Books

Do I have to buy from you? Can’t I just click and buy on Amazon? What is this, Soviet Union?

Sure. Click here to go to my page on Amazon and buy my books or just check out the reviews there. It’s fine. Really. Amazon works well for many people. And it’s zero work for me. And the three books I wrote for Bentley Publishers are often less expensive on Amazon than they are from me. Yes, I make more money if you buy directly from me. But more to the point, if you want me to sign and personally inscribe a book to you or someone else, it’s my privilege to do so.

All right. I’ll buy from you. What do I need to know? It’s just click-and-buy, right?

Not exactly. Forgive the still-somewhat-clunky nature of the book shopping experience. I’m still migrating it from my laughably ancient website. If for some reason it doesn’t work, click here to go to the old bookstore.

Purchase

  • Clicking on any of the books will add it to a PayPal shopping cart. If all you want is one book, just check out immediately through PayPal.
  • If you want more books, hit the “back” button on your browser and add more books to the cart.
  • When done, check out through PayPal.

Inscription READ READ READ THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT!

  • I will inscribe books to the name on the PayPal account (e.g., if the PayPal account is John Smith, I’ll write something like “John: Enjoy your life, enjoy your cars! —Rob Siegel”)
  • If you want a book inscribed to someone else (e.g., “To dad: Thanks for teaching me everything I ever knew”), you must email me at thehackmechanic@aol.com IMMEDIATELY after placing the order (or, even better, before) and tell me who I’m inscribing it to and what specific inscription you want.

Shipping

  • All shipping is in the continental United States via USPS Media Mail (about $3 per book).
  • If you want books shipped faster via USPS Priority Mail, contact me for a quote.
  • If you want international shipping, contact me for a quote. Be aware that international shipping, even to Canada, is pricey. If you don’t need a personally-inscribed copy, Amazon will be cheaper.
  • If you buy multiple books as part of the same order, I will combine shipping and refund you the difference through PayPal.

Narrative (story-based) books

The Best Of The Hack Mechanic: $24.95

My latest book, The Best Of The Hack Mechanic, is a selection from my 35 years of writing for BMW CCA Roundel magazine.

“In 1986, after owning eleven BMWs in three years, Rob Siegel sent an unsolicited article to Roundel, the magazine of the BMW Car Club of America. Little did he know that it would kick off 35 years of do-it-yourself automotive writing, and that his monthly column The Hack Mechanic™ would attract a community of like-minded enthusiasts who, like Rob, try to come up with creative workarounds to keep their cars running without taking them to the dealer every time they hiccup. More than just “use 10mm wrench on bolt B” instructions, though, the columns have always been small journeys into passion and problem solving, philosophy lessons disguised as a repair articles, and short stories about getting into and hopefully out of automotive trouble. The Best Of The Hack Mechanic™ is a selection of these pieces, including ones on how to buy a vintage BMW and not get burned, the most creative way possible to lock your keys in a running car, why car folks will do just about anything to avoid buying a family minivan when the money obviously would be so much better spent on “something fun,” why a car nut really does need seven cars, why the odds of having a car start is often inversely proportion to the number of cars in the driveway, why finding one of his father’s tools is enough to make Rob cry, and why working on your car feels so damned good, all written in Rob’s Hack Mechanic voice that hovers somewhere between J.D. Salinger, Bill Bryson, and David Sedaris. Informative, irreverent, and poignant, The Best Of The Hack Mechanic™ will have you hoping Rob has another 35 years of columns in him.”

Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic: $34.95

Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic was my first book and probably still is my best. It gives the long arc of my life as a car guy, tells why we all appear to be cut from the same cloth, and explains the real reason men love cars.

“In Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic, Rob Siegel shares his secrets to buying, fixing, and driving cool cars without risking the kids’ tuition money or destroying his marriage. And that’s something to brag about considering the dozens of cars, including twenty-five BMW 2002s that have passed through his garage over the past three decades.

A geophysicist by day and self-professed car junkie in his free time, Siegel explores his passion for cars with unflinching honesty and offers a unique window into the Car Guy mind. For over 25 years, Rob has written a monthly column called “The Hack Mechanic” for the BMW Car Club of America’s magazine Roundel. Along the way he reflects on the genesis of his fascination with boxy little German sedans, the miserable Triumph GT6+ he owned in college, rebuilding the engine of his wife’s VW bus in the kitchen of their first apartment, how cars affect family dynamics, and why men really love cars. And in showing how cars have repeatedly been the conduit for deep human connections in his life, Siegel reveals his controversial theory that beyond their greasy fingernails, gearheads are actually intimate, caring creatures. Siegel also explains why, in a world over which we have so little control, the act of diagnosing and painstakingly fixing broken cars can be immensely therapeutic. Just don’t ask him to fix other people’s cars!

