Image from Car Talk If we could boil iFixit down to one single tenet, it would be this: Repair is noble. To us, repair is more than a transitory act. It has lasting effects. Repair connects us to the stuff we own, it turns consumers into contributors, and it’s the most effective form of recycling there is.
Turns out that one of our idols feels exactly the same way.
Ray Magliozzi is half of the duo that was Car Talk (sadly, Ray’s brother and co-host Tom passed away late last year after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease). The popular call-in radio program on NPR was dedicated to cars, car culture, and (of course) car repair. The often-hilarious show is off the air now—but you can still catch reruns. And you can still ask Ray Magliozzi your burning car questions. He answers them in a weekly Car Talk column.
Recently, a reader and a restorer of classic cars—”James”—told Ray about the time a neighbor complimented James’s restoration of an old 1965 Corvette Coupe. “Thank you for preserving our automotive heritage,” the neighbor told James. The car tinkerer was a bit taken aback—because it had never really occurred to him that restoring a car was especially meaningful.
Here was his question to Ray: “In restoring classic cars, am I actually pursuing a noble cause, or just goofing off in the garage?”
Ray’s response to the car enthusiast was, for lack of a better word, perfect.
Actually, goofing off and acting nobly are not mutually exclusive. I happen to think tinkering is noble. We’re a throw-away society now: Something breaks, we toss it, pile it up in a landfill and buy another one that was made in China.
So when you take the time to tinker, to figure out how things work, to repair, restore and renew … I think you are doing something worthwhile, regardless of what you’re tinkering with.
You’re wasting-not and wanting-not. You’re keeping stuff out of landfills. You’re conserving resources by not buying more new stuff. You’re finding value in things already made.
And you’re staying out of your wife’s hair and out of the barrooms all afternoon. That’s definitely noble.
But more importantly, you’re continuing a great human tradition of working with your hands and solving problems.