Be the anomaly in our disposable society - learn to fix things when they break


I grew up in a family who fixed things. We fixed things because we didn't have the money to pay someone else to fix them. As a result, I was taught a little about a lot when it came to everyday items.

Things used to be made simply. Consequently, in most cases you could fix most items yourself. A fan, for example, was rudimentary. A housing, blade, electric motor and a plug was pretty much all there was to one. The older fans had a small oil port in the back where you could add 3-In-One Oil to keep the shaft moving smoothly.

Toasters were basic. A nice, shiny housing contained a spring mechanism, a heating element and adjustments for how dark you wanted your bread.

Lawnmower engines were basic. Air, a spark and fuel were all you needed to crank and mow.

The ability to fix your own things isn't as common as it once was, but it's still the case more often than not. These days, most folks just don't learn how.

Labor Day weekend, my pickup and two of my lawnmowers decided that it was a great time to break down. I don't know about at your house, but most of the time when the plumbing, air conditioning, or something else that we've grown to believe is a necessity breaks down at our house, it seems to happen on a holiday weekend, when all of the repairmen are charging triple time.

I got about halfway to work Friday morning when the front right wheel began doing its best impression of a Halloween banshee. I limped it home and parked it in the yard, got in my Prius and headed on to work.

I am by no stretch a mechanic, but I can work on vehicles to some degree. My grandfathers and my dad all taught me that if I maintain a car or truck by following the owners manual, a vehicle will last a long time. They were correct. When my grandfathers passed away, their vehicles both drove and looked new.

All three men taught me how to work on engines. This ability and knowledge has saved me a lot of money over the years.

So, while at work on Friday, I mapped out my Labor Day weekend. I would assess what was wrong with the truck and repair it if possible. But first, I would mow the yard. We have a fairly large yard so, we have multiple lawnmowers. The John Deere zero turn covers more area and mows faster, but the smaller riding mower we've had forever still runs, so I keep it as a backup.

So, first thing Saturday morning, I head out to mow. The zero turn wouldn't start.

What happened next is something every man has experienced. The last domino fell. The only functioning riding mower I had left decided to disintegrate underneath me. As I made a circle in the front yard, my John Deere model L118 began riding rough. As I completed the circle, I discovered why it was riding rough. I passed one of the lawnmower's wheels lying in the yard.

The John Deere was determined that he had breathed his last, but I was not going to let him go. I was almost certain that no lawnmower shop would be open on a holiday weekend, but even if they were, I wasn't going to pay triple time.

Passing my dead truck in the front yard, I limped my lawn tractor to my shop where I began to assess the damage. It wasn't good.

The wheel that had come off was part of the blade deck. It is a welded piece, which means you have to weld it back on. A further inspection revealed that one of the deck brackets, which holds the blade deck in place underneath the riding mower, had cracked away from the deck and was holding on by a thread.

The rest of Saturday and half of Sunday, I spent cleaning, grinding and welding on that lawn tractor. After many hours, lots of sweat and exhaustion, I fixed it.

I then moved my focus back to the zero turn. Cleaning the battery posts and removing a chunk of wood that had wedged itself between one of the blades and the blade deck had me zero-turning in no time.

Sure, my John Deere L118 lawn tractor has 432.5 hours on it. Sure, it fouls a plug every now and then. Sure, one of the guide wheels broke off and I had to work to weld it all back together. But, that's OK.

My truck had an inexpensive solenoid go out. An easy fix.

We now live in a disposable society. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Don't throw away something if it has a small problem. Learn how to fix things. It will make you feel good about yourself, it will save you money and you just might pass along valuable lessons to your children and grandchildren.

John Moore is a columnist for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. Read more from him at


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