With a steady dose of irreverent humor, Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic blends car stories, DIY advice, and cautionary tales in a way that will resonate with the car-obsessed (and the people who love them).”

Ran When Parked: $20

“The author buys a long-dead vintage BMW sight-unseen, travels a thousand miles to where it sits, gets it running, and drives it home. During the twelve-day trip, he finds that what began as a story of man-versus-machine turns into something else entirely—a story of the kindness of strangers, and how doors sometimes open exactly when you need them to. “Rob Siegel is a writer with the mind of a mechanic and a mechanic with the mind of a writer. He’s also an old-school romantic of the best kind, and one of the few people who understands what car culture really means to the people invested in it—free of stereotype, cliché, or pat sentiments you’ve read a thousand times before. Like all of his writing, Ran When Parked focuses heavily on the why behind the hobby. It’s a mix of casual, long-form blog entry; detailed how-to; and emotive confessional; most of all, he seems to believe the world would be a better place if everyone else followed on his crazy path and devoted their free time to resurrecting old iron. He’s right.” —Sam Smith, Editor at Large, Road & Track”

Resurrecting Bertha: $20

“To most people, cars are just appliances to be disposed of when they rust, become unreliable, or are outgrown. But to car people, it’s different. Cars are like photographs that occupy physical space. They hold aromas that trigger memories, and remind us of who we once were. In addition, to some people, the relationship with the car itself is a real thing. Many enthusiasts pine for the cars of their youth, regret that they ever let them go, and yearn and search for them the way people do with old lovers, hoping to find them and rekindle that old spark. In Resurrecting Bertha, Rob Siegel assures you that this is normal (well, as normal as anything is with car people), and embarks on this journey himself. Writing in his trademark Hack Mechanic voice that’s enthralled readers for 35 years, Rob describes his original eight-year relationship with his highly-modified 1975 BMW 2002 “Bertha,” selling the car to a dear friend, its 26 years of storage, and buying it back in a weak whisky-soaked moment only to experience the “oh dear god what did I just do” regret when he raises the long-closed garage door and comes face-to-face with the badly deteriorated car. The book details the steps Rob went through to get the car running, then driving, then sufficiently sorted to make a 2000-mile trip, and how the reconnection with the car was so much deeper than he expected. Resurrecting Bertha is about more than just the nuts and bolts; it’s about deciding what’s important, the joy of doing good, and how, if you do it right, not only CAN you go home again, you can do so in the same car.”

The Lotus Chronicles: $20

How to buy a ’74 Lotus Europa Twin Cam Special that had been sitting in a storage trailer since 1979 and get it running and driving like a Lotus without spending forty grand.

“In 2013, Rob Siegel (a.k.a. “The Hack Mechanic”) wandered waaaay outside of his German car comfort zone and blew the advance from his first book on a car that captivated him as an adolescent—a 1974 Lotus Europa Twin Cam Special. The car hadn’t been on the road since 1979, had a seized engine, and was purchased sight-unseen, but it was complete and had only 24,000 miles on it. In the week after it arrived, Rob feverishly ripped out the drivetrain, but the project soon ran into molasses due to the fact that all options for rebuilding or replacing the low-production Lotus-Ford Twin Cam engine would’ve cost more than he’d paid for the car. It was six years before the car was running, during which Rob lost his job and changed careers, necessitating that if work on the Lotus proceeded at all, costs needed to be relentlessly contained. All of this was chronicled on Facebook in a series of posts titled “The Lotus Chronicles,” in which Rob’s friends and acquaintances—the Hack Mechanic faithful—chimed in on the process, offering advice, encouragement, ridicule, scorn, every Lucas joke known to man and woman, and insight on why Lotus really does stand for “lots of trouble, usually serious.” The Lotus Chronicles is a collection of those posts, woven together with sections providing context and perspective. It’s about passion, perseverance, the balance between “doing it right” and getting ‘er done, what it takes to drag a project across the finish line, and coming to finally understand an offhand comment a man made to Rob when he first saw that Europa when he was 13 years old: “A car like that, you can get SEX out of.” “


Repair Manuals

Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic™ Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning: $29.95

The only air conditioning book targeted at reviving the a/c on vintage cars or retrofitting it into cars that never had it.

