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Living with Technology / The Internet as a repair partner

Published 4:01 pm, Wednesday, January 8, 2014
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The Internet is certainly a lot of things to a lot of people. I consider it to be my repair partner.

When stuff breaks, I prefer to fix it rather than replace it. Maybe I'm just cheap, but I like to think that fixing things not only saves money, but is a great way to recycle by not putting serviceable items into a landfill.

I have two recent experiences that demonstrate the power of the Internet in fixing common, everyday objects that would have been far more difficult without the Internet.

First, the visor on the driver's side of our Toyota RAV4 started sagging and obscuring the view through the front windshield. The local Toyota dealer suggested removing and replacing it. But the part alone was about $80, and with labor, it would be $125.

So I started poking around the Internet. I found that some people had tried to fix these visors, but with only limited success. So, it looked like the visor did need to be replaced.

Looking around more, I found that the official Toyota remove-and-replace instructions are available online. Years ago, one would have had to buy the entire service manual for typically hundreds of dollars.

In addition, I found the exact part number -- thanks to the Toyota service manual pages -- and the part itself from a seller in California on eBay for about $50, including shipping.

I ordered the item, it arrived, and within 15 minutes, the visor was replaced. Good as new.

The recent snowstorm also showed me that I need to replace some parts on my snowblower. This snowblower was given to me about 10 years ago from a friend who hadn't used it for about 10 years, so it's not a current model and no local store stocks the parts.

But because I had the model number, I was able to locate the parts online, find a dealer who just so happens to be in Boston, and I will order the parts from him this week.

In both of these circumstances, without the ability to search the Internet for tiny pieces of information --minor keywords or part numbers -- my ability to locate the items I need would have been limited to making numerous phone calls, sending letters in the mail, and asking local merchants for help with fairly small transactions.

From personal experience doing the above in pre-Internet days, I know how unfruitful these efforts can be.

This is one of the reasons why I continue to be amazed at the power of the Internet and how it truly delivers amazing value to us.

Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at: livingwithtechnology@mathias.org