I recently learned from a reader about The Repair Manifesto, presented by the group IFIXIT.
I believe strongly in the manifesto’s assertions, although I feel I fall far short of the ideals represented.
As a teenager, I took to heart the Easy Rider motto: “If you can’t fix ’em, don’t ride ’em,” expanding the concept from the motorcycles the motto referred to, applying it to the machines in my life (I didn’t get my own motorcycle until I was in my late 20s). Mostly, now, as then, I apply it to outboard motors. As a kid, I spent too much time rowing madly against currents while my dad or a friend struggled with a balky motor that chose precisely the wrong time to conk out. That’s largely why we choose to use human- and wind powered boats on our waters.
I don’t do much better with cars. My father loves to tinker with them, but I failed to catch the fever. I learned to perform minor maintenance, like changing the oil and tires. I can follow directions from repair manuals to replace and adjust headlamps, and other parts. I’ve replaced a wiper motor, starters, adjusted brakes, and recently installed a new seatbelt. A lot of it, though, I have to rely on mechanics for help.
The trend has long been toward making goods difficult or impossible to repair on one’s own. I especially dislike how often an item can be more cheaply replaced than repaired. I believe producers actively try to train consumers to replace rather than repair.
To fight against this, I often take apart tools and equipment that aren’t working as they should. I’ve replaced cords on power tools, cleaned VCRs and DVD players, and troubleshot a variety of malfunctions around the home. It helps to have a repair manual, but sometimes, patient examination and some common sense is really all that’s needed.
I particularly agree with the manifesto’s assertion that if you can’t fix it, you don’t really own it. I know that’s not true, but it sure feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it?
Since moving to the homestead, I’ve gained a lot more experience and confidence in repairing. After all, once I managed to pull a wind generator off its tower, open it up, and repair it, how hard could anything else be? Still, I’ve got a long way to go.