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Hi everyone! I mentioned yesterday that I have a new tech that I am training. Today I want to tell you guys about him.

In years past, we would hire rookie techs from the Volkswagen program with Universal Technical Institute. The best part about guys from the VW program was they were trained by VW. They knew the cars, the scan tool and the repair manual. The VW program with UTI was cancelled years ago. Up until the last year that was no issue for my dealer. We have not needed to hire any techs. But with recent turnover we needed to find some new guys.

When hiring a new mechanic, shops have a few options, each have pros and cons

  • Hiring an experienced tech
    Hiring a tech with experience is great. Especially when they already know the car line. They should have the skills, the tools and the knowledge to step right in.  The down side, they have the potential to bring drama in the shop. I have seen a lot of experienced techs come in to the shop and do great. I have also seen them bring crazy problems.
  • Hire a rookie
    You might think that hiring a rookie with no tools, little knowledge and no experience would be suicide. But bring someone who is fresh can be a great fit. They are hungry, moldable, and do not have the baggage.

    Green Snapon Tool box

    This is the new guy’s GREEN tool box

Okay, on to my new guy. This kid is fantastic. He just finished up at UTI in November. While there he worked at a BMW and Benz shop. The kid is sharp as a razor. We are about 3 weeks in to the training, and he is where other guys were after a year.

There are a lot of things that set him apart from the other techs I have trained. HE IS DEAF! That is right, my new tech is hearing impaired. Now, your first thought is probably exactly what mine was. How can a mechanic do their job, without hearing? The truth is, there will be limitation that he will have. Just like we all do.

Communication This is actually going better than I thought. We have been communicating by typing back and forth in wordpad. We have also been hand writing some. Only downside is, we both have really crappy handwriting. The cool part is, he is teaching me sign language. I never seen myself learning sign language as part of my job as an automotive technician. Sure it has been different. But I have to say, I am excited. Our deal is, I teach him to fix cars, he teaches me ASL. I think I have an easier challenge than he does 😉

I am looking forward to keeping you all updated on my new guy. Plus he has a sweet bright green tool box. If you have any questions about the new guy, feel free to ask. I will tell you all one thing, if you have sometime stupid to say about him being deaf, don’t bother. Not only will I not approve the comment, I will also ban you from the blog. This kid has worked his ass off to be where he is. I respect the hell out of him. He is going to be one heck of a tech.

Humble Mechanic Logo

Happy New Year everyone! I hope that you all had a great holiday season! Today we are officially kicking off 2014 on the blog. 2013 was a crazy busy year for me. Between moving in early February, and getting the Cabby VR6 running the year flew by.

What is in store for 2014?
This year will be the best year of the blog yet. In early February I will be traveling to the Chicago Auto Show for media day. My hopes are that will open the door for more big time car shows, SEMA maybe? I will be sure to keep you guys all filled in on the cool stuff from the show.

  • The blog will most likely be getting a facelift. I like the style we have been rocking for a while, but it’s time for a change.
  • We still have some work to do on the Cabby. She runs but great, but there is still work to be done. I have some wiring to finished up. I also need to get the interior put back together.
  • I am hoping that this year I can redo my garage at the house. Not sure if a full makeover is in the budget this year, but we are going to try.
  • Fine tuning the Podcast. I will be adding more podcasts this year. Plus a good buddy of mine wrote some awesome intro music.
  • I am going to get the “Does My Car Really Need This” fired back up. It seems to be one of the more popular posts.
  • I have a new guy that I am training. He is pretty sharp. Wait until you hear the coolest thing about him.
  • Shop Shots will still be a main part of the site. 😉
  • I have started to do more tool reviews. I will be sure to share all the reviews that I do.
  • I also have a few contests, and giveaways planed. Let’s just say

The short hiatus has been really good for me and my family. We have done lots of work around our homestead. We have been clearing about 7-10 years of intense over growth. It is so think in some spots you can’t even see through it. My wife has taken the lead on the homestead blog. If you want to see some pic around the homestead, check out the NCHomesteading page on Facebook. Here is a picture I took out on the homestead yesterday.

Homesteading in NorthCarolina

Humble Mechanic Logo

Hey folks, It has been a long long long time since we have done an auto mechanic interview. That is 100% my fault. If you have sent your interview in, and it was not posted, I am truly sorry. Don’t worry we are back on track. Let’s get to it!

 

NAME:

Jim W.

How long have you been in the Industry?

