Being Handy

Arizona, as you’re probably aware, is a land of intense, burning sun. While the winters are pleasant and enjoyable, the summers consist of a horrible ball of nuclear fusion focusing a not-inconsiderable amount of its output into your immediate vicinity. Think ant-under-a-magnifying-glass, wow-I-didn’t-know-asphalt-has-a-liquid-state type heat.
A few years of this heat pounding down on my car combined with an uncovered parking spot at my apartment complex, and I’ve begun to notice the effects: the back of the rear seat headrests were beginning to fade and the plastic speaker grilles on the back deck were crumbling to dust. While the fading cloth isn’t a huge concern (it’s on the back side of the headrests, and nobody ever sees it), the grills were a problem as they looked horrible and the crumbling plastic affected the sound produced by the speaker.
The dealer wanted a few hundred bucks to replace the rear grilles, and I thought that was outrageous so I ended up buying the grilles for about $22 and looked over the technical bulletin that accompanied them and explained how to put them in. I think the same people who write instruction manuals for IKEA also do the ones for Toyota — the graphics were lacking and the text was barely descriptive. Replacing the grilles required the disassembly of just about everything aft of the rear seats.
Fortunately, the engineers at Toyota designed their components to be both knucklehead proof and easily removed and installed using extreme force — the problems I ran into stemmed from the fact that I originally wasn’t applying enough force to overcome the various clips, catches, and other bits. Though replacing the grilles took several more hours than I expected and inflicted several nicks, cuts, and scratches on my hands, I was finally able to get it done.
I’d say that swearing at my car for a few hours was a reasonable price to pay in order to save several hundred bucks from the dealer. I took a bit of the money I saved and got my windows tinted at a place recommended by my mechanic. My hope is that the tint will keep the car cooler, and reduce the intensity of the light on the interior of the car.
Being moderately handy and curious about how stuff works actually has some real-world benefits, like saving money.