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.

22 replies
  1. Uwe
    Uwe says:

    No matter how much fun something might have been when you started doing it, if you do it for a living long enough, sooner or later it begins to feel like work.

    Reply
    • Mario Ruta
      Mario Ruta says:

      Sounds Like these mechanics are wimps, First of all in order to be a good mechanic you have to be big and strong if you are neither then you are screwed, I am 6’2″ and weigh 320 lbs. I can take a beating, Ive suffered some of the worst mechanics jobs in the world. You ever take a front of a car off from the 80’s that sat in a junkyard for 20 years where the bolts are all weathered on. Oh ya I forgot its snowing and its 20 degrees out and ur lying on a rug and a tarp underneath a car turning bolts and nuts that have been weathered on for 20 years, So after you take the front clip off its time to take the engine apart in 20 degree weather, theres snot running down your nose and your feet are frozen and your hands are tight. After removing the bumper and fenders its time to take all the brackets off of the engine, Oh ya bring a pulley puller because you might have to finese some pulleys off. After you have been out in the yard for six hours you are covered in mud and grease and your ducky boots are ankle high in wet mud and your are sinking everywhere you step, after you get all the parts off its time to cart them with your tools to the cashier booth which is a 1/4 mile away. hauling 200 lbs of parts and tools in a cart that practically has no wheels, then the junkyard flu sets in and your immune system starts to drop. thats what real mechanics do. I couldnt imagine doing any of this work if i was 5foot5 and 150 lbs. So be it only the strong survive, Good LUCK, WE ARE ALL COUNTING ON YOU, OH YA I FORGOT YOU EVER LIFT UP A TRANNY IN 99 DEGREE WEATHER THATS FUN TOO.

      MARIO

      Reply
  2. Heather
    Heather says:

    So true…well written. Don’t forget the car that smells like a gigantic cigarette. A smell that is so bad you must wear a respirator when you go on a test drive!

    Reply
    • Charles
      Charles says:

      @Heather,
      Tell me about it. I worked on a GTI Monday. The car had 20k miles on it. In that time, the customer must have smoked a million cigarettes. It was so disgusting.

      Reply
      • Brandon
        Brandon says:

        Thankfully he quit, but my dad used to smoke, and he smoked ALOT. It was so bad in his truck that all leather sufaces (including the seats) had turned a yellowish/brownish color that had to be removed with industrial chemical.

        Reply
        • James
          James says:

          I know I’m late to the party, but NOTHING compares to a minivan we had in the shop recently. The couple who owned it were snowbirds and had the vehicle stored in their garage over the winter. Sometime during that period a raccoon got in the garage and lived the van. More accurately, I think he may have actually used the van as a fancy litter box. It was pretty awful. Their insurance company ended up totaling the vehicle just for the interior damage.

          Reply
  3. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    I will not claim to be a mechanic, but I am poor, so I have to work on my own cars. After doing that a few times, I have a great respect for mechanics and what they do.

    Reply
  4. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    Lets see, pediatric nurse things people don’t think about, how about being sick for the first 15 months while your body gets used to the new germs and still having to go to work and try to make other people feel better, that was super fun!!! Getting coughed on and other gross things we don’t want to talk about. But mostly it is good, getting to hear the cool and funny things kids say, helping people feel better, and getting to watch a little person grow up while not having to raise them.

    Reply
  5. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    Also cool post, yes I have a lot of respect for what you do, because just after changing my headlights in my car I want to just give it all up, glad you have the knowledge to fix the things I don’t know how to.

    Reply
  6. Pat ~ The Muscle Car Guy
    Pat ~ The Muscle Car Guy says:

    My dad was a mechanic, until he hurt his back. With all the scrapes, and bashed knuckles, it made me decide to go into a different line of work.

    But I can see the appeal of it. Being able to help someone, and seeing something working when you are done are good things.

    Reply
  7. Jeremy (in pgh)
    Jeremy (in pgh) says:

    I too have a healthy respect for the toll on the body… I know with just a weekend of something light, or even that hour changing break pads usually ends up with some nasty scrapes or the obligatory “busted knuckle” that validates so many weekender garage names… but I also see the great vision in the japanese construction workers that begin their days with group (as in, entire shift-workers) yoga, stretching, other calisthenics or cardio. it totally makes sense. good blood flow, limber libs and back, etc, can start you off right from the very beginning of the day. it even makes your brain work better. I don’t often practice what I preach, mostly because I forgot to considering how seldom I take on those tasks. I will say this…

    I’m now a 35+ man back playing dekhockey goalie after a 17 year absence. numerous ankle, knee, neck, and back injuries and tweaks over the years wore me down every night I played when I started back up 8 months ago. I’m now wearing big-ass volleyball kneepads under my goalie pads, ankle braces, and a very heavy-duty back brace that allows me to be mostly bent over in a crouch for an hour at a time. if I forget it, I have trouble sleeping that night. if I do wear it, no problems at all. carpet installers and floor-layers often wear those big-ass knee pads too. perhaps it’s time for everyone to be reminded to give a thought or two to what braces and supportive equipment might make next year, or five years from now, or 25 years from now… tolerable. my back brace is worn when I work on my car too. it really helps when I lean over for a while, especially since I’m not used to having to do it often. it might get in the way some the first few days you wear it under your coveralls or shirt, but you’ll soon forget you’re even wearing it, and really appreciate it years later…

    Reply
  8. Casey
    Casey says:

    We had a car come in the shop the day after New Year’s.

    The customer lost his keys, so we had to cut and program new ones.

    No big deal, until you get in the car and see the puke all over the dash and seats.

    GROSS AND DISGUSTING

    Reply
  9. Milton Keynes MOT
    Milton Keynes MOT says:

    Its the cold mornings and cracking your knuckles that is always painful.

    Its a lot easier now being a mechanic than in the old days before hydraulic ramps etc… I use to hate rolling around on the floor 🙂

    Reply
  10. Juan F. Mata
    Juan F. Mata says:

    I always wanted to be a auto mechanic,so went to a trade school and graduated.I loved it working on cars so I became a back yard mechanic.But now im already tired of working on cars due to the injuries and the stingy clients not all clients are like that,but most are.Some clients come to be to get they’re car fixed and when it’s done they tell they only have half of the money cause the had to pay they’re rent.And also the low baller’s always trying to screw you by saying that another mechanic charges cheaper,I don’t understand that part,Why do the keep coming back if someone else charges cheaper.Oh and don’t mention the friends that just because they’re friend they expect a huge discount.Take my advice,If you want to be a mechanic,Do it to fix your own cars.Dont doit to make a career out of it cause you’ll have alot of stress.

    Reply
  11. Wayne
    Wayne says:

    Im a hgv mechanic and mainly work on bin lorries..i can deal with cigarette smoke and puke but try having bin juice and maggots dripping on your head daily..with regards to the injuries we mechanics get daily my knees feel like they are about to explode after 10hrs on my feet..as mentioned before its a hard job but can be rewarding it can also be a thankless job to..

    Reply
  12. Mike
    Mike says:

    The problem with this trade is anyone can claim to be a mechanic. The market is so saturated with bad techs that you have to work around and fix all of their mistakes. The other problem is pay. There is no other skilled trade that pays so little and expects so much. I have been the go to guy at multiple shops and the pay still isn’t there. It kills me every time an electrician or plumber buddy of mine gets upset that they are only making 35 dollars an hour…. I wish I could make that. The only real way to make money in this trade is to work for yourself. Hope you have good credit… Just get out while you can.

    Reply

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