May 31, 2018
I have a lot of grass to mow, so I purchased a riding mower to make the task a little easier. Like anything to do with owning your own home, there is a lot of maintenance that goes into owning your own power equipment, and I decided to learn to look after the riding mower myself - at least as much as I could, starting with a simple oil change, and belt replacement. Here's my learning from this experience .
Step 1 Read the Manual.
I enjoy reading charts and diagrams, if they are well designed and created by a tech. dept. that knows how to translate and communicate well. Instructions and directions that are vague or unclear, with illustrations that show parts that are different, or parts that are missing, are very frustrating for the learner.
Still, a careful reading, and re-reading, of all the materials available prepares you for the task you are attempting to do. I need to emphasize the re-reading. Sometimes I miss key points on the first reading, but after re-reading, often several times, I can begin to see the knowledge the technical manual writers assume the learner has. More often than not, re-reading new material allows for a familiarity and comfort level to grow. This makes the task ahead a little less daunting.
Step 2. Identify all the parts and steps from the manual, on the real equipment you are working on. An artist's sketch or schematic diagram may not look exactly like what you have in front of you. Transferring the learning from a printed manual, or instructional video, to your own specific equipment, is the next step before you attempt something new.
Step 3. Rehearse the steps. Even if you are only talking out loud to yourself, walk yourself through the things you are attempting to do, in the order you are going to follow. Rehearsing is just like any performance: the more you rehearse the more the likelihood of successful doing (of anything). Sometimes I try drawing my own diagrams and re-create my own manual just to see if I can walk myself through a process, and make the learning personal. Sometimes I take my own photos and compare what I think I see with what the manual says I should see. I always ask myself questions along the way too. The basic question is always "Why?" Why did they do it that way? Or, Why not do it this way? Answering my own questions is a form of consolidating my own learning just to check that I'm ready to start my doing
Step 4. Ask around. Identify any local experts who may have experience that may help you do whatever you are trying. Tap into all the local resources you can. People know things, and people know other people who know more things. Get as much knowledge from the experts as you can.
Watch all the You Tube DIY videos and make sure you see how others are doing what you are attempting to do. Look at all the variations on the steps and methods of doing the task. Everyone has reasons for doing things the way they show in the videos. Some methods are well-learned, while others are more questionable and perhaps are more about cutting costs and saving time, rather than doing a job correctly. Check it all out and make your own determination as to what you will try.
Step 5. DO
Write out your own checklist or steps and check off the list of materials you need, and any preparation you need in place before you start. In the case of my oil change, I needed to inquire at my local repair shop about the oil and filter I would need. The local shop is a bit more expensive for parts, but I do not begrudge supporting the sole-proprietorship business when I know I get the benefit of chatting with someone who has done what I am trying to do, countless times and seen all the possibilities and variations of issues I may encounter I am am paying for his expertise, and that is something I am prepared to count the cost to have available to me. (Ray, at Corky's Small Engine Repair has been very generous with his time and answers to my many inquiries. My riding mower looks like the one Ray has in the FB photo).
Step 6. Check and double check.
Be thorough. When you think you are done a step, and ready to move on to the next one, go back over and be sure you've really done everything. We've heard and experienced stories of one part missing, or one extra part left on the table when the assembly is "finished". D'oh! Measure twice, cut once, is an old adage that is tried and true, although specific to carpentry, it always applies to any task you are learning.
So, how did I do? I must admit to feeling the rush of Dr. Frankenstein when the jolt of lightening brought his creation to life. "It Lives!!" When I cranked the engine bringing my mower to life, and drove off into the sunset on my little Husqvarna , it was with a greater sense of "I CAN do it!" -no training, just curiosity and desire.
* note: most of what I have done in my steps is derived from my career in education. One easy methodology I used here is called SQ3R.