What Makes You “Call It a Day” on Your Projects?

Kyle Smith

We all handle stress differently. At some point in the process, all of us who work on our vehicles have gotten to that point—the one where we simply put the tools down and walk away. Hopefully it isn’t on a regular basis, but sometimes circumstances push us to just stop working. Psychologists generally define this kind of breaking point as when stress causes intense mental distress.

But walking away from a project vehicle, a repair, or even maintenance doesn’t necessarily happen because it becomes that taxing on your soul. You can also just be tired of dealing with the problems at hand and know your limitations well enough to walk away. Call it a day!

Here’s an example from my experiences, and I rightly walked away for the sake of my sanity.

Failure to Launch…Er, Lift?

Luckily this video is just used for shock value, as I’ve never lost a vehicle to a hydraulic lift. Instead of the carnage you see above, my lift problems stem from hydraulic failures that keep me from raising a vehicle.

car lift four post lift
Happier times with a reliable lift.Sajeev Mehta

Failure to launch from the ground just means you can drive off and do something else. Failure to return back to earth means you perform the repair (or part of it) before your day is cut short. Somewhere in between (in my case, when my lift got stuck with the car three feet in the air) means you are stuck and out of luck. That happened to me last year, and the lift also donated a big puddle of hydraulic fluid to the shop floor as token of its esteem. Once I cleaned up that mess I knew I had to pack it in for the day. I was mentally done with that project, the car, and that leaky lift.

So the question comes back to you, dear member of the Hagerty Community: What makes you “Call it a Day” on your projects?


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    My limits are general.

    Lack of parts at 1 AM in the morning and no one open.

    The major loss of blood or related major loss of flesh.

    Other wise just keep on trucking. You can’t let things rattle you or you will never get it fixed. If frustrated, just stop get a drink of cold water, look for advice on Youtube and get back at it.

    If I had things going wrong rattle me too much I would never get much done. All 15 min jobs take an hour.

    Agreed with parts availability and tending to a wound, but I don’t know that I fully agree with that last point. There is little glory (or sense of accomplishment) to me in toughing it out when something just won’t go my way, unless that means I need to hitch a ride to work the next day. I can’t tell you how many times not calling it a night has resulted in something even more broken than when I started.

    Well my mind set comes from making a living working on cars. You just can’t walk away from a customers car.

    It takes a degree of emotional intelligence or maturity to keep things in check and you just have to learn it when working on cars for a living. Walking away is not an option.

    Some people can do it some can’t nothing wrong with either just your mind set.

    A lot comes from your skill and knowledge level too. Or a good resource of friends that can help solve issues.

    You manage the problems.

    I honestly didn’t get the impression that was the mindset from the “lack of parts at 1AM piece” I know few mechanics who are that dedicated or hate their families that much to stay at work that late.

    Anyways, I think 99% of the readers here come from a hobbyist background and the professional mechanic mindset doesn’t need to apply and the “some people can and some people can’t” comment somewhat gives me the impression that your view is that if you can’t tough it out, then you shouldn’t be in the shop.

    Either way, I get your view, but I am just not sure it is applicable to most of the people in this space. If you have the luxury to walk away, regroup and hit it again fresh in an hour or two or even the next day, then there is a lot of honor in that.

    I had a pit to pull over then sold my house. my county regulated over the pit including a blow proof fan in pit. Sorry to say that was the last pit they approved in county.

    The greatest key to success here is also know your limitations. Be it knowledge or even the lack of correct tools to do the job. Know the job before you take off the first part.

    Today Youtube is a great help as are forums and other sites that hold info. Like taking a trip read the map before you go not after you get lost same here on working on the vehicle.

    When I used air tools it was the time.

    Now with electrics, it is mostly dictated by what is happening the next day.

    Frustration is what you make of it. Laugh it off, take a moment and re-examine the scenario.

    I keep a box of pawn shop tools that can be cut, welded, bent, or modified for specialty purposes. Fabricating a solution makes it enjoyable too.

    There are so many examples and variables that I can’t just cite a “general rule” – but for the most part, I will just know that the limit is reached, and it’s time to stop “for now”. Often, my level of cuss words is an indicator.
    Sometimes that’s just for an hour, sometimes for a lot longer. Like Joe King says, I have to weigh the juice vs. the squeeze on how critical a quick return is needed. Just this past weekend, I was struggling with removing a buggered key-lock hood pin mechanism. After breaking a drill bit and nearly scratching a shiny hood, I put the tools away, wiped off my fingerprints, and just took the car for a drive. I don’t really need under that hood for awhile, unless I get an engine fire!