15 years

What is your current job title?

technician

What were you doing for your first automotive job?

changing oil at a Toyota dealership

 

Do you currently work at a Dealer, or in an aftermarket shop, do you prefer one over the other?

Currently i am working at a Chrysler dealer, but i have worked in the aftermarket as well, including some time in management. I have to say i prefer dealerships over working in an aftermarket shop, the level of training and support available is a lot better in a dealer. Plus the level of technology involved these days is just mind blowing compared to just even a few years ago. Vehicles are so technology based now,i feel for the guys in the aftermarket that are faced with the challenge of trying to keep up with all the “latest and greatest”. Plus using factory parts and diagnostic equipment is another big plus,and the working hours are better.

Walk us through what you do on a daily basis.

Lots of coffee!!!!  🙂 Well,lots of coffee in the morning then switch to Gatorade. First stop,unlock the box,get a cup of coffee and head for dispatch,with fingers crossed that the first ticket isn’t a warranty job! 😉 I kinda dabble in a little bit of everything, so at 8am i might be doing a brake job, around lunch fixing an interior water leak, and at quitting time pulling a cylinder head off. And cant forget a couple smoke breaks in there too. I know its sounds crazy but i actually like doing trim work, i know I am nuts! But i do a good portion of the interior trim work in the shop, but I am not to terribly picky about whatever comes my way. We have a good dispatcher, that knows all of our strong points and does a great job of routing the work through the shop.Plus i work with a great bunch of guys,and that is huge in this business.

When you are not working on or with cars, what do you like to do?

Build model cars,trucks and helicopters,watch racing (go Junior!), Atlanta Braves baseball, read military history, listen to music, and give my beautiful wife a hard time 😉 That was a joke! She is great, she has put up with me for almost 5 years of marriage and we have know each other for 10 years almost now. And teach Sunday school, with the funniest bunch of kids ever!

What kind of car do you drive?

Lowered 2005 GMC Sierra crew cab

What was your first car?

1970 Chevelle

What made you want to work on cars?

Needed a job! Seriously, i always loved cars,grew up reading about every car magazine and book i could get my hands on. And once i started in the dealer,i just got hooked. There is just something about it that once you are in,you cant seem to ever get out, people think they do,and once they get out, they end up coming back, its in out blood i guess.

What is the weirdest thing that you have found in a car, that should not have been there?

A baby copperhead,in a wheel cover,and he was still alive,and very,very angry!!!!!

Do you have much customer interaction?

Not as much anymore,i actually started at this dealer as a writer,and went back to the line last summer,but i still have a lot of customers that when i see them come in i will go and talk. Certainly not as much as during my time as a writer or manager though.

What is your favorite part of your job?

The challenge,and the satisfaction when you fix something that just had you completely puzzled,and you figure it out.Plus the guys i work with.

If giving the chance, what would you never do again at work?

Become a victim of tunnel vision.You know the saying, “can’t see the forest for the trees”? Sometimes we all get so caught up in the thinking that its got to be a huge complex problem,that we forget sometimes(i know i do),start with the basics,work the trouble trees,and most importantly,sometime you just got to walk away,go talk to a buddy in the shop about the race,or how his kid is doing,clear the mind,take a breath and fix the problem.

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 problem is,when people walk into a repair facility,dealer aftermarket,wherever,they throw a brick wall up.They are already thinking,”these guys are just gonna rip me off”. And i understand that.Yes,there are dishonest mechanics and technicians,just like there are dishonest police officers,doctors,lawyers,bankers,the list goes on. But for every one of these,there is many many times that number that are not.Dishonesty is in every line of work,not just the automotive business. And nowadays,it is so easy to find a review of a shop,online,social media,that the dishonest ones are going away quickly.And to someone that says,i don’t trust what you are saying about my car,all i can say is,you wont unless you allow me that opportunity to earn it.

Of all the maintenance that cars need, what is the ONE that will keep my car healthy the longest?

change the oil

How important is reading your vehicles owners manual?

If customers only knew how much time they would save by just sitting down and reading it and understanding their vehicle options and functions,and what is normal and what is not normal,they would be amazed. We have cars in on a daily basis,the customer thinks there is a problem,but nothing is wrong,they just are not using that function as it is designed. A customer comes in waits for an hour just to find out that they weren’t doing something right,and their car works as designed. Read the manual,you will find out lots of really cool stuff,you may not have known about your car.

Have you read the owners manual to your car?

cover to cover,twice

What tool in your tool box do you use the most?

Wow, tough question. My tools are my kids,i don’t want to pick a favorite!

