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Behind the Wrench, Mechanic Interview with Bill Foster

Published on March 30, 2012 under Behind The Wrench

Hey everyone, it’s time for Behind the Wrench! Today we have a former mechanic who now teaches the craft to the next generation! It is my absolute pleasure to have this interview with Bill!

NAME:
William (Bill) Foster
How long have you been in the Industry?
40 years
What is your current job title?
Program Director, Tech School
What were you doing for your first automotive job?
I started out working for Sears Automotive, busting tires, changing oil, you know, grunt work.
In the years you have been in the industry cars have changed so much, what is your favorite thing cars are equipped with now that they were not when you started?
As a music fan, I really like the way radios have progressed. Otherwise, GPS rocks.
Were cars really built better when you first started working on them? Is “they just don’t build them like they use to” really true?
Cars were easier to work on back in the 70s, but they needed a lot of work. By 70K, one had to have suspensions rebuilt and sometime, major engine repairs. Newer cars don’t have to be worked on as often. It is true, they don’t make them like they used to…they make them better.
Do you currently work at a Dealer, or in an aftermarket shop, do you prefer one over the other?
My last hands-on job was at an independent. During my career, I worked for both dealers and independents both have their good and bad.
Walk us through what you do on a daily basis.
Currently, I’m a director and a teacher at a technical school in a manufacturers program. I like it because I get the skinny on all the new technology and I have a 40-hour week.
When you are not working on or with cars, what do you like to do?
Summer, boating and jet-skiing. Fall and Winter, hiking.
What kind of car do you drive?
Old Jeep Cherokee. It pulls the boats and takes me to the trails.
 What was your first car?
1969 Camaro SS. 396, 4-speed.
What made you want to work on cars?
A hands-on career with good pay. I have no regrets on that decision.
What is the weirdest thing that you have found in a car, that should not have been there?
A kitten. I rescued it with welding gloves on. When the owner would not take it, I suggested that I put in back in the engine bay where I found it. She changed her mind. They became good friends.
Do you have much customer interaction?
As a tech, yes, and I hated it. As a shop manager, yes, but it was my job. As a teacher/program director, it’s my job and I enjoy it.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Turning on light bulbs in normally dimly lit brains.
If giving the chance, what would you never do again at work?
As a technician, I would avoid being directly involved with customers. I would second guess becoming certified, as you get all of the problem cars.
The auto industry has a really bad rap, what do you say to someone who thinks you are trying to take advantage of them?
The next time you go to the doctor, and then have to go back for the same problem, and you get charged for it, think of how cheap the car repair was. Remember, doctors bury their mistakes.
Are cars harder to work on(for a pro mechanic) now? Cars are loaded up with computers, does that make it easier or harder to fix?
Cars are harder to work on for pro mechanics…who think they can repair cars with their wits. You need diagnostic skills, diagnostic tools, and service information. I was fortunate to have worked for employers who purchased good service manuals and equipment.
Of all the maintenance that cars need, what is the ONE that will keep my car healthy the longest?
Full-service oil changes.
How important is reading your vehicles owner’s manual?
It is very important to read the owner’s manual; you miss out on all the features of a car if you don’t.
Have you read the owners manual to your car?
Yes. After I drove a car for 6 years and found out about the auto-headlight function, I started reading them.
What tool in your tool box do you use the most?
Hammer. Just kidding, DVOM.
Is there a brand of tool that you prefer?
The brand with the best service. Currently, that’s Snap-On.
If you could only use 3 tools from now on, what would they be( and why)?
Scanner, DVOM, test light. I enjoy the challenge of drivablility and electrical work…now that I’m not on flat-rate.
If you were building a “James Bond” car, what is the one thing you would add it?
DVD player to watch Bond movies.
You are sending your kid off to college, what car would you buy for them?
Toyota or Scion because of the dependability. Actually, I did that for two of them.
What is the one thing that you want folks to know about your job that they might not know?
Your local tech-school instructor works hard to get young men and women ready for entry-level employment. They are not masters yet, and will not be for a few years to come. Give them a chance as someone did you one day. It is frustrating to watch young people work hard for a year or two learning a career just to be denied a chance, or get paid so little that pizza delivery is a better choice upon graduation. It happens every day.
WOW, 40 years in the business. Bill, you must be a trooper! Folks,I really want to thank Bill for such an awesome interview. If you have a question for Bill, post it in the comments.Be sure to swing by and check out Bills website over at AutotechsForum.com. He has a great blog about cars too.
If you want to be featured, just Contact Me. I am always looking for new folks to interview!
I hope everyone has a great weekend. Hit me on Twitter that is the fastest way to get in touch with me.

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1 Comment

  1. Jeremy

    My tech school teacher also has about 40 years in the business. This guy knows his shit. He says that when a student questions him “Trust me, I know my shit”.

    What you said at the end is true. There are a couple guys from the last graduating class who did not find a job yet. They feel it is mainly based off the fact that they are fresh out of tech school. I hope when I’m done that I will be one of the lucky ones.

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