    Yesterday, a calmed-down me successfully drilled out the offending hood pin and installed a new one. It was obviously the correct thing for me to stop wrestling with it for a few days and go back to it when my frustration level had subsided. I was so happy that I decided that an underhood detailing session was in order! 😊

    Dread. I never understood “running when parked” until I did just that because I dreaded a complete front end rebuild on a car. I was afraid of it snowballing into more, so I kept putting it off. Time, life, kids, etc. and before I knew it 10 years had passed and the car hadn’t moved. My 12 year old son had no memories of the car ever running. One day last year I decided it was time to do the repair and either drive it or sell it. I think it took a Saturday and a few evenings and it was done. We’ve been enjoying it and aren’t going to sell it. I try to take Freiburger’s motto to combat my dread now – don’t get it right, just get it running.

    7 PM is my general cutoff point for wrapping up a project for the day. I have enough toys to drive that there is never an extreme need to finish a project TODAY

    I know its time to stop when I start to feel like I’m an inexperienced angry teenager again. Back then I had to fix it to get to work and there was no youtube for help. I used brute force and stupidity when anger took intelligence out of the equation. Ha.

    Now I have so many luxuries. Time, experience, the internet, alternative transportation. When I start to feel like I did as a kid and this fun hobby isn’t anymore I realize how silly I’m being and take a break. I call a buddy, watch a youtube video, finally feed myself. I like to channel my inner Stacey David from the show “Trucks!” back in the 90’s. That guy was so prepared, patient, happy, and dedicated to doing a good job. He is always my ideal when I lose my crap.

    The /2 BMW motorcycles do not leak oil . . . unless someone left the valve cover gasket off. There’s a rotating plate keyed to the cam which opens when the engine is at BDC, so in operation the crankcase is at less than atmospheric pressure. Any leakage goes inward, not outward. Other than that, the bike illustrated is a very nice example, likely a restoration because NONE of those add-on tire pumps have survived 20+ years. The “Rocket” mufflers aren’t stock but were very popular (and don’t rust out like the OEM mufflers), and the finned covers on the exhaust pipe collars are a nice accessory touch. Be *sure* you have a touch of anti-seize on the exhaust pipe collars because if you don’t, you’ll strip the threads off the cylinder head exhaust spigots.

    Wow, now THAT is a level of detail that I’m sure few could provide. Nicely Done, Exhausted Flyer! Just looking at a picture and reading your post educated me more that most YouTube videos could hope to! 👍

    Dub6, thanks! Back in 1968 or so I was the unauthorized BMW dealer in Miami (Vespa-Honda on 36th st was the official dealer). When someone had a broken BMW, I either fixed it or bought it. At one point I personally owned 27 BMW motorcycles . . . which I eventually realized was a bit excessive, even for me. R25/3, R26, R27, R51/3, R61 (1938), R67/3, R50, R50/2, R60/2, R69S, R69US, only ones in that series I never got were an R68 and an R50S. It got so bad, I actually had an operational R25/3 parked on the brick mantlepiece in my house, there was nowhere else to put it.

    I’m down to three, a 1952 R51/3 with 14,000 km on it from new, a 1968 R50/2 with 8,000 miles, and an R50/5 which I fixed for someone over a decade ago and he never came back for it. I still have boxes of manuals, service literature, a stack of special tools, parts (including a handlebar mount tachometer, a Bowman aluminum flywheel and a Bowman deep oil pan) and other “stuff”. There’s a Steib LS350 sidecar in there somewhere, which eventually is going onto the R51/3. I guess I’m a semi-recovered bimmerholic . . .

    Keeping them company is a Hercules 2000 Wankel, and a 1968 Clymer-Munch Mammoth (yes, really).

    If there is a “cure” for this, please don’t tell me, I don’t want to know about it.


    Along the line of the original question, if I am diligently following directions and turn the page on said directions to find they directly contradict what I was told to do on the previous page, I take a break

    Actually it’s quitting time when I need a part and can drive another old car to the auto parts store, or when it’s too cold to keep going or when lunch or dinner is prepared by family and continuing would jeopardize that situation. Cars are fun, getting old cars going is fantastic but rushing to the finish line more often than not results in time wasted, pointless arguments with loved ones and less focus on better fixes, which come from enough time to plan and mentally rehearse an operation.

    Lifts are a frustration that I don’t want to deal with if I don’t have to. Which is why when I design my dream garage it’s going to have an inspection pit so general maintenance things are free from the stress of worrying about 4000 lbs falling on my head.

    That BMW collection sounds familiar.
    But it was in 1969, I was passing through Miami and had an incident with my R27.
    Met Michael from Michael’s Cycles, 813 Biscayne street, lower beach.
    Traded the damaged bike for a rough ‘61 VW bus, which I proceeded to drive north to Montreal for a month, then to Woodstock. Yup. Then in December back to Florida.
    Picked up an R69S a year later. A wonderful 2 years of motoring until I had 3 flat tires in 1 day.
    That was it! Called it a day for bikes with spoke wheels. Parked it, said to myself – I’ll ride again when they have tubeless tire.
    Just bought an R100T with tubeless tires.

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