MADISON (WKOW)-- The USA began as a 'do it yourself' society. But, between then and now, 'do it yourself' was replaced by 'hire someone else to do it'. Now, the recession has a growing number of us going back to our 'do it yourself' roots.
Dan Hein teaches engine repair at Madison Area Technical College and says there's been a big jump in the number of people taking the small engine repair class.
"We almost canceled the class because there weren't enough people. Now, all of the sudden, this year, a full class. Is a basics course, so you start out by learning small engine technology. What's a two-stroke, a four-stroke. what's a lawnmower, how do you tune it up, you can actually rebuild a lawnmower engine," says Hein.
Bob Skaggs of Verona is taking it a step further and starting his own repair business. But, he says even without that goal, he'd be taking this class.
"Yes, yes. There's definitely a lot to be saved if you know how to do it, how to use the tools properly. and that's what this class teaches you."
"It's the idea of trying to understand how to work on something correctly, how to make it run longer, last longer: maintenance tips, tune-up tips, that kind of stuff," says Hein.
Stuff that can end up costing you a lot to have done by someone else.
"Shop rates are $85, $95, $100 an hour sometimes, to get your lawnmower fixed," says Hein.
You can also spend that much getting your computer fixed. Fortunately, there's a class for that too.
From operating systems to extra memory and everything in between, Ron Koci's one semester MATC course allows you to do it yourself.
"As people discover, once they pull the cover off and their hair doesn't turn green and they're still alive, that it really is just a machine. It's basically just getting them to understand how the parts work together just as in a car," says Koci.
And, since the computer is now about as much of a necessity as the car, knowing what to do about basic problems and maintenance can be invaluable.
"Once they learn the basics of how it works they can do it themselves," says Koci.
And, as with cars, some projects are better not to do yourself. But Koci says his students still know the right questions to ask.
"They become very smart about how to get help. In other words, when they call tech support or go to the store, they're also very smart about what they want and what they need."
Of course, there's an investment involved here. You'll need some time and some money; for instance, MATC's computer class runs $346 for the semester. The small engine repair class, $250.
But, you can 'do it yourself' with a lot more than just cars and computers. For instance, there are local classes for landscaping, heating & air conditioning, sewing, freezing and canning food. You can even make your own jewelry.
Instructors across the board say 'do it yourself' is back.
"More people are taking a course or two instead of the entire program, learning what they need, they they go," observes Koci.
MATC isn't the only place to find 'do it yourself' classes. Click here for University of Wisconsin-Extension, which also offers these types of classes.