Spark plugs, an iPad, and three Dads

The purpose of the Millennial Dad blog is to chronicle the changing nature of fatherhood for the modern dad. One of the best examples of the differences in generations happened to me last weekend.


I was happily driving back from Manchester when a warning light appeared on my car dashboard. Later on, and luckily closer to home, the engine started to stutter. When I got home I pulled out my iPad and googled the warning light (great example of use of technology #1) and discovered it was an emissions fault. After some more research I concluded the engine was misfiring and it might be a problem with the spark plugs.

I love the “How To” videos on YouTube.

Every task imaginable is covered by some expert who is happy to talk through it all step-by-step. The quality of these videos can be shaky but they get full marks for enthusiam. I found a great video showing how to change the spark plugs on my particular car.

So I set about off to my local Halfords, car stuttering along, to purchase some new spark plugs. My goal was to try to fix the problem myself without paying to go to a garage. NOTE: this goes against my advice that Millennial Dads should outsource everything to experts, but I wanted to weigh up the financial benefits of saving money.

The Millennial generation has grown up in an increasingly sterile world.

This was the first time I had bought spark plugs. Where most new cars are concerned, it’s not even possible to get “under the hood” of engines these days.

And so I called my dad. He’s part of the baby boomer generation who was born shortly after the Second World War, in 1953 to be precise. I would check that he’s ok with me telling you his age, but then he hasn’t got access to the internet so is never going to know about this post. My dad is a practical man and knows a thing or two about engines. This is typical of his generation, who had to fix things up and be the DIY expert in the family.

My dad came over and took a look at the car engine. But it was a slightly different design to what he was used to. He wasn’t sure exactly how to get to the spark plugs. He probably could have worked it out with a bit of time, but I had places to be. NOTE: Time scarcity is another symptom of the Millennial generation. So I showed him my trusty YouTube video which got right to the point. We even rested my iPad right on the engine so we could change the spark plugs in real time (great example of use of technology #2). Except we didn’t have the right tools. My toolbox doesn’t extend to a socket set.

We jumped in my car and headed across town to my grandad’s house. He was born before the war. His garage is full of every possible tool you could imagine from huge wrenches to tiny washers of all sizes. It really is a treasure trove but growing up I couldn’t understand his fascination with collecting screws and nails in glass jars. His is a thrifty generation and he has meticulously branded all his tools with his initials. And they’re mostly Made in Britain and built to last. One spanner even said “Made in West Germany”, surely a valuable antique by now?

With my Grandad’s tools and my dad’s expertise we quickly fixed the car and it (almost) solved the problem. It actually needed a tiny bit more work and I’m now confident I can rely on it for my daughter’s nursery school runs, ballet classes and birthday parties.

Three generations of men, all fathers, all different, but working together.

The pre-war generation may be stuck in the past, the baby boomers may look scornfully down on the Millennials for not being practical in the traditional sense, and the Millennials may roll our eyes at the technologically illiterate older generations. But we all have our strengths and can work together.

Ultimately, all generations of dads do appear to share one job… as chauffeur to our children. Now my car is fixed I can get back to my dad duties.

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