Posts

Hey folks!

Its Shop Shots time! I did a post yesterday about the new mechanic logo, if you didn’t see it, check it out. She posts on Instagram as Hammerhand. Since I can’t figure out how to link to that, just search for her. She posts all kinds of really awesome artwork and tattoos that she does. Oh, and her name “HammerHand”, yeah it’s how she tattoos. Trust me! 😉

This is a picture of a 2007 New Beetle Convertible. I had to take the front end off to replace the oil filter housing. It looks like it would be a worse job that it is. The front ends of VWs actually come off pretty easy. There are a lot of repairs that require removing the front end. VW calls it service position. I like how it looks like there is a funny mustache made into the core support. HA

I know this isn’t technically a shot in the shop, but I wanted to post it anyway. It seems that my iphone doesn’t take the best night pics, but someone asked me what my H.I.D.s looked like. I installed this kit on my 2005 VW Passat. The headlights are a 5,000k color. That is as close to white light as you can get. The fog lights are 3000k. That is a very yellow color. It actually cuts fog pretty well. I love the light output of HIDs. At some point, I will get a kit for my wife’s truck. When that happens, I will do an install video for you guys.

Ok, Ok, this is not in the shop either, but I think I want to sneak a beer pic into Shop Shots. First, notice the car is in park. We were tailgating before a Carolina Hurricanes game. Bell’s HopSlam is one of the most sought after beers in the area. When it comes out, people FREAK OUT about it. The other one is a pretty good milk stout. My wife was drinking that one. HA, I guess I just wanted to post pictures of my car this week. 😉

This is a video I shot the other day at work. If you look at the right wiper, you can see if flopping around. The other wiper was split too. Folks, replacing wiperblades is something EVERYONE can do. If you don’t want to mess with it, buy them at the dealer, and ask them to install them for you. We install them for free. I want everyone to go out and check your wipers today. I am not kidding. DO IT! 🙂

Remember, come by the Automotive Forum. It is not just for mechanics. I added a section for customers do complain about their mechanics. So you can come by and complain about me. I have to approve you(to keep the spam out). If you don’t get an email in about a day, just let me know and I can approve you. I get tons of spam and I want to keep that crap out!

After a conversation on twitter, I wanted to talk a little about safety. Let’s face it, the environment mechanics work in, is not the safest place in the world. In fact we have to attend an annual safety meeting to be sure that we know NOT to put gasoline in a Gatorade bottle, because you will forget, and then drink it. 😉

There are very standard hazards like, slipping and falling, getting cut, and dropping things. A lot of times these hazards can be avoided, or the effects mitigated by wearing proper attire, and not being stupid! We had a guy at the shop stab a wire tool through his hand. He was holding the connector in the palm of his hand, and slipped or something, the result was him being out for several months. It is just like cutting something INTO your hand, instead of away from it. ~DON’T TO THAT~

We also deal in some pretty gross chemicals. Gas, coolant, brake cleaner, brake fluid (and more) can be bad news. Most are under pressure while in a car. Hot coolant will melt skin on contact. Most of the chemicals in a car are are very toxic. I use gloves almost all the time to try and keep my hands from getting jacked up. Well, that and I don’t really like getting dirty.(is that weird?) Safety when it comes to chemicals is so important. I can’t even begin to tell you what an eye full of gasoline feels like.

One of my lease favorite things about this job is dealing with cars that have water damage. Going beyond the smell, and dealing with interiors that are wet, they can have mold build up. I have worked on so many cars with water damage it is not even funny. I remember one Passat that I worked on, you could see the line on the door panel where the water had been. At one time there must have been 10 inches of water standing in the car. Turns out it was from New Orleans and was flooded by hurricane Katrina.

Inhaling badness is also something we deal with. The conversation on twitter was about a how one of the techs in the shop was being dumb and not paying attention to what he was doing. He had a car running while filling it with coolant. The coolant spilled over and hit the cars exhaust. That caused the coolant to become steam and “smoke” up the shop. The smell of burning coolant smells like burning syrup, and not in a good way. I also remember one time where an oil seal went bad on a turbo. This pumped about 2qts of oil into the exhaust. After replacing the turbo, I had to burn all the oil out. It looked the the shop was on fire. Let me tell you how breathing that stuff is awful, and then you stink like burning oil the rest of the day.

