crack the beers." It didn't take long for that to become incredibly boring and me to lose interest in tool-turning until I rediscovered it on my own years later.
10: Actually make them do things.
I can read directions. Ok, I actually can't, but I can watch somebody do something over and over and I'll still never really be comfortable doing it until I do it myself. I know I'm not the only one.
Showing confidence in your mate around your precious vehicle will make them feel trusted. You do trust your special lady/fella/whoever don't you? If they put their own hands on the tools, they can say "I worked on a car today!" If they tweet, Facebook, or tell their friends that, you did a good job. Start as slow as you need to... you'll be able to read your partner's comfort level pretty easily.
10a: Be patient.
Even if your SO is still lukewarm about playing with your tools (your actual metal tools, ya perv) having the right attitude when you're in the garage together is what's going to sell the experience. If you start crying and throw your hammer in a blind rage of frustration, your lover's going to give you a big wake when you crawl under the car. I would too.
But if you can keep a healthy sense of humor and focus on fun in the beginning, you and your beau will be cuddling in the rust flakes of love in no time... keep it up and eventually you'll be able to pick up the pace, until hey– you've doubled your mechanic power AND you won't get accused of cheating because you go to AutoZone every night on your way home from work.