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Posted: 5/3/2003 9:31:33 PM EDT
I've been making a living as a mechanic for a few decades now. I consider myself pretty good,
competent, and above all  - honest. I've worked at service stations ( back when that meant something ), independent shops, and dealerships. But the dealership I'm at now has me concerned. Our service manager seems less concerned with having high quality techs than unknowledgeable part replacers who have virtually no clue how things work or how to make a proper diagnosis. I hesitate to call them mechanics, much less technicians. Good mechanics are getting harder and harder to find. There have been countless articles in the trade magazines about this. In large part due to the fact that many school systems have cut budgets, and one of the first things to go are the various shop classes. When I first started in dealerships apprenticeship programs were common. Now they are non-existent. Too many of the guys I work with are more concerned with doing “gravy work” than customer service and diagnosing and fixing a car right the first time. Same with our service advisors. It has me so disgusted I am giving serious thought to getting out of the business.

Not all mechanics, dealership or independent are bad. I’ve worked with some really top notch ones over the years, and there is one I work with now. Working on cars these days is not as easy as some would like to think it is. One needs to be a combination blacksmith / computer technician if you want to be really good. You need to know how things work, mechanically and electrically if you are going to diagnose and fix them. Not just throw parts at them. You need to be able to look at how the car is put together and in your mind be able to discern the easiest, quickest way to take it apart and put back together. Something a lot of people take for granted.

So, I would like to know. If you are trying to find a good auto shop, or mechanic, what do you look for? How do you find it / him / her? (Yes, there are some very good female mechanics out there) How do you know you’re getting a fair deal? Do you shop around? Word of mouth? Do you let them know when you’re not happy with your experience?

Post your good stories, and bad ones. Which will probably piss me off but I won’t take it personally.
Link Posted: 5/3/2003 9:39:00 PM EDT
Every think about starting your own shop?

I know someone who is great with the business side of things...

Link Posted: 5/3/2003 10:04:10 PM EDT
Face it, your getting old. Thes new kids seem young and green to you because you have the miles on you to know your job completely. They will learn or move on to something else. The mechanic of old is on his way out anyway. With warranties running to 100,000 miles and cars getting so complicated you might as well throw the sumbitch away when it dies. I have worked on my own vehicles all my life untill I bought this last one. I look under the hood and see some things that I recognize but I know I could never do much to it other than change out parts. I'll trade it in before the warranty runs out to keep from having to put a wrench on it.

Keep up you excellent work ethic! You are what people look for and are willing to pay for.
Link Posted: 5/3/2003 10:12:23 PM EDT
Face it, your getting old. Thes new kids seem young and green to you because you have the miles on you to know your job completely. They will learn or move on to something else.... I'll trade it in before the warranty runs out to keep from having to put a wrench on it.

Keep up you excellent work ethic! You are what people look for and are willing to pay for.
View Quote

I wasn't talking about new kids. I was referring to guys who have been doing this for years but are borderline incompetant IMO.

And while YOU might not put a wrench to it, cars do break under warranty and someone has to fix them. And for those who don't know, the manufacturers allow about 50% of the time the aftermarket flat rate books allow. Think about [b]THAT[/b] the next time you are quoted a price for repairs. Hmmm.
Link Posted: 5/3/2003 10:16:33 PM EDT
Dealerships jack you every which way.  They try to jack you when you by the car, they try to sell you a pos overpriced warrenty, and then they jack you hard when you bring your your shitbox in for service.

I knew a guy who sold cars at a Ford dealership.  The owner of the dealership was quoted as saying "I wish I could just have a Ford service department without a sales department"

That goes to show how much money is made in service.
Link Posted: 5/3/2003 10:17:21 PM EDT
I just work on my own car.  Saves me money.  Granted it's a little different than say a Pratt and Whitney 4000, but a wrench is a wrench, and good t/s skills are good t/s skills
Link Posted: 5/3/2003 10:18:19 PM EDT
Luckily in my one gas/service station town, that service station has great mechanics that have always done a great job on my Cherokee at a very reasonable price.

Start your own shop.  If you provide good service at a reasonable price people will come back and refer others.  Good luck either way. [:)]
Link Posted: 5/3/2003 10:27:36 PM EDT
Sorry to hear about your distress.

As a consumer I know what you mean.

Personally I've never really had a satisfactory experience(well maybe a couple of warranty covered items)with the "service advisors",you know the guys that are trying to sell you all kinds of work,but don't seem to know jackshit about actually working on cars?

I more often than not find these people to be sorta rude,unknowledgable and unwilling to give more information than memorized "talking points"that really don't tell you much of anything at all.Again I believe this is because most of them couldnt' successfully work on a vehicle if their life depended in it.

