Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Adventures in Hi-Fi, Part I

I've always wanted to be the kind of guy who works on his own car. The kind of guy who wears jeans and a white t-shirt who has grease on his hands and can walk into his house wiping off said grease with a rag saying, "Well, that should do it." I think being that guy would make me more handy.

It would also mean that I know how my car works.

When I first started looking at colleges, I intended to do a computer science major. I figured computers are what I knew and enjoyed messing with so that's what I'd go into. As time went on, I started to think that maybe I'd rather keep computers as a hobby, as something I do for fun, and go into something else. I remembered years ago - I was in 6th grade - and my brother and I were walking into Best Buy one day when he said, "Y'know, everything is elastic."

"Really? Even metal?" I replied, thinking to myself "Ha! He didn't expect me to bring up metal. Metal is hard; it's not at all like a rubber band. I win."

"Actually, metal is very elastic," he calmly replied as he walked over to one of the metal posts (put in place to prevent cars from driving through the entrance of the store) and knocked on it with his fist. It let out a pleasant ring. "That ring is the metal vibrating. It's caused by the elasticity of the metal," he explained. At that moment, I realized how little I knew of the world. From then on, I've always interested in why and how things work.

After years of schooling, I've got a pretty good understanding of how all the fundamental forces work (though I'm a little weak on the Electromagnetic side of things - no pun intended) and have successfully modeled Earth's orbit around the Sun in a computer program I wrote. I even understand the basics of programming. These things I understand and, I feel, given enough time I can work out how more complex systems of these types function. My car, however, has always remained a black box. It's something that works when I turn the key and when it doesn't work, I have to call a man with a beerbelly and a ZZ Top beard who takes my car into his hut and the next day it works again. As pleasant as ignorance is, it's also expensive. Hence my desire to know how my car works and be able to work on it myself.

I also have this sneaking suspicion girls dig guys who work on their own cars. It's a working hypothesis; I'll let you know how it pans out.

What this amounts to is that I've started working on my car. Not mechanically yet; more audibly. By this I mean I'm been tinkering with the sound system in my car. Slightly juvenile? Yes. But frankly, I have a sound system from The Blue Skinned Beast that I purchased when I worked at Best Buy (a very nice system, mind you) and I really don't want to just sell it on ebay. Similar to my engine, however, the process of installing such a system involves a skinny kid in a blue shirt, a patch sewn onto his shirtsleeve, a garage, an unknown magic spell and about $300.

I don't feel like paying $300 to have someone do this. I don't have $300 to pay someone to do this.

I decide that if I'm going to work on my car, I might as well start with something familiar - speakers. Replacing factory speakers with a good set of aftermarket ones is probably the easiest way to improve the sound quality in your car. On Sunday morning, I wake up and decide I'm replace the speakers in the back of my car. I have to be at church at 1:30, and it's about 11, so that gives me an hour to pull off the grates, dismount/disconnect the factory speakers, and then mount/connect the speakers I wish to put in. Estimated time: 20 minutes max - it's a simple disconnect/reconnect job. Due to my lack of knowledge about how to disassemble my car, I end up having to take off (or at least unhinge) both side panels of the car in order to get at the speakers. After several minutes of prying, praying, and pulling, I get the panels off to a level where I can wedge my arms past several sharp plastic edges and pokey pieces that I'm able to replace the speakers.

I go to put the side panels back in place and think, "Well, they came out with some prying and pulling, so to go in I should just push. That's logic." As I push, I hear sounds of pieces clicking into place and I'm happy with myself. Then I hear a very loud
snap and my heart sinks. "What did I just do?" I think to myself, "I just broke my new car!" I look around frantically for the source of the snapping, expecting to find a massive crack down the side panel, finding only that a small, hard piece of plastic about an inch wide from the back has snapped off. I'm saddened, but in reality it could have been far worse. Minor cosmetic damage is a casualty of learning.

I finish, collect my tools and put everything away, test the system with "Vicarious" by Tool - it sounds pretty good; not great, but noticeably better. It took about an hour and 15 minutes and thanks to those sharp edges my forearms look like that of an teenager who just got dumped. I shower and head to church, arriving only a few minutes late.

I'm proud of myself; my first task was completed.


Brady said...

Becky is trying to become Mrs. Domestic and you are trying to become Mr. Handyman. I married into the right family... :)

Becky said...

I took one semester of physics and there were some implications about how a car works (the hydraulics of the pistons.....or at least those two words were mentioned in one chapter)