Working in a shop is not the most dangerous job in the world, but its does have some concerns. Most of the hazards can be avoided by not being stupid, and using proper equipment. Working smart and clean will help to mitigate lots of injuries! Cuts, scrapes, bruises, and sore backs are not avoidable, but safety needs to be taken seriously!

One more thing, don’t forget to check out the Automotive Forum. It is not just for mechanics. I actually have a section just for customers to post questions, comments and brag about their mechanics! Just remember, I am trying to keep all the spam out. You will need to be approved, and that might take a few hours. If you sign up and don’t get an approval, just contact me with your email and let me know. I get about 50 spams a day on the forum.

Humble Mechanic Tool Box

Hey guys!

I know that this post is coming in a little late and for that I am sorry. My work changed the customers WIFI to block all social media and email sites. STUPID! I could not access my Humble Mechanic Flickr account. I am home enjoying a tasty craft beer and watching my Carolina Hurricanes~ life is GOOD!

Ok, so I wanted to talk to you guys about mechanics tools! Not mechanics that ARE tools, I mean the tools we use to fix cars. Any mechanic will tell you that tools are the life blood of our jobs. We invest thousands and thousands and THOUSANDS of dollars in tools. Anything from a basic screw driver to a special tool to remove wires from connectors. I have been in the field for a while, and I still average about $1000 every year in tools.

There are several brands of tools that I use. I think that Snap-On tools are my favorite brand. I buy most of my stuff from my Snap-On rep. Part of that is because he is the most reliable of all our reps. Here is a little about some of the different brands of tools

Craftsman
Sold by Sears, they are really good hand tools. They offer a life time warranty on almost all of their stuff. I buy Craftsman when I know that I might lose it, when I need to modify a tool, or when there is no difference in quality. I also tend to buy Craftsman for at home tools. The only issue I really have is their power tools SUCK! I will never own a battery operated drill for Craftsman again!

Snap-On
Overall my favorite brand. I love their hand tools. They are built to much tighter tolerances than any other brand I have used. The fit and finish is great. The selection is unbelievable, and my rep is great. The only down side is you pay top dollar for everything. I feel like the quality is worth it on most stuff. Remember, every dollar I make come by way of these tools, cheaping out is not an option. I have not really bought any of their power tools. I do not think they are worth it for the price. I own 1 Snap-On air tool(1/4in air ratchet), it works great.

Matco, Mac, Cornwell
I grouped these together because I fell pretty much the same about all of them. They are good tools, well made and reliable. I don’t own many of these, but what I have is ok. I just think that Snap-On is a better product.

Stanley, Kobalt, Husky
Great tools for the house. I think they also have a life time warranty. I also will buy this brand if I need to modify tools, like bending a wrench or trimming down a socket.

Dewalt, Makita
I buy ALL my power tools from theses two brands. The tool I use the most is a Makita impact driver. I love this thing so much, I got a second one, and took the old one home. If you are buying a power tool for work or for the house, you can’t go wrong with Dewalt or Makita. PLUS, my wife likes the color of Makita.

Here are some pictures of my tool box, and some of the tools I have. This is my 3rd tool box, the first one was a Craftsman, the I upgraded to a Mac, now I have a really nice Snap-on box. It will be the last one I ever buy.

[slickr-flickr tag=”tools” items=”30″]

So what really makes an honest mechanic? Being honest of course. 🙂 I just want to tell you how this subject came about. I will tie it together, just hang with me, it will all make sense.~Promise~

When I first started this blog, I started listening to a really great business podcast called “Five Minutes with Jack”. He gives great motivation to keep blogging and building an awesome brand. Jack is one of the main reasons that you guys get a post every day. 😉 On top of using social media like, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and G+ to my blog out there, the show talks about using SEO(search engine optimization) to get your brand out there. One of the main things is finding a few keywords you want associated with your brand.

That got me thinking, what do I want my brand to be known as. Of course if someone searches for the term “Humble Mechanic” odds are they are not looking for me. So the word that kept coming up is HONEST. Maybe I should have called the site Honest Mechanic. Well, all that talk about honest got me thinking, what really makes and honest mechanic..

Communication
It all starts here. Communication is a skill that is so important, and very underrated. The ability to talk to customers in a way that helps them understand is where a lot of guys fall short. I have talked about mechanics not wanting to talk to customers before, and I firmly believe they are wrong. Talking to customers is one of my favorite parts of my job. I love teaching people about there car. I don’t care if it’s as simple as programming presets on their radio, or talking about advanced computer diagnostics. I do my best to explain things in a way that anyone can understand, even if they know nothing about cars. If your mechanic will not take the time to explain what they are doing, then I would question how honest they really are.

Integrity
I guess it goes with out saying that you can’t be an honest mechanic if you have no integrity. This one might be a little tricky to find out right away. I can tell you that there are countless ways for a mechanic to “cheat”. Charging customers to replace parts then not replace them, selling services that are not really needed, charging too much in labor hours for a job are all things that I have seen happen. So how do you know if your mechanic has points in the integrity department? I find that asking is a great technique.

  • Do I REALLY need this?
  • Do I need to do this repair today?
  • What will happen if I don’t repair it now
  • Can you show me what you are talking about?

These are some questions that I would ask every time, unless you are talking about an oil change or something really simple like that.

Skill
Good communication and a high level of integrity do not mean a whole lot if a mechanic has no skill. You are bringing your car to get serviced, they better know how to do the work. From all of my years working on cars, I have found that the mechanics with the least amount of skill tend to not be so honest. Earning money as a mechanic is not easy, even if you are good, it’s a tough job. Now take a mechanic that is not very good, they almost have to lie cheat and steal to make money.

Be sure to swing by the forum. Remember, if you do not get approved right away contact me and let me know. I try to keep it free of spam, and I don’t want to miss anyone.

Also, swing by Jack’s site, and post a comment to let him know I sent ya 😉 I really do owe a lot to him, and it would be a great way to say thanks.

NAME:

Joel C Armstrong

How long have you been in the Industry?

Since 2005

What is your current job title?

Currently Unemployed

What were you doing for your first automotive job?

I worked at Manhattan Motorcars Inc. In New York City. It’s a luxury/high end dealership that specializes in Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley, Rolls Royce, and Lotus sales and service. I was a Porsche and Lamborghini Technician. We have a certified Pre-Owned/ used car department that sell other high end brands such as Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz/ Maybach etc.

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

No, after Manhattan Motorcars I went to work at Mercedes-Benz. I honestly prefer to work at a dealership because of certain benefits but you have more of a family oriented feeling at an aftermarket shop because it’s smaller. There’s less politics to deal with.

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

Everyday i get up at about 5:59 (because 6:00 is just clichéd), I take my mom to work, come home and take care of what I’m doing for school because I plan on going back to Law School.

What kind of car do you drive?

2004 Ford Expedition. I also have a 2006 Yamaha R6 Anniversary Edition.

What was your first car?

1990 Ford Taurus. It was a free gift from one of my teachers when I went to school.

What made you want to work on cars?

I always loved cars. I had several subscriptions to automotive magazines like Road & Track, Car and Driver, Motor Trend, Automobile, and Euro Tuner. Naturally, I was attracted to the higher end performance vehicles and wanted to work closely to them. I wanted to see what it felt like to be able to do 150+MPH, just because the car has the ability to do so. The mechanics and engineering that was put into creating such cars captivated my interest while reading about them in said magazine subscriptions.

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

I was once removing a headliner on a Cayenne Turbo and while doing the R&R on the driver side visor, a bunch of Polaroids fell in my lap. Upon further investigation, they happened to be naked pictures of the customer’s girlfriend(s) lol they were at least 3 different girls. Weird.

Do you have much customer interaction?

Yes, for the most part I do. well, when I did work on their vehicles.

What is your favorite part of your job?

The Road test. Definitely.

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

It’s sad to say but I would never trust people so easily. You’re of the mind that everyone is on the same team, but I realized it’s never like that.

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

Depending on the situation, I would try to find out what the problem was and then explain to them what we would’ve done or what we usually do in our situation/shop. Most of the time a lot of women think they’re being given the “Shaft” because they’re usually ignorant of most automotive problems, but I explain to them how things work as far as let’s say: why your car takes so long to get an oil change. or why does it cost so much to change a tire or repair a transmission. etc I let them know about labor times, over head, flat rate, parts, tax, test and asses and making sure your problem is fixed when you walk out our door. Things like that take time. So i explain that to them.

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

I would have to say get regular oil/filter services. That goes a long way. Trust me, I’ve seen what NOT changing your oil EVER would do to an engine. This one customer hadn’t changed her oil in her Boxster since she had gotten the car. She came in complaining about her engine pinging. We first off opened the drain plug and what looked like black jelly dropped out in globs. The whole engine was filled with the stuff.

How important is reading your vehicles owners manual?

It’s really important because it answers mostly all the questions you may have, from what kind of gas your car needs, tire pressure numbers, how often you should change fluids in your car etc.

Have you read the owners manual to your car?

Yes. I’m proud to say that i have!

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

It’s either a toss up between my Makita Drill (set) and my Snap On 3/8″ flex head ratchet with the soft grip and smooth ratcheting action.

Is there a brand of tool that you prefer?

Snap-On. Not trying to sound like an advertisement, but it really does make a difference!

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

A light for dark places, my drill with bits/ sockets and flat head screwdriver for prying. I think those are the most universal tools of all. The bottom of the drill would also act like a hammer indifferent applications and the screw driver for leverage.

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

A HUGE pair of hands to toss these Sunday drivers/ NYC yellow cabs out of the way when I’m going somewhere and running a little late. lol

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

Maybe a Toyota Camry or a Honda Accord. Those are good reliable cars and pretty OK on gas.

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

It’s actually EASIER to get a job there than you may think. Go in and apply, but be prepared to work, though. Any sign of slacking and you’re outta there faster than you can read this sentence!

 

GREAT interview Joel! I am totally cracking up about the pics of the customers girl friends!!! I am also pretty sure that if I was a Lamborghini tech, test drives would be my favorite part if the job! If you guys have any other questions for Joel, post them up in the comments.If we can get him to post in the comments, I would like to ask him how hard working on such high line cars~ How cool!

 

I am really excited to get some aftermarket point of view. The great thing about the performance market, is that it’s more fun for most car people! Thomas has some pretty awesome stuff! If you have a VW, Audi, or Porsche, check out APTuning.

NAME:

Thomas Dickinson

How long have you been in the Industry?

Professionally – approx 11yrs   Enthusiast – approx 15yrs

What is your current job title?

Wholesale Sales and Marketing Manager

What were you doing for your first automotive job?

Car stereo/electronics installation

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

Aftermarket, never worked at a dealer

Walk us through what you do on a daily basis.

I do not work on cars much nowadays so my typical events include email, website, and online orders. Website and internet marketing and advertising. Managing our subdealers for companies such as APR and United Motorsport.

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

work on other cars lol, work on my motorcyle, relax with family

What kind of car do you drive?

B5 Audi currently for a daily

What was your first car?

Honda CRX

What made you want to work on cars?

As any true enthusiast would tell you, I do not think there is a answer for that, it’s just in our blood

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

No Comment HA

Do you have much customer interaction?

Yes quite a bit

What is your favorite part of your job?

Used to be completely some crazy or custom such as a big turbo build. However since I have pretty much migrated to the digital world of the business, once of my favorite things now is finishing video like a dyno runs and such but in a new, cooler looking way

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

Not really sure

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 don’t think it has a bad wrap as a whole, consumers usually think used car dealers seem to be that way, but as we are in the aftermarket its not so bad other then trying to compete with online only venders with little overhead

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

maintain proper oil change intervals

How important is reading your vehicles owners manual?

It is definitely helpful to making sure to know and get the most out of your vehicle

Have you read the owners manual to your car?

Yep

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

hard to say

Is there a brand of tool that you prefer?

MAC

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

Adjustable, pliers, and phillips screwdriver. Not that its easy but theoretically almost any job can be accomplished with them

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

Turbos 🙂

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

A pre-MK4 Vw. Its easy and cheap to maintain yet still looks cool to the right person

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

It can be a very stressful and complicated job, its not just turning wrenches nowdays.

 

Thanks Thomas for letting us in on yet another side of the auto industry. If you guys want some performance stuff for your VW or Audi, check out APTuning!

If you would like to be featured on “Behind The Wrench”, just contact me