Next day delivery is wonderful. And if ‘overnight parts from Japan’ wasn’t just a film cliché, that would be delightful too.
But they’ve got nothing on the joy that results in already having the exact replacement part you need. That feeling when you don’t need to make a call, search online or take a trip into town, and all you have to do is pluck the necessary item from your own shelves is unmatched.
Identifying an issue with your car, finding a broken or missing item is horrible. But knowing that, in your parts stash somewhere, you have the exact thing you need to fix the issue is a surefire way to change your mood from dejected to jubilant.
With the knowledge that you have the all-important item, you swagger to your stores with the bravado and energy of someone who has completed life. Like it was some sort of fiendishly complex video game and you’ve just defeated the ultimate five-headed boss purely by brandishing a pair of tie-rod ends.
The very first time I didn’t need to trudge to a shop to get what I needed, or wait at least a day for a replacement part in the post, I was so pleased. I felt a greater sense of accomplishment that day than I did after all the life events I am supposed to be proud of. Being accepted into university, graduating with a first-class degree, seeing my words in print for the first time, they don’t compare to needing that steering coupling and already having one to hand.
The result of this wave of euphoria, this feeling of rapture when I don’t have to spend extra on next-day delivery costs because I have the replacement in my possession, is that I hoard parts. Tons of parts. I have gearboxes, differentials, engine blocks, cylinder heads and full engines all tucked away in storage. Some of these are for cars I do not even own any more.
But, what if I need them? What if, one day, they’ll be useful? That’s what I tell myself. They’re the words that went through my head as I broke through the ceiling of cobwebs that act like an annoying lo-fi laser security system for the rafters of my garage. Those same words continued churning around in my brain as I hauled up a not-perfect-but-in-surprisingly-good-condition-for-its-age BMW 2002 door. And then a boot. And three sets of aluminium grilles. And then, when I got to the big, clamshell bonnet I thought, ‘what the hell am I doing?’
I might keep them safe, dry and in good condition, but I actually never want to use any of these things. I hope that my car stays in such a condition that these spare parts will never be called into action. What’s more, I could exchange them for something more useful, something I could use. Maybe even money. And that way someone else might find them useful, rather than just the spiders in the roof.
I admire the people who fill the market with second-hand parts, who keep their eBay account ticking over with endless auctions of unwanted wheels, unused brakes and suspension components that didn’t quite suit them. Imagine all the space and money they must have. Imagine how little they get nagged, too. Have they ever heard the words ‘will you please just get rid of that bloody thing’? Probably not, it’ll be on Facebook Marketplace before anyone has even had a chance to stub their toes on it.
Selling stuff, even for extortionate amounts of money, is the more generous option to take with your spare parts. I know that notion seems crazy, especially when that seldom-seen limited-slip differential or rare direct-top gearbox appears for sale at a price greater than the one you paid for your entire car. But my way, keeping everything tucked away ‘just in case’, looks pretty selfish by comparison.
I can see that, and I am sorry. But then I remember the sense of power that floods through me when I am already in possession of the element I need. And if that part is a large, expensive and difficult-to-find, not even retrieving a lost 10mm socket from a tinny nook could exceed the feeling.