“Air conditioning in vintage cars often falls into disrepair, as owners figure that it never really worked all that well when it was new, and assume that rejuvenation would be prohibitively expensive. In his new book, Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic™ Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning, Rob Siegel details exactly what’s needed to resurrect long-dead air conditioning in a vintage car, or install a/c in a car that never had it. In a level of detail not found in any other automotive a/c book, Rob reveals what you need to know about flare and o-ring fittings, upgrading to a rotary-style compressor and a parallel-flow condenser, making or specifying custom hoses, and selecting refrigerant so that the a/c blows cold enough to be usable. Although the book draws from Rob’s BMW experience (with specifics for the BMW 2002 and 3.0CS), and concentrates on vintage a/c systems (those that have flare fittings and originally contained R12), most of the information applies to any air conditioning system, foreign or domestic, vintage or modern. Written in Rob’s entertaining Hack Mechanic narrative voice, and including 240 photographs and illustrations, the book covers theory, the choice of refrigerant (R12, R134a, other EPA-approved, non-EPA-approved), legality,, tools for a/c work, fittings and sizes, the compressor, the evaporator assembly and expansion valve or orifice tube, the condenser and fan, the receiver/drier or accumulator, electrical connections and compressor cycling, connecting and using manifold gauges, the basic steps for a/c rejuvenation, from-scratch a/c retrofit, making and installing hoses, flushing the system, pressure-testing and leak detection, evacuating and charging the system troubleshooting, and other things that heat up the cabin.”

The Hack Mechanic™ Guide to European Automotive Electrical Systems: $49.95 Out Of Stock

The book I spent a year and a half writing while I worked at Bentley Publishers. I’m currently out of stock. You can buy (non-inscribed copies) from Bentley or Amazon.

“Electrical issues in European cars can be intimidating. The Hack Mechanic™ Guide to European Automotive Electrical Systems shows you how to think about electricity in your car and then take on real-world electrical problems. The principles discussed can be applied to most conventional internal-combustion-engined vehicles, with a focus on European cars spanning the past six decades.

Drawing on The Hack Mechanic’s wisdom and experience, the 38 chapters cover key electrical topics such as battery, starter, alternator, ignition, circuits, and relays. Through a practical and informal approach featuring hundreds of full-color illustrations, author Rob Siegel takes the fear-factor out of projects like making wire repairs, measuring voltage drops, or figuring out if you have a bad fuel pump relay. Essential tools such as multimeters (DVOM), oscillosopes, and scan tools are discussed, with special attention given to the automotive multimeter needed to troubleshoot many modern sensors.

You’ll get step-by-step troubleshooting procedures ranging from safely jump starting a battery to diagnosing parasitic current drain and vehicle energy diagnosis. And you’ll find detailed testing procedures for most problematic electrical components on your European car such as oxygen sensors, crankshaft and camshaft sensors, wheel speed sensors, fuel pumps, solenoids, and actuators. Reading wiring diagrams and decoding the German DIN standard are also covered.

Whether you are a DIY mechanic or a professional technician, The Hack Mechanic™ Guide to European Automotive Electrical Systems will increase your confidence in tackling automotive electrical problem-solving.”

The Hack Mechanic™ Guide to Vintage Ignition Systems: $29.95

Everything you ever wanted to know about points, condensers, distributors, timing, and top dead center.

“Mechanically timed ignition is easy to understand and wonderfully straightforward to diagnose and repair, which is good because it is one of the most likely things on an older car to die and leave you in the lurch.

Rob Siegel—better known as The Hack Mechanic—explains how mechanical ignition works and discusses in detail how to set timing and advance. There is also a full chapter on troubleshooting mechanical ignition problems.

Illustrated with over 100 photos and diagrams and supported by clear, step-by-step instructions, the Mechanical Ignition Handbook features sections on mechanical ignition basics and components, common repairs and recommended tools, adjusting point gap, setting dwell angle, locating the timing mark, finding top dead center, setting static and dynamic ignition timing, using both a standard and an advance timing light, testing coil resistance, and retrofitting breakerless electronic ignition.

Applies to vintage cars from the 1950s up through the mid 1980s that have either points and breakers or mechanical ignition advance, including: Porsche 356, mechanically-timed Porsche 911, BMW 1600 and BMW 2002, Ferrari 365, Austin-Healey Sprite, MGB, Triumph Spitfire, Triumph TR3 and TR6, Jaguar E-Type, Mercedes models including the Mercedes 190 SL, Volkswagen Beetle, early Volvo, Pontiac GTO, vintage Chevrolet Camero and other American muscle cars.

If you are a vintage car owner who wants to understand how to adjust timing and advance to keep your favorite ride running smoothly, this is the book for you!”


Special Deal!!

Add my CD to any purchase: $5

My most recent CD, A Landscape of Ghosts, received national airplay on folk radio stations. Click to add it to any book order for $5 (regularly $13 by itself).