auto repairTraveling this winter, I realized more the do-it-yourselfness we Alaskans have.

Case in point: I was staying with friends in a Texas suburb this month. It was Sunday evening and the streets were lined with what looked like squat soldiers–garbage cans–blue for recycle, brown for rubbish. For miles, heels backed into the gutter, standing at attention.

They don’t have local transfer sites, or “treasure islands” or general meeting places where people can go through each others garbage. Most individuals here wouldn’t even THINK of filling their station wagon with bags of garbage to take to town– so, so gross. Add to that, Texas Heat, and storing garbage on your property is very silly.

Fairbanksans are lucky. In winter, we can easily get an entire pick-up truck’s worth of white bags stored up out back with little or no consequences. We sometimes pay when an escaped Husky has a frolic going for the bacon grease, yes. But for most of us who have proper trash cache technique, we can make it through the better part of a winter without a garbage run.

But Texas, no. Hot temps, raccoons, and opossums, make storing garbage, unsavory. Very. Hence the full buy-in of residents in the Sunday Evening Trash Maneuver. Nobody misses.

Oh, and if they do forget, you can bet they wake, bolt upright Monday morning when they hear the sound of bottles dropped on steel from a height. They tear downstairs, without thought for public decency (in a state where decency matters) and haul leftover biscuits for that truck.

The guy hanging off the back of the truck smiles (first funny thing he’s seen all day, and he’s been up for five hours)–a sleepy man sprinting with a giant plastic tub containing all the food he didn’t eat that week. I’ve seen it actually. Because ain’t no way those rib bones will make it another week under the awning without getting a call from the neighbors and the HOA, and duties from his wife.

But there’s something that happens to these soldiers, standing there in the Texas heat. They grow maggots. The bottom of the garbage cans become a seething mass of white worms and flies that live in the liquids deposited over time by small leaks in plastic.

As an Alaskan, I’d take this bin off into the woods and put a hose to it with a little vinegar. But you can’t do that in a Texas suburb! Hahaha! I mean, you can take it to the neighbor’s lawn and tip the maggots there, but you’d probably best be prepared to have them do the same to you.

Nope. There is a service that comes to your house and cleans your garbage cans! Not for free, but you get maggot-free garbage cans out of the deal. And everyone uses this service, because ten pounds of maggots smell pretty bad.

Which brings me to Air Filters. If you don’t know what this is, it’s basically the Air Purifier that the factory has installed inside your vehicle. It’s what keeps stuff like dust and pussy willows from clogging the combustion activity of your engine.

There is a pleated filter material encased in plastic and metal that gets replaced at fluctuating intervals, depending on where you have driven and how much pollution your car has been breathing.

Here’s where the Alaskan takes matters into their own hands. Replacing the air filter is a job one can do themselves–absolutely! But let me tell you about common mistakes we handy people make, and what it costs us.

The housing around these filters is often very tricky to unclasp, and consequently, very hard to reseal. We very frequently see air filters that have been changed by vehicle owners, but not properly resealed. This is a problem because the intake action of the engine is pulling air past the filter and into the engine UNFILTERED. This introduces grit where you DO NOT want grit, and leads to premature wear.

The other problem we see with owner-replacement air filters is what we call “parts sourcing”. There are more air filter styles than brand of shoes out there and they are all different. AND most close in size and shape. ALLLmost the right size, but not quite. Again, leading to unfiltered air entering the engine compartment.

If you are not perfectly certain the air filter is the one that ORIGINALLY came with your vehicle, check with a professional. They guy at the counter is sourcing that part according to metrics designed by data entered by humans. As auto care professionals, we spend so much time just getting the right parts, let alone installing them properly.

Here’s to you Alaskans, for loving to do it all yourself.