Behind The Wrench, Mechanic interview with David Hillier
David Hillier or what my fellow techs like to call me, Gravy Davey
How long have you been in the Industry?
I picked up my first wrench professionally in 1993. I worked for a small independent import shop called R.C. Motor King in Rexdale, Ontario, Canada. It was my only way into the industry. In Canada we have to get licensed to be working as a technician professionally and to do this you needed a shop with a journeyman to sign you up as an apprentice so you can start collecting hours so you can go to trade school. Where I lived in Etobicoke (Ontario) my wife and I would always drive by a Volkswagen dealership on the lakeshore called Mississauga Volkswagen. I was a bartender at the time but I have always wanted to get my start in the Automotive industry there. Don’t ask me why but that building had always caught my eye every time I drove by. I tried sending my resume in but I never got a response. I also plugged my resume elsewhere just to see if I could get any jobs. Finally I got a job at R.C. Motor King (a small independent import shop) and got signed up as an apprentice. I worked there for about a year. I was working on everything but what I wanted to work on which was VW. We only had one customer with a two year old (1991) Passat automatic 2.0l 16v that would come in for oil changes. I loved working on that car! Anyways, still wanting to work at Mississauga VW I would pump my resume in by fax, mail and I would drop off a copy to the reception desk once a week for about three months until one day I got a call. It was the service manager from Mississauga VW and he wanted to see me! I was super exited! The day I was to see him I stopped off and got coffee for both of us before I got there. When I got there I pulled up in my 1984 GTi and proceeded in. I finally met the service manager and offered him the coffee. he said “I don’t drink coffee” Thinking I got off on the wrong foot we proceeded into an office and sat down. First thing he said was “You know why I called you in today?” I said “For a job?” He said “You are the most persistent bastard I have had the pleasure to meet and if I didn’t call you I suspect I would be getting your resume sent to me until the day I quit or die. So I’m going to have to hire you.” That was one of the best days of my life besides meeting my wife and the birth of my children. I worked there under two journeymen and finally got my interprovincial licence. I have since worked at two other VW dealerships and currently work at an Audi dealership.
What is your current job title?
Automotive service technician
What were you doing for your first automotive job?
The usual apprentice duties, driving the shuttle, cleaning the shop and doing all the crappy jobs apprentices have to do to earn their keep.
Do you currently work at a Dealer, or in an aftermarket shop, do you prefer one over the other?
I work at an Audi dealership. I would say the dealership is better. I have only worked at an aftermarket shop for a year before I got my first dealership job with VW. I have other friends that work at independents and it’s hard for them to keep up with the latest technology.
Walk us through what you do on a daily basis.
Open my toolbox, have a coffee, get the first job, finish that one, get the next job… You know the drill. It’s always fun that’s why I keep working on cars day after day. You never know what your going to be fixing next until you get the work order.
When you are not working on or with cars, what do you like to do?
I’m a computer geek in my spare time. I have successfully installed Mac OS X on both of my Dell laptops at home. I also like to (when time permits) work on my 1973 Type 2 Campmobile.
What kind of car do you drive?
A 2000 VW Golf 2.0l manual. It just turned 340,000KM!
What was your first car?
A 1979 Plymouth Horizon. It had a VW Rabbit engine from factory!
What made you want to work on cars?
My Horizon used to break down and I would ask my dad for help (he was a tech back in the day) and he said “Here is the manual, try to fix it yourself” That was some tough love but it only made me the tech I am today, not relying on other people to diagnose and fix vehicles.
What is the weirdest thing that you have found in a car, that should not have been there?
That is a good question.. We used to get strippers cars in so you could imagine the things we used to find.
Do you have much customer interaction?
I used to as a foreman but not so much now. I miss that aspect of my career.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love figuring out electrical issues. At Audi there are not as many as I had at VW. Which is weird because they are almost the same electrically.
If giving the chance, what would you never do again at work?
Engine and transmission jobs. My body has been pounded by the trade. Bad knees and the occasional sore back. That’s grunt work in my opinion and the apprentices should be doing it with supervision from a journeyman.
The auto industry has a really bad rap, what do you say to someone who thinks you are trying to take advantage of them?
I have been lucky in that aspect, the clients I have always had have been stellar! We have always shown the clients what they need and stuff they can put off. I absolutely hate scam artists in our trade. Honesty is the best policy.
Of all the maintenance that cars need, what is the ONE that will keep my car healthy the longest?
How important is reading your vehicles owners manual?
Very important IMHO. The one thing I stress to clients is that you have to OWN your car. One problem I found at Audi is that there is a valet mode button in the glove compartment of the new A7 and when its depressed the trunk will not open from the door switch, the fob or the tailgate button. it’s covered in the owners manual and you won’t believe how many clients come in stating their trunk won’t open. It wastes not only the clients time but our time. READ YOUR MANUALS PEOPLE!!!
Have you read the owners manual to your car?
Nope. Hahahaha! But I know my car inside and out.
What tool in your tool box do you use the most?
At Audi it would be my oil filter cup, 18mm and 19mm wrenches. Not too much goes wrong with the Audis besides some injector issues.
Is there a brand of tool that you prefer?
MAC FTW! They are reasonably priced and durable as any tool on the market.
If you could only use 3 tools from now on, what would they be( and why)?
The VAS6150A, my Snap-on Vantage and a L.E.D test light. Why? Because I could surf www.techniciandatabase.com and slay ANY electrical issue thrown at me. 😀
If you were building a “James Bond” car, what is the one thing you would add it?
A cloaking device. The poor SOB’s wouldn’t see me coming!
You are sending your kid off to college, what car would you buy for them?
A manual transmission MK4 Golf or Jetta. Totally bulletproof in my opinion.
What is the one thing that you want folks to know about your job that they might not know?
It’s sometimes thankless work and brutal on the body. It would be great if clients would take a second to thank their technician for a job well done. I know I would appreciate it! But I love talking to my customers. 😀