James Hickey, who has been a gearhead since he was 5, provides Dallas’ gay community with an out auto expert who knows a few things about how to make your engine hum
It’s a tenet of gay culture that men aren’t just hairdressers, florists, interior decorators and liberal media wonks (guilty!), but actually part of the fabric of society: Truck drivers, construction workers, even auto mechanics.
James Hickey is proof of the latter.
Metrosexual cliches aside, not all gay men live for mani-pedis — some prefer their fingernails coated in axle grease instead of clear enamel. Although when Hickey finishes up his day as a mechanic and assistant manager at Kwik Kar Lube & Tune on Fitzhugh, he typically unwinds by crossing the street for a brew at BJ’s … and sometimes a few of his straight co-workers will join him.
"It’s no big thing really. I like that place and we’ll go and play rounds of pool and have a drink," Hickey says.
While a gay mechanic may seem out of the ordinary in the seemingly straight world of grease monkeys, for Hickey and his boss
Jeremy Caldwell, it’s no big deal.
"The bottom line is James is a [good] mechanic. Being gay is not even an issue," Caldwell says.
Then again, maybe it is a big deal. Hickey says that since word is spreading that an out mechanic can look over their cars, the gay community has begun ask for the Dallas native by name. Which is good for business.
"We’ve definitely had a growth in the gay community as customers. They know one of their own will treat them much better. I hear horror stories of other service centers taking advantage of LGBT people just because. That’s not right," Hickey says.
"I don’t know how he can tell if they are gay or not. I can’t but it’s great they feel they can come here," Caldwell adds. (Hickey tells him the bumper stickers on the cars usually help.)
All of which would be pointless if Hickey didn’t know a wrench from a radiator. After 30-plus years of tinkering with cars — he first looked under a hood when he was 5 — Hickey knows his product. He hasn’t yet come across a car yet he couldn’t fix, he says, including a BMW he recently bought and restored. It’s in his blood. All the men on his mother’s side of the family had been mechanics. Despite that legacy, he had some rebellious thoughts of doing something else. He even tried his hand at remodeling, but it was a no-go. Much like in The Godfather, just when he thinks he may be out, it pulls him back in.
"Even being gay didn’t get me out of it," he says.
And, he admits, he wouldn’t want to do anything else.
Knowing your way under the hood
Hickey has some insights into what all guys and gals — gay or straight — should basically know about their cars. Here’s some of Hickey’s advice.
Lube up. "Above all else, always be regular on your oil changes," he says. "It’s gotta be clean. If not, it can mess up your pistons and valves. You don’t want that."
Splish-splash. "Always keep your fluids level. It’s amazing how much that helps."
Go for brake. "It’s simple enough but keep the brakes up to par," he advises. "The second you hear something when braking, no matter how small it may sound, look into it or bring it in right away."
Don’t forget these. "You want to get the radiator flushed and always check the oil and air filters. The air filter especially, because that’s what you are breathing while you’re in the car."
As with your own health, Hickey recommends preventive maintenance over emergency corrective measures. "The thing is, you want to do these steps on a regular basis because this will save you so much money. If these peter out, you got major costly repairs that could have been prevented," he says.
Kwik Kar Lube & Tune, 3224 N. Fitzhugh Ave. 214-219-7100. Open daily at 8 a.m. Closed Sundays.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 06, 2009.