If anything its obvious that there last priority is to get you back on the road with the cheapest,easiest fix possible.

I wish they would eliminate these guys alltogether (since it seems there only reason for existence is sales)and allow customers to interact with the actual mechanic working on their car.

I can only dream.[:)]

Anyhow,the only way I know of to find a good mechanic is word of mouth,then you go in and hit or miss tell you find one.

I did have an excellent Honda mechanic(it was a private outfit that was owned and manned by ex Honda guys and gals with lots of experience)that only did the work required and would actually fix small problems by fabricating a decent fix or do small extra things for no charge sometimes, just because they wanted your business and they actually cared about your vehicle.

Unfortunatly I no longer own a Honda.

Funny thing is that (as you and your fellow mechanics apparently know)a good,fare priced mechanic is worth his weight in gold and I'm sure all those types get more business than they can handle.

So it puzzles me why there aren't more good upstanding shops around?

Seems like you would make a fortune?
Link Posted: 5/3/2003 10:28:03 PM EDT
This just happened to me. Minor, just got under my skin.

Link Posted: 5/4/2003 10:28:05 AM EDT
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 10:40:21 AM EDT
thats what i like about the chevrolet v8 gasoline trucks, some things on my '01 actually got easier to work on than my '98

you can still see the whole motor without yanking it out!!!
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 10:46:12 AM EDT

I worked my way up from flat-rate mechanic to service manager, and from service manager to store manager at a large automotive service center. I have seen a lot of changes over the years.

In a nutshell, mechanics (any mechanics, be they good or bad) are difficult to find because there are fewer young people seeking it as a career. The intitial investment in tools and training can be intimidating. Most young mechanics give up after the first six months because they can't make enough to support their families.

Regardless of what you think of that POS you may be driving, cars are built better these days. From an industry standpoint, that means there is less money being made on repairs, which means to stay in business we have to concentrate on selling preventive maintenance such as oil changes, fuel injection cleanings, radiator flushes and the like. The average motorist does not maintain their car beyond changing the oil. When their "check engine" light comes on, they just keep on driving because the engine still seems to run fine. They don't understand that the car's computer has flagged a code because a sensor has either failed or has an "out of range" reading which in turn causes the computer to go into "limp" mode. The point is, by the time I see the car it usally entails an expensive repair to correct the problem.

The next time a repair facility recommends that fuel injection cleaning that you "don't need," just remember:
a. fuel injected engines are prone to carbon build up that can be detrimental to gas mileage and the life of your sensors, and
b. repair facilites have to sell preventive maintenance just to stay in business.

If I had to depend on "repairing" cars to make ends meet I wouldn't be in business very long.
Spending the money to "maintain" your car will keep your car running longer, and support the repair industry so that there will be someone around to fix your car when it does break.

Panzer Out

Link Posted: 5/4/2003 11:04:27 AM EDT
I am a ASE certified master, Toyota certified master, and several other just as meaningless titles, technician in the business for nearly twenty years. I have watched it go from a fun job that a smart kid could build into a career and earn a good living at, to a cluster fuck where dealerships get rid of quality techs and hire kids/morons as parts changers in order to save money and fatten their wallets.
I like what I do, but the bullshit has taken a toll on me and I'm just about to find something else. Warranty has killed tech pay and every year techs make less and less and watch kids/morons do all the "gravy" while I do the shit warranty that doesn'yt pay shit.
Toyota dealers, all dealers, are always looking to hire good techs and there aren't any to go around because of the way techs are treated and paid. they have shot themselves in the foot many times and I hope they bleed to death from it.
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 11:24:47 AM EDT
I don't go to the dealer anymore and have a great relationship with a mechanic that I can talk to and doesn't treat me like a number.  My cars are old though, so more problems, but easier to work on.  The small mechanic like this guy has a problem doing everything for modern cars, though, as he can't afford a lot of the diagnostic equipment required for some modern vehicles.  

Even my mechanic has problems finding reliable, well-trained partners to work with him.
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 11:26:43 AM EDT
FWIW, this trend had also been prevalent in the Military.

The Army logistics community, for one, has made a conscious decision to have two complete groups of maintainers: techs and repairers. The techs (warrant officers) are actually expected to know something. The soldiers are really just glorified parts chasers. All of the engineering going into new products also adjusts to this reality. If Joe seems to have a knack for "real" maintenance and wants to stay in and make more money, he can always apply for Warrant Officer school and come back as a tech WITH higher pay. Of course, some with that potential choose to stay in as NCOs - but the choice is theirs to make.