Is there a brand of tool that you prefer?

I will be honest,i have a mix of the big three(Snap On, Matco,and Cornwell). Plus some Craftsman and Kobalt stuff too.I do like Snap On wrenches and sockets,but honestly as long as its a good tool that wont let me down when i need it,I am in.

If you could only use 3 tools from now on, what would they be( and why)?

Pocket screwdriver for sure,best tool ever!! A pair of the”Cobra” pliers from Knipex,cause they are just really cool,and my impact,just cause we have been together a long time,kinda like a part of the family now 🙂

If you were building a “James Bond” car, what is the one thing you would add it?

A hover conversion like the cars in Back to the Future 2 had

You are sending your kid off to college, what car would you buy for them?

Toyota Camry

What is the one thing that you want folks to know about your job that they might not know?

That we are just a bunch of guys trying to make an honest living doing a very physically and more than that now mentally demanding job

 

Thanks for the great interview Jim. It is always great to hear from fellow techs out there. I think that most of us VW techs will be happy to sublet our Routan work to ya LOL.

If you want to be on Behind the Wrench, please contact me. Also, if you know someone that is thinking about becoming an auto mechanic or technician, send them this interview. It may be the motivation they are looking for.

Humble Mechanic Logo

It has been so long since we did a Behind The Wrench interview. So I am excited to introduce the first women featured on the blog. If you, or anyone you know in the auto industry, want to be featured in an interview like this just contact me. So without any further delay, take it away Denise

NAME:

Denise Cook

How long have you been in the Industry?

eighteen years

What is your current job title?

Service writer/tech

What were you doing for your first automotive job?

I was helping restore motorcycles, and cars, cleaning parts.

Do you currently work at a Dealer, or in an aftermarket shop?

Aftermarket` we own our our business, have for 18 years.

Do you prefer one over the other?

Never worked at a dealership, but my husband had before we opened our own business. I think there are pros and cons for both.

Walk us through what you do on a daily basis.

I wear a lot of different hats through out the day, it all depends on what is needed for me to do. Usually I come to the office around 7:00-7:30 a.m. I prepare for the day by checking messages for appointments or cancellations..I check the inventory and order what is needed. Once we are opened I talk to the customers about what is going on with there vehicle if they are dropping it off, or go through the repair if they are picking it up. I show them pictures and/or videos of their car repair, or what we found. If we are checking out a vehicle,I tell them I will give them a call with an estimate if it is not known at the time as to cost. After checking the vehicle over, I will estimate cost of repairs and give the customer a call with different options if there are any available. As far as repair work goes, I do mainly services ( coolant flushes, transmission service, belts, brakes etc) and I help the tech.’s by what is needed done ( help bleeding the systems, getting tools, cleaning parts,stripping cylinder heads for pressure testing etc) I search TSB . I also talk to the customers when they call and set up appointments. If a customer is waiting, I will sometimes bring them into the shop and show them what is going on with their vehicle When needed I will pick up parts, make a bank run, pick up customers. then after work, I do the book work. We get home usually, when were busy, around 7.00 at night.

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When you are not working on or with cars, what do you like to do?

Lots! I love cooking, riding bikes, hiking, gardening and being with my kids and grand kids.

What kind of car do you drive?

A 2002 Toyota Camry.

What was your first car?

Spitfire TR3

What made you want to work on cars?

My first car was a sports car, and my dad wanted me to know how to work on it. So he taught me a few things. Then after I was married, my husband had motorcycles that he spent time on so, I decided if I wanted to spend time with him,I would learn about them. It went from there to cars and when he opened his own shop I quit my job to help him.

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What is the weirdest thing that you have found in a car, that should not have been there?

A dead cat in the back seat, extremely smelling up the whole car.

Do you have much customer interaction?

Yes I do.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Talking with the customers. we have made a lot of good friends from our customers

If giving the chance, what would you never do again at work?

Being in a car while it is UP on the lift while its being worked on ( or for any other reason ). Luckily that doesn’t happen much. but I hate when it does!

The auto industry has a really bad rap, what do you say to someone who thinks you are trying to take advantage of them?

Well it depends on WHY they think we are trying to take advantage of them. If they think because we are charging more then some one else had quoted them, I let them know WHAT we are going to do that is different. Factory parts, full maintenance, proper fluids. That they need to compare apples to apples, not oranges. Not all repair is the same. If they want the cheapest price, then we are not the place. But if they want quality work, and the best parts for the job, an 18 month unlimited mileage warranty and someone who cares about their work, then we are here for them.

Of all the maintenance that cars need, what is the ONE that will keep my car healthy the longest?

Most people neglect their cooling systems. A vehicle might be able to GO a hundred miles without flushing the cooling system, but what harm has it done to the system. If they want to keep their vehicle long term, regular maintenance of the system needs to happen.

How important is reading your vehicles owners manual?

Very important. You should know the systems of your car and how they work and what needs to be done and when.

Have you read the owners manual to your car?

Yes I have.

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What tool in your tool box do you use the most?

It depends on the job, but air ratchet and wrench

Is there a brand of tool that you prefer?

No. But like quality made tools

If you could only use 3 tools from now on, what would they be (and why)?

They would have to be the very basic tools. Screw drivers, wrenches and pry bar.

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If you were building a “James Bond” car, what is the one thing you would add it?

I don’t watch James Bond so no idea.

You are sending your kid off to college, what car would you buy for them?

Our youngest son went off to college in his dream car, a Camero! he still has it too.

What is the one thing that you want folks to know about your job that they might not know?

I think that media has it played out that most technicians are dirty, stupid, fowl mouthed, dishonest, and if your a women in the industry, your even more so that way.. They don’t expect you to be a lady with any intelligence on mechanical things.Where that might hold true once in awhile, it is most diffidently not true for the most part. I am proud of what I know and do. I find it quite humorous that when people first meet me they don’t expect me to not know anything, especially men.

Well folks, there you have it. Great look in to the industry from Denise.

Humble Mechanic Logo

Just like many other jobs, being an auto mechanic is a pretty dynamic job. It is a far cry from the “punch the clock, do the same task, then go home” type job. Because of that I want to talk about what an average day looks like.

At my dealer we are all general service mechanics. That means we all do every job in the shop. Some shops will have a transmission guy, the one that rebuilds all the trans missions. Or the diagnostic guy. They will figure out the problems with cars, then send it to another tech to make the repair. I prefer the setup that we have. It keeps the day interesting. It is common to do an oil change on a car, then diagnose a check engine light, them do some tire work.

An average work day may go something like this:

  • Perform a 10,000 miles service on a newer car
  • Oil change, rotate tire on a 2008 VW
  • Diagnose a check engine light
  • Perform a 20,000 mile service on a newer car
  • Oil change
  • Oil change, rotate tires
  • Oil change, state inspection,
  • 40,000 mile service
  • Replace a headlight bulb
  • Replace a tail light bulb

This number of cars in a day would actually be fairly busy. That does not account for things that we find wrong with cars when they come in the shop. Things like worn out wiper blades, brakes and light bulbs are the most common things we find when cars come into the shop.

As I go back and read that, it would be a pretty good and easy day. On the not so typical days, anything can happen. Last week I spent almost the entire day diagnosing a 2013 Jetta hybrid that would randomly shut off. The next day I wrote up 2 estimates that totaled almost $18,000. That is not something I a bragging about. I do not like writing those type of estimates. One of those cars was a 99 Passat that had been neglected. The other was an 09 EOS. It had an issue with the top not opening properly. It was actually the first time I have seen an EOS top fail mechanically.

That is pretty much want a standard day as a VW tech looks like. Of course if I had to pick a perfect day, it would involve doing jobs that pay really well. Some might say that would get boring and they may be right. But as much as I love doing what I do, I go to work everyday to earn a paycheck. 😉

Do you like what we are doing here at Humble Mechanic? Right now the best way to support it is by sharing. You can use the icons at the top and bottom of every post to share the site with people you know. Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and all the rest are great ways to help me spread the word. And just know that if you do share, it means a lot to me.

Humble Mechanic Logo

Humble Mechanic LogoI want to talk about something today that we have never really touched on before. That is some of the negatives of being a mechanic. I made a commitment when I started this site. I was not going to use it as a platform to whine about work. I would not just complain about hours, getting paid, crazy customers, and all the rest. I try and focus on showing everyone the good side of this industry. How they can save money on their car, and avoid the bad things in the auto industry.

That does not mean that this job does not have a down side. A comment came in on a post I did a while back. The post was about how Being a mechanic is awesome. This is what Kevy said

Agree with some points on this, but i have been a mechanic with Land Rover now for 8 years. Yeah its great being on your feet all day and it certainly keeps you fit and keeps weight off you. But you will go home really tired every night, probably have to work a 6 day week, be hounded by people who aren’t mechanics about how long you are taking to do a job. You are belittled if you cant fix something within 1 or 2 hours, you will cut/injure yourself almost daily and the pay isnt great either. Stay in school kids

Kevy does bring up some good points. The one I want to focus on today is injuries. It will come as no surprise that mechanics get cuts and scrapes all the time. Burns tend to be a little less common, but are usually more serious. Then there is also the eyeball full of chemicals. Today, mine was engine oil mixed with brake cleaner. All the sting of brake clean, and none of the evaporation of oil.

Those type of injuries can be very serious and painful, but are generally more of an acute type of thing. The happen, and then heal. You might have a scar or two, but all in all life goes on. The worst type of injuries are the ones that cause chronic problems. Back issues are among the most common. Think about how many strange ways a mechanic contorts their body. Laying across the engine to reach that bolt way in the back. Twisting so you can reach that connector behind the dash board. This job can really take a toll on a mechanic’s body.

In the last year we have lost the 2 best mechanics in the shop due to injuries. One guy hurt his arm, went in for surgery, and is still not right. The other guy had to retire due to severe issues with his hands. The sad part is these guys where both played a huge part in my career. They were 2 of the 3 mentors that I had when I started. The third was more of a “don’t do what he does” type guy.

We have not even touched dealing with things that mechanics breathe. There are still some nasty chemicals in car parts. Brakes and clutches can still contain asbestos. The harsh cleaners that evaporate can have an acute or chronic effect on your body. And then you get the stuff that is just gross. Imagine a customer spilled milk in their car and didn’t clean it up. Or a car had a water leak and is full of mold.

Based on all that, you might wonder why anyone would want to be a mechanic. The truth is, being an auto mechanic is just like every job. Some parts are awesome, and some are not so great. It really depends on what you make of it.

What about your job? Is there things in other jobs that people don’t know? Feel free to share your story in the comment section below. One quick thing about the comment section. When you post a comment, please check the “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail”. That way you can see other people’s comments too.

Mechanic Scratched a Wheel

Happy Tuesday everyone. I hope that your wallets are recovering from the weekend of shopping. I didn’t partake in any Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales. It is just not my thing. Today I want to talk a little about being an auto mechanic. This actually goes far beyond just fixing cars. It applies to almost any job, in any field.

Mechanic Scratched a Wheel

Here is the wheel I damaged

Yesterday I was pulling a car into the shop. It was a 2011 Jetta Sport Wagon with about 20,000 miles on it. As I pulled into my bay, I nicked the rim on the edge of my lift. As I am sitting in the car I kept thinking, “It will be fine, it will be fine, it will be fine”. I got out and checked the rim. It was not fine. I gouged the crap out of it. The feeling of messing up a customer’s car is not a good one.

I called the service manager over to check it out. He looked at the wheel, looked and me then said “I am guessing that just happened? Well, you know what you need to do”. I got with my service advisor and let her know what I did. She gave the customer another car to drive so that we could fix his wheel. Thankfully the customer was pretty cool about it. I don’t think he was thrilled, but he understood.

Why did I just tell you all this story? I told you this for a few reasons.

  • We ALL make mistakes
    It does not matter if you are the best or the worst at your job. Everyone makes mistakes, messes up, and does things wrong. You are not perfect, none of us are. The best of the best have off games.
  • Accountability mean everything
    I could have easily sent that car out the door with the rim scratched. Maybe the customer would have never seen it. But think of how mad he would be when he noticed it. It’s like when you were a kid. Your parents asked you a question that they knew the answer to, and you lied to them. Then they ask you if you are SURE, that was the truth. I would rather just admit to the mistake. It may hurt, but at least that customer know I would not lie to them.
  • I want that to be normal
    I want there to be no question on what is right. I am not a hero or anything because I fessed up to a mistake. That is just the right thing to do. I want the guys that I work with to have the same attitude. Mechanics(and everyone else) need to take accountability for themselves, and the work they do. If we all did that, there would be much less negative stereotyping in every industry

I hope that we can all learn something from this. I learned that I need to pull my head out of my butt and pay closer attention to things. Luckily that is easy to do. I hope that you all take to heart what I have said today. Don’t make excuses about why a mistake is not your fault. Own it, then do what you need to do, and make it right!

One last thing. There will be a special volume of Shop Shots tomorrow. It will be volume 40. For that I will be doing some fun stuff. Be sure to stay tuned. The best way to do that is to subscribe for email updates. It is the best way to be sure you never miss out on what is going on here!