Chris Hinkley is a family man, a badass bassist and one hell of an auto mechanic—he’s been working in his dad’s garage since he was 10 years old.
“Automotive [care] has been in my family for years,” he says. His grandfather started Hinkley Auto Tech in Castro Valley, California, and it’s been passed down to his father and then to his older brother. “My dad and my grandfather have taught me to work as hard as you possibly can, any given day, as hard as you can.” Those countless hours Hinkley spent in the shop with his dad helped shape him as a musician.
“That work ethic from a young age still applies to me every day,” Hinkley says. “That has translated to music, and really everything I do, because I want to put my heart and soul into everything I touch.”
Hinkley’s band, I The Mighty, just finished a tour supporting Coheed And Cambria and Glassjaw. Their latest release, Connector, is the fruit of their efforts and it’s ripe and aromatic. Hinkley began playing bass around the same time he was under the hood of cars, but before he pressed his fingers on those frets, Hinkley started out singing and playing piano. “My mom is a concert pianist and she said, ‘You have to take three years of piano before you can play any instrument,’” Hinkley recalls. Those three years weren’t easy but Hinkley still credits them as being “the most beneficial thing that’s ever happened to me. […] Almost everything I know about music came from piano.”
So he’s a pianist, singer, bassist, personal trainer and mechanic: What can’t this man do? Going beyond his joint talents, Hinkley wants to help: “I wanna be that person that helps any band, anytime anywhere, because I know how much of a struggle it is to be on the road and not know where to go, not know how to check your oil—if your transmission goes out, what to do.”
We teamed up with Hinkley to give the gigging band some quality guidelines to maintain a smooth ride to the next venue and to be prepared in case of an emergency. Not to mention, this is pretty good advice for any driver.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
SPARE OIL: “It’s always good to keep extra quarts of oil in your car,” Hinkley suggests. Your car could be burning more oil than usual due to a number of defects, so keeping some extra oil can save you from a blown engine. It could even save you some money in the long run. Don’t forget to check it at least once a week if you are driving hard.
STAR WRENCH (with your Factory tire iron) AND VEHICLE JACK: “Having a star wrench and a jack is absolutely imperative,” demands Hinkley. The star wrench is easier to use than your factory tire iron. “Your tires are touching the road 100 percent of the time.” If you don’t have the tools to change a tire, well, we hate to say it, but the show might not go on. “For the majority of people touring, it’s gonna happen,” Hinkley said, so bottom line, make sure these tools are safely tucked away in the trunk and that your spare is properly inflated.
FLASHLIGHT/EMERGENCY KIT: “If you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and you can’t see anything, you definitely need a flashlight to see what’s going on.” We couldn’t have said it any better. And just for safe keeps, Hinkley suggests an emergency kit or simply something containing Band-Aid’s. Better safe than sorry! The best items for your kit are a cell phone, 100 plus extended tow AAA card, flairs, tire gauge and jumper cables.
TIPS FOR THE ROAD
OIL CHANGE: Hinkley suggests the right time to change the oil is between four and five thousand miles. He says regardless of if you’re running a conventional motor oil, synthetic blend or full synthetic, if you’ve gone four to five thousand miles, it’s best to make a pit stop and change the oil. “The theory behind that is, you want to change the oil before the oil starts to break down. A lot of people change the oil when they’ve lost all the viscosity in their oil and all the lubrication factors are gone within it.” The point is to keep the oil fresh so your engine functions properly. Ignore the five to 10 thousand-mile debate and listen up!
TIRE INFLATION: “If you’re hauling a big trailer with lots of weight in it, you have to make sure that your rear tires and trailer tires are maxed out to their proper specifications.” So check your vehicle's tire ratings on your driver door pillar and max inflation located on your tire. Save yourself tire wear-and-tear while improving your ride and using your gas economically. Hinkley said your vehicle front tires can be lowered below its max specifications but trailer tires and rear tires need more attention. “The majority of the heavy load should always be centered over the tires, trailer or van, never on the front or rear of the trailer. That equally distributes the weight and does not over load your hitch’s tongue weight. Check them daily as you can pick up a nail any time. Driving on a low can destroy your tire!”
TIRE ROTATION: Hinkley recommends a tire rotation every five thousand miles. Plain and simple. He also suggests having your vehicle aligned when you bring the car for a tire rotation. “As far as vans go, rotate them every five thousand-miles front to back. And try to keep up on that because when you’re on the road so much, and you’re towing and in different conditions all the time, tires take a beating. Majority of the time, they do wear funny.”
TRANSMISSION ISSUES: Check your transmission fluid level regularly (and do not over fill). Most of the time, repairs for transmission issues are the replacement of the transmission, at a large cost. Maintenance is the key. Heat from towing breaks down your oil and changing your trans fluid every 25,000 miles with the “proper OE fluid” is about your only defense.
Hinkley means it when he says he wants to “be that kind of vessel for people who need help on the road.” Have questions? Can’t find a trusted dealership and tour starts in two days? Hinkley is your guy and can be contacted here: [email protected]
Connector is available now through Equal Vision Records. Catch I The Mighty on tour with Pierce The Veil this summer.