What To Expect When You’re Expecting~To Be An Auto Mechanic

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Back when I was in automotive tech school, I had a vision of what being an auto mechanic would be. When I got into the “real world” of being a mechanic, I found things to be very different. Not in a bad way, but different.

I can remember thinking this job would be all fun and working on awesome cars. Fixing cars like clockwork, and never wondering if the repair would be right. I never even thought that a car would come back not fixed properly, or that I would accidentally break something on a customers car.

Here are some of the things I never expected to be, as an auto mechanic.

Life Counselor

I was talking with my boss the other day. He really put the life counselor part of the job into prospective. We are working with the second most expensive thing that most people will ever buy. It is not uncommon to see repair bills over $1000. If you are not rich, or crazy spending that type of money is not a light choice to make.

Now consider there are times when a car is not worth fixing. I have had to help several folks make the tough choice to sell or trade their car and buy a new one. That is not something anyone should take lightly. Like I said, it’s the second biggest purchase most folks will ever make.

Then there are the times where a mechanic has be give the confidence back to the customer. If you have ever been stranded because of a car breaking down, you know what I mean. You loose confidence in your car. You think that piece of junk is just a piece of junk. Even if it is a small repair, it can happen. Part of my job is to help customer through that and love their car again!


This came as less of a surprise, but I didn’t expect it to be all the time. I have talked about how I training newer techs before. What I mean here is teaching other people how are not techs, about cars. I get to teach customers about their cars. I get to teach the service advisors about very technical things, even if they are not technical. They are usually the ones that have to explain issues and repairs to customers. So if the advisor doesn’t understand, how could a customer? Then there are sales people. Ugh, I will leave that out. Actually, I am just messing with them. I enjoy most of the sales folks we have. Plus, I sold cars before so I understand them better than most. I just enjoy giving them a hard time. 😉

A Master Guesser

In training, be it tech school or continued, a tech tought to fix cars. They tell you that you will always be able to identify problems, and find the solutions. You are lead to believe that you will always have a “smoking gun”.

I can tell you this is not the case. Yes many times you find a problem and can be 100% sure that it is the right repair. There are many more times where you have to rely on what you have seen in the past. Then there are times when you have no other choice, than to roll the dice.

I never expected that. I thought mechanics always knew exactly what the problem was. It is kinda like a doctor practicing medicine.

I would say that those are the big three on my mind right now. There are some little things that I can think of that were very different.

  • I never expected my pay to be so controlled by someone else, that is not the customer. All the hours funnel through the service advisor.
  • I never expected that tools were so expensive. I use to think that Craftsman was outrageously priced. HA, I love buying Craftsman now.
  • I never expected to have so much customer interaction. It is definitely a fun part of my job.
  • I never expected the ups and downs with work. I thought is would be a steady stream of cars. Truth is, sometimes your are slam busy, and sometimes you are just hanging out.
  • I never expected the amount of continued training. I am not sure why, I should have seen that one coming. It is much more than a couple of classes every year.
  • I never expected the amount of information car companies send out. It feels like there is a new TSB, or tech tip, or recall every day. It is the thing I struggle with the most in my job.
  • I never expected to need a 2nd elbow. There are some of these dang bolts that are really hard to get to and a second elbow would really help. That and magnetic finger tips that I would control the magnets with my mind. That would be cool!

Well, I hope you all enjoyed the post today. I have enjoyed looking back over the years of working on cars. Seeing the way the industry works vs the way I thought it would work. I hope that I didn’t scare you guys that are in tech school right now 😉 This industry can be awesome, once you learn it!

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3 replies
  1. Jeremy
    Jeremy says:

    I hear you on the breaking somethings on a customers car. Yesterday a customer brought in a ’99 Cabrio and his complaint was the passenger window didn’t work. After printing out all of the wiring diagrams and locating all of the modules and grounds I decide to try both window switches (driver and passenger). I could hear it moving. Right there I knew that it wasn’t electrical. Turns out a wire on the window regulator was snapped.
    Anywho, taking apart the door panel is easy on my car because if I break something I will just go get a new one of what ever it is. Not the same with the customer. My friend and I broke every clip and the door handle clips. My teacher said it is all part of the trade. I’m okay with door handles but who knows what else could have broken

      • Charles
        Charles says:

        The VW clips can be a nightmare. They usually give just before the point that they would break. It can be scarey. Then there are some one time use stuff. I just replace them if I need to take them off.


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