It seems on the civilian side, it is all the same career field. Why use your valuable time and spend two hours turning wrenches and getting to a part when any high school kid can do that part? I mean, is there any clear delineation between ASE, etc. certified techs and wrench turners, or are you all just blurred together? Are the certifications az joke?

How does the certification, promotion system work in your average shop?

I have worked at a car dealer and was so completely unimpressed with some of the mechanics that I doubt I will ever keep a car past the warranty - as long as I can afford not to. This way, hopefully the market pressures will cause the dealerships to come up with some working solution.

Link Posted: 5/4/2003 12:17:13 PM EDT
I do all my own repairs and if I can't figure it out than I find someone that has the answers and then fix it myself!!!
We are breeding self sufficiency out of society
screw em charge as much as you can!!! At some point people will start repairing there own stuff again!!!!
In the mean time IMHO I think you would be an excellent teacher who could give some of todays youth a chance at amounting to something!!!
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 12:57:53 PM EDT
You are right. A true Mechanic is very hard to come by these days.  Part of the problem is you basicly have to be a computer guru these days.  The other problem is people are relying to much on there laptops and not using there head.  

One prime example of this.  About 8 yrs ago my girlfriend and I were driving out in the country and wham bam car dies.  Acctually everything radio and all.  Now my girlfriend (thankfully ex now) wouldn't let me touch it.  So off to the dealer and to everyones amazement gee the ECM said everything was fine.  So dealer gives car back with clean bill of health.  This happend 3 more times till they finally sold the car.  DUH.

Step into the future about 5yrs.  I am now turning a wrench for a living as a School bus mechanic.  We had a bus that would go into limp mode for no apparent reason.  So off to the dealer seeing it was under warrenty still.  They had it for approximatly 6 mounths went through 5 ECM's a high pressure oil pump and many other things.  Finially got it back with a clean bill of health.  It made it one day before it proceeded to go into limp mode again for no aparent reason.  I brought it into the garage and added a ground from the motor to the chassis.  It has been fine for 2yrs now
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 1:23:19 PM EDT
ASE certification....LOL, don't get me started...oh, too late.
ASE's are a complete joke which only serve as a marketing tool for the company and a cash cow for ASE. The tests are VERY basic and they have study (cheat) books available for all of them so even a moron could pass them. They require that you re-certify every 5 years, meaning they have your money for as long as you need their BS tests to rate more pay. The dealers ONLY want techs certified so they can say "we have ASE certified techs" thus lulling the customer into a false sense of security.  We have many kids/morons who have passed some of the tests and a couple who are ASE masters. These people couldn't fix a flat !! The tests don't measure a techs mechanical or mental abilities, just a general base knowledge which doesn't mean they can do a damn thing, except pass a test. A couple of our "masters" are constantly borrowing tools, asking repetitive questions and are kings of the comebacks. They're hacks, but they are just what the dealers want because they will work for A LOT less money.
Can you tell I'm fed up yet...[:D]
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 1:28:48 PM EDT

On Wed two weeks ago, my brother-in-law took his 2000 Sunfire in to the dealer for burning oil and coolant smell. They replaced the rocker cover gasket and said there was nothing wrong with the coolant. On the following Sunday he checked the coolant res. and it was empty. Filled the res. and on Monday on his way t work the car was running warm. When he got out he drove to my house (5 miles) and the car almost overheated. The res were empty again.
Called the dealer. He told him to drive it or tow it in.
The dealer had it three days, Gave him a loner car. When he got the car back there was a $108 bill for towing and the rental car. Fought the bill and won because it was on the first work order.

He was told the problem was a Leaking Pressure Cap.  (I think someone was blowing smoke up his A$$ trying to cover a mistake.)
I don't understand this, as the cap is not on the radiator. It's on a separate tank and the level of the coolant is no were near the level of the cap. There was not coolant around the cap or on the ground and I saw no live steam.

Edit I do my own mechanic work. I have worked in a garage. I am not certified in any thing. Well maybe crazy. I can trouble shoot and can generally fix anything especially if I have a code. I have rebuilt several motors.
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 1:29:32 PM EDT
Thankfully I can do my own mechanic work. Electroincs on the otherhand (TV's, VCR's, DVD Players etc) are beyond me, and I don't trust unknown/unrecommended repair shops. So I guess I know how people feel when they are needing a good mechanic that won't rip them off. Usually find a plumber, painter, etc the same way. WORD OF MOUTH! Reputation/recommendation.
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 2:07:40 PM EDT
ASE certification....LOL, don't get me started...oh, too late.
ASE's are a complete joke which only serve as a marketing tool for the company and a cash cow for ASE......Can you tell I'm fed up yet...[:D]
View Quote

This is the absolute truth. All it means is that someone can read enough to pass a written test. We have one guy at our shop, early 30's, completely ASE certified, AND he has an AA degree in electrical something or other. Yet he has trouble doing the most basic electrical circut tests with a voltmeter.

Another thing that makes it easier for the "morons" as SPECTRE so aptly put it, is the states part in all this. In CA we have the smog tests, as many states do, and you need to pass a test to get your license. The minimum score needed to pass is 65%. The failure rate is approximately 50% according to the state. I do not understand why they keep lowering the limit instead of raising it. They would have many fewer problems with improperly and illegally tested vehicles.
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 2:15:55 PM EDT
Well, after being quoted EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS by the local service station, and SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS by Firestone to replace a $35 heater core, I have been firmly convinced that the only time I should trust a mechanic is when there is NO possible way to fix it myself...

As for your comments about experience and your coworkers, I saw this every day when I was working in computers. Graduates of those '7 Day 'TechSkills'' classes with 'Microsoft Certification' bumbling their way through stuff that any competant computer tech should know...

Mark my words: Certification programs ruin industries, by creating 'Paper Technicians' who passed the certification test, but didn't pass the clue test...
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 2:35:19 PM EDT
Too many of the guys I work with are more concerned with doing “gravy work” than customer service and diagnosing and fixing a car right the first time. Same with our service advisors.
View Quote

I agree 100% I take great pride in my work. I take the time to fix cars right the first time and I like the challenge associated with having to take the time to fix a problem car.
BUT !!!!!
As I'm doing That, the other "techs" are sopping up that gravy and making a shitload of hours while I FIX the cars. I say FIX because doing a 30K svc, brakes or a T-belt is not fixing a car, it's maintenance, And like you said, thats where the money is.
The result is, I get all the problem child cars to fix because I'm one of the few who can do it. Which free's up all the money making stuff for the "I don't know how to do that" crowd. The other part of this is the whole warranty issue. On average, a warranty job pays half or less than a customer pay job and guess who gets the bulk of the warranty.
I'll stop now, my wife is tired of listening to me yell at the computer while I type. [:D]
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 3:02:38 PM EDT
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 4:05:38 PM EDT
I'll tell you this, the one thing that has done more to ruin technicians, customers and businesses is FLAT RATE !!
Flat rate encourages shoddy workmanship, poor diagnosis and pissed customers. Instead of having his mind on fixing your car, the tech is more concerned with what his next job will be and how quickly he can get yours done and gone. If your car is in for warranty, it won't get the same attention that a customer pay job will. Shop owners and dealers LOVE flat rate because they ONLY PAY for the exact amount of "work" done, no pay for downtime or slow techs. Basically, it costs them nothing to hire you and keep you there.
No one wants to pay 4 hours labor for a job I finish in 45 minutes, nor do they want the hustled job that they get from that.
Dealers and shop owners are the problem.
Link Posted: 5/5/2003 5:38:24 AM EDT

I know your pain and decided I couldn’t put up with the stealing and dishonest management at both independents and dealerships.

I started as busting tires at Sears and worked my way up to service manager of a high end Germany car dealership.  I hated every one would try to screw me or each other lying and stealing all of them at one time or the other customers, service advisers, tech, sales dept, parts dept, and the owners all they cared about was the bottom line. After 10 years I couldnt stand it .

I quit and went to work for a private owned EXXON with 4 bays, 3 tow trucks, and a small store.  I thought life was good.  The only person I had to answer to was the owner.  He came in 3 times a week for a couple hours and left.

The lead tech was a retired rocket engineer (No kidding).  He owned 3 very new vett's and could turn a wrench and use a scanner with the best.  He was very greedy and we had some words over straight time but that was about it.  Then I caught him stealing by putting on a part the cust. didnt need so he could get the labor. I called him on it and he lied, So I docked his pays twice the amount of the labor $150.00.

He called the owner and we all had a meeting. I showed the owner the proof and the owner said to forget it pay the tech and act like nothing happened????????? WTF

The tech was a great tech but he STOLE AND LIED about it......... I quit right then. The tech owned up to his lie in the hopes to get me to stay and owner offered me a raise and another week’s vacation to stay. I made them both plenty of money and the owner knew he fucked up. The tech knew it to. I sold him alot of work.

I walked and decided I was going into another field. I took a 10.00hr job, running TV cameras through stinking city sewers for a civil engineering company.  That was 6 years ago and now I run all the field crews in my dept.

I was shocked how much little people know about all things mechanical. Just cause you can build a bridge doesnt make you smart I found out. The company loves that I can do sales and fix anything we have  down to the board level.

It sure doesn’t beat driving the crap out of Germany sