When I bought my first car, my parents bought me the Haynes manual for the car. Haynes manuals, for those that have never seen one, are a series of workshop manuals — one for each make and model of car — based on a complete strip down and rebuild of the vehicle. What they do (or did) was take a car apart, then put it back together, documenting each part of the process step by step. If you had a set of spanners and the correct manual, it was possible to do most of the maintenance on pretty much any car.
And I did.
When I was young, single and had plenty of time and not much money, being able to do my own maintenance — with parts bought cheaply from a local breakers yard — meant that I was able to keep the first three cars I owned on the road largely by myself. When I moved to the Netherlands, I sold my car and didn’t get around to buying another one for over a decade. Dutch public transport is very good indeed.
Then, in 2010, a change of job meant that I needed a car again and, once I’d bought the car I started looking for the relevant Haynes manual. I was rather shocked, and not a little annoyed, to discover that this was not available — it turns out that modern cars, with their reliance on onboard computers and other such nonsense, just aren’t as maintainable as the cars I grew up with. But that’s a rant for another time.
I’d never really thought about who had originally come up with the idea of these manuals — they had always existed as long as I could remember — which is a shame because John Haynes, the man who inspired a generation of fixers, died on 8th February after a short illness.
What Haynes achieved, though, was more fundamental. He encouraged a generation — my generation — to try and fix our own stuff, told us what tools we needed and guided us through a range of maintenance tasks in a manner that allowed us to be reasonably confident of success.
The world needs more people like John Haynes.