Thursday, September 3, 2015

Behind the Wrench.

“I may be a mechanic, but I can’t fix stupid.”

‘67 Corvette Stingray

Today, we’re talking with SS about what it takes to be an Auto Mechanic, and the ups and downs of dealing with machines. And the people that drive them.

Me: How did you decide to become an Automotive Mechanic?
SS: “Growing up, I always helped my dad work on his cars, and I was good at it. When I started at the local community college after high school, I took several different types of courses (accident investigation, EMT, along with general courses), hoping to find something that interested me enough to make it a career. Nothing did. That’s when I decided that since I was so good at working on cars, and I actually enjoyed it, I’d make THAT my career. And off to Phoenix, AZ I went.”

Me: What type of education do you have?
SS: “I have a high school diploma, a few general education courses from the local community college, and an 18-month Auto/Diesel program from Universal Technical Institute.”

Me: Do you feel the education you received prepared you enough for real job prospects?
SS: “No. I think the work experience has been the best teacher for me.”

Me: What certifications do you have?
SS: “No certificates. I’ve found that most employers would rather see your actual work skills, than trust the results of a paper test that anyone can pass.”

Me: What’s your favorite thing about your job?
SS: “The accomplishment of knowing I was able to fix something that was wrong/broken. Knowing I could fix something someone else couldn't.”

Me: What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever worked on?
SS: “There have been so many, but I suppose I’d say a ‘68 Roadrunner and a ‘69 Dart. They were 9-second race cars. Definitely not street legal. That was fun.”

Me: What are some of the duties you do every day as a mechanic?
SS: “Inspect (and repair) vehicles for regular maintenance including belts, hoses, leaks, or any generically worn out parts, to ensure the safety of the customer.”

Me: What is the hardest part about your job?
SS: “The big jobs. The rebuilding of engines that takes days, instead of hours. Making sure you keep track of so many different little parts, and making sure every single one of them goes back. Those can be tough sometimes.”

Me: What are some specific characteristics that make a good mechanic? SS: “Right off the bat, I can say problem solving and creativity. You need to be able to look at a situation, and visualize how to fix it. At times, when you’re supposed to do something a certain way, your creativity and rationalization can come into play, allowing you to do it a little more efficiently. You need to be fast and efficient, not careless.”

Me: How has the Internet affected automotive service? For example, are there more customers trying to self-diagnose their car problems based on something they read online?
Let me interrupt this interview by saying that the amount of eye roll and irritation SS showed while answering this question, proved to me just how difficult this job can be.
SS: “I see it all the time. A person has their car towed to us, in pieces, because they couldn’t get done exactly what the YouTube video was trying to teach them. Either they didn’t have the right tool, or they weren’t strong enough, etc. The worst part about it, is you have to hope they brought you all the parts to put back. YouTube, sometimes isn’t the answer.”

Me: You work for a small, independent auto shop. How does that differ from working for a major automotive manufacturer, like Ford or Chevy?
SS: “Working at an independent shop, means you have to have more general automotive knowledge. If you work for a specific manufacturer, you typically know about that one, not any others. At an independent shop, you work on a variety from German to American to Japanese. And is generally a little more relaxed. Less bureaucracy, and not as many hoops to jump through to get something done.”

Me: Is there something in the Automotive business you would like to do in the future?
SS: “I know there will come a time when I won’t want to wrench anymore, so I just figured I’d move into the management portion of it. Maybe at my own shop. Maybe not.”

Me: If you hadn’t become an Auto Mechanic, what would you have done?
“Ha. I had such a hard time decided what to do, I can’t imagine doing anything else. However, now that marijuana is making it’s legal way into our lives, perhaps maybe I would grow that. I’ve always enjoyed that as a hobby.”

Well, that’s a little look into the Auto Mechanic career. Do you think it’s something YOU could do?


  1. I like working on cars but I love working on many different things. Fixing things give you such a feeling of accomplishment.

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