John Harold Haynes: The original fixer

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.

As I mentioned earlier, the publisher has moved away from car manuals. They have now expanded into applying their iconic style to engineering achievements, fiction and humour.

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.

3 thoughts on “John Harold Haynes: The original fixer

    1. There is YouTube. I’m also a big fan of iFixit.com — it was thanks to them that my last phone went through three screens. I eventually had to replace it because I was no longer able to get hold of the replacement parts.

      One thing that does annoy me is the number of manufacturers that deliberately make it difficult to fix things. Stunts like gluing parts together rather than using screws, using non-standard screws, not selling parts and more are all intended to force you to buy stuff you don’t need rather than fix what you already have.

      I don’t always succeed but I do still try to buy things that can be repaired because, as you say, when something is repairable, finding out how has never been easier.

      Liked by 1 person

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