Why wrench? More often than not, the cure for what ails you is covered in grease


Recently, I was out in the garage making forward motion on retrofitting A/C into my Euro-spec 1979 BMW 635CSi. It’s a ridiculous project, but there are reasons for doing it: I want a cold car, I’ve done this kind of retrofit before, I got a good deal on the parts, etc. It also made me think about the larger question of why so many people are into working on their own cars. We might start off doing it purely for economic reasons, but for many of us, wrenching becomes a central, lifelong activity. Why?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/03/05/rob-siegel-asks-why-wrench


Its all that and more; it’s emotional therapy for me at the worst times when I disparately need it. Truly, I do try to get as much time in the shop as I can; with a happy marriage, two kids, AND an old house that can be hard - but when you really need it slowly disassembling a carburetor or removing a dash pad is my way of slowing down and thinking when life has become overwhelming.

Nice read, and thanks for sharing.


A few years back I had a well-worn '78 Chevy Nova that I kept running for a decade and 100,000 more miles after being told it “wouldn’t last a month”. It served me well, and I spent many hours working on it. Twisting wrenches on it became a place of quiet meditation, only occasionally interrupted by sessions of swearing, breaking a certain brand of “unbreakable” tools, etc. When she finally died at 334,000 miles, I was truly sad to have that broken-down piece of junk hauled off-- it was at that point I suddenly realized how many hours I’d spent working on her, figuring out how to do things that often started with “fabricate a tool…” But, beyond that, the simple focus of analyzing the task ahead, and then accomplishing it successfully, truly was like meditation. The outside world disappeared, it was just me, the car, and the task. Perhaps that’s why I’m enjoying my '63 Beetle so much- we’re just getting into the groove of maintenance/meditation.


This is a good reminder article as I’ve recently grown so incredibly frustrated with my classic car that some days I just want to throw in the towel and sell it. I’ve had that car 16 years, longer than any other car I’ve ever owned and when the wrenching goes right, it feels good and is cathartic. When I’m out and about and people wave and give me the thumbs up, it’s worth it. Just have to work past the hard bits and keep the end goal in mind.


Great article and replies and worded much better than I could. I think it is good therapy as mentioned and a hobby for me. I don’t golf or have many hobbies so I can justify the money I spend on the car or cars from that perspective. I usually lose money on cars too when I sell them but the enjoyment you get from them it’s usually worth it. You don’t recoup your money spent from most hobbies either. I’m debating now about buying another car that needs work but is rust free if there is such a thing. The price is very reasonable but I have to have it shipped to me. I’m not sure if I want or need a project car at this point in my life, but what the heck!


In 1995, I was let go from a very good and what I thought was a secure position with an agriculture business. I felt very down and wandered what was next for me. I found solace in my 1949 Harley Panhead that I had chopped in the early '70’s. I started with repairing the frame back to stock specifications and went from there. A little over a year later and many, many hours in the shop listening to smooth jazz and tweaking on the bike, the finished product was and is a sight to behold. I was in a very depressed state when I started that project and in a little while my whole life turned for the better. Shop time is therapy for me.


Messing around with tools, cleaning and straightening and repairing stuff, adjusting a carb or rebuilding a stuck relay, it’s all something I do, and I can actually start and finish a task and see a clear result. It’s not conditional or dependent on someone else’s approval. It’s just done. What else is like that? Not much.

And when an old, neglected engine that hasn’t made a sound in 20 years cranks over and starts for the first time? I think we all know the feeling.


My first relationship with car maintenance was at 18, when I bought my five year old Sprite. Lack of money and experience made for interesting times. A few years later I bought my first big Healey when they were just neglected, old cars. That made for lots of personal interaction and development of several new words. 42 years later I still have a big Healey (not the same one) but this one spends it’s time on the race track and as such I feel a double sense of accomplishment and confidence in the work done to put me on the track at over 120 mph. Having a car that, if you drop a tool while working on the engine, doesn’t fall to the ground is not a car worth spending personal time on. I have rebuilt engines, replaced synchro rings, and done a full nut/bolt restoration, but have no interest in working on moderns.


Couldn’t agree more with the author. I’d just add that I enjoy the wrenching most now when I’m not on a deadline. And it’s SO easy to lose track of time at the shop. Retired now from a job that occasionally had my hands in unspeakable things. It used to be real job therapy and a little grease was actually cleansing.