Behind The Wrench: Today with Rusty

Today we get to know a little more about being a service manager. I know “technically” he is not behind a wrench, but Rusty has a pretty cool view of the industry.
If you would like to be featured in this interview series, please email me.

How long have you been in the Industry?
Holy Crap! 25 years. When did that happen?

What is your current job title?
 Dealership service manager
What were you doing for your first automotive job?
One of the coolest jobs I ever had. I was an assistant in a performance street shop that was associated with Team Highball. Team Highball was a racing team, in Raleigh NC, that raced in the old IMSA days. They built from scratch, and raced Mazdas with some factory assistance. They ended up winning the 24 hours of Daytona 4 years in a row. Amos and Bunny Johnson were some of the nicest folks I’d ever met. Heard some great stories there.
Do you currently work at a Dealer, or in an aftermarket shop, do you prefer one over the other?
See question 3. The independant shop that I did work at was pretty cool, but you can make a better living in a dealership. Depends on the mindset of the individual as to whether a dealership or aftermarket/independant is better.
Walk us through what you do on a daily basis.
There is not enough room on the net to list that. I was shocked, when I was hired, to see that my job description was 6 pages long. I will say that my job is equal parts psychologist, technical, accountant, ad-man, den mother, daycare manager, punching bag and “Lucy” from peanuts when she is sitting in the stand that has the sign over it that says “The doctor is in 5 cents.”
When you are not working on or with cars, what do you like to do?
Mainly been a family guy for a long time. My 2 girls played travel soccer, danced, swam and I’ve never had more fun in my life than the time I’ve been able to spend with them.
I’ve also been enjoying playing guitar and singing in a bluegrass band, turning my garage into a man-cave and modifying whatever I drive.
What kind of car do you drive?
Yukons, had an ’03 since new, just bought an ’08 Denali.
What was your first car?
1965 Mustang coupe. It was arrest-me red and slow as hell 6 cylinder.
What made you want to work on cars?
The real genuine love of cars. I genuinely like to interact with people and solve their problems. My mother loves to tell the story that the first toy I ever asked for, when I was a baby, was a police car….and it sorta grew from there.
What is the weirdest thing that you have found in a car, that should not have been there?
Would baby mice count? A snake in the “A” pillar? Shotgun pellets and blood? Cigarette tar like a gummy stalactite hanging from a rear view mirror?…..that’s probably enough.
Do you have much customer interaction?
What is your favorite part of your job?
Actually solving someone’s problem or teaching them something that would keep them from having problems in the future.
If giving the chance, what would you never do again at work?
Listen to someone complain about someone else. OMG! People have really lost the concept and the ability to get along.
The auto industry has a really bad rap, what do you say to someone who thinks you are trying to take advantage of them?
That’s a hard thing to do. Lot’s of folks really build up their defenses when they think they’re getting ripped off. Most of the time it’s becuase they are in a position of weakness. either not knowing what they are talking about or not knowing how to proceed. I just do the best I can to teach them what they need to know, so that they can make an educated decision from a position of strength.
Of all the maintenance that cars need, what is the ONE that will keep my car healthy the longest?
Oil, do it more often than they say you need to.
Check the air in your tires, change your wiper blades every six months, and clean your windows inside and out. Those things may not make the car last longer, but they will improve your enjoyment of the car. And never, EVER use armor-all on the INSIDE of the car.
How important is reading your vehicles owners manual?
Critical. You will learn something that you weren’t even expecting to learn. But you will know your car.
Have you read the owners manual to your car?
Oh yeah. Each car I’ve ever owned.
What tool in your tool box do you use the most?
Knowledge. With that, you can figure the rest out. Does that sound as corny as it feels?——-From HumbleMechanic YES 😉
Is there a brand of tool that you prefer?
The best one for a reasonable price. I think many guys, especially young ones, get caught up with the name on the tools. Start off with something like Craftsman. If you stay in the business, which is rare, then move on to the high line stuff. Do NOT bury yourself in debt early.
If you could only use 3 tools from now on, what would they be( and why)?
Does a Gerber multi-tool count? Is that cheating for one tool?
Vice grip pliers, and a good pocket knife.
Maybe, given what I do, I should have said a Bic pen.
If you were building a “James Bond” car, what is the one thing you would add it?
My grandfather converted his windshield washer tank to squirt moonshine under the dash to fill his cup. Now I can’t condone that but it was very creative. But James Bond? Jet pack I suppose.
You are sending your kid off to college, what car would you buy for them?
Started with a Passat variant. It was a great car for high school and would have been great for college except she went to school in the mountains and needed 4 wheel drive. Next was a Honda Element. It’s a driveable U-Haul trailer and was all-wheel-drive, but cannot withstand being crushed by a Mazda. Now she has a Jeep Cherokee XJ and she loves it. My other daughter is still on her first First Car. Honda CRv. All of them used. Never buy a young driver a new car.
What is the one thing that you want folks to know about your job that they might not know?
I’m proud of the people I work with and we really do put a great deal of energy into giving them the best product we can. We are human and many times make mistakes or don’t do things well, but most of the time there are very few that can compete with us.

Is that it, are the cameras still rolling? Am I done? I’m going to bed now.

What a great interview Rusty. I want to see some pictures of that moonshine dispenser your grandfather had.

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