The Right Tool


Attempting a do it yourself (DIY) repair of something around the house or of a vehicle is mostly regarded by onlookers as well as by the eager amateur repair person as virtuous, valiant, and frugal, though after much frustration the do it yourselfer may not mind foregoing the admiration of family and friends in exchange for a functional repair. People get in over their heads and underestimate the value of technical skills honed from years of experience that the professional possesses, as well as often expensive specialty tools. Too many times the amateur tackles a problem using a limited arsenal of tools, and perhaps more critically, limited knowledge and zero experience.

DIY Toilet in Nature
DIY Toilet in Nature. Photo by Formerchemistuow. Sometimes the right tool is a telephone for calling on the help of a professional.


What is the problem? It’s a simple enough question, but one which an amateur will often follow circuitously through trial and error, while the professional, having likely seen the problem before, will cut right to the core of the issue. One of the best tools an amateur can employ when confronted with a difficult repair is the judgment to know his or her limitations and when the time has come to call in a professional. Sometimes that judgment is taken away from the do it yourselfer by manufacturers, particularly of electronics. The demise of Radio Shack, once a resource for electronics hobbyists and people buying parts for repairing their equipment themselves, is as much a testament to the connivance of manufacturers in shutting out amateur repair efforts on their devices as it is to the incompetence of Radio Shack management. Consumers have also acquiesced in the past generation to the accelerated obsolescence of electronic devices, and are far more inclined than they were forty or more years ago to replace malfunctioning equipment rather than repair it, either by themselves or by hiring a professional.

A montage from The Andy Griffith Show 1964 episode “Bargain Day”, in which Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffith, continually exhorts Aunt Bee, played by Frances Bavier, to call the repair man to fix their broken freezer. Aunt Bee, in a penny wise and dollar foolish way, fusses and drags her feet about calling the repair man because of the expense, meanwhile risking the loss of an entire side of beef she had hoped to store in the freezer.

For do it yourselfers, quick diagnosis of the problem needing repair is key, because otherwise they are prone to waste time, energy, and expense in labor and materials casting about blindly in hopes of isolating the problem. The professional will likely save that trouble and expense. Not always, but most of the time. Where a sophisticated diagnosis is required, such as it can be with electronics, the professional is likely to possess the proper equipment. Not all amateurs have the wherewithal to run out and buy expensive diagnostic equipment for what may only be a one time use. More and more of the devices we bring into our houses require special knowledge and tools to fix, if indeed a fix is possible or economical, and unless the defects they develop can be recognized by us quickly we are probably better off leaving the repair to a professional. The alternative is to limit ourselves to mechanical and electronic devices that were available one hundred years ago, when a person with a standard set of household tools could still effect many needed repairs without undue aggravation. In the twenty-first century, the end of Radio Shack ought to signify for most of us where we stand in our willingness and ability to repair things ourselves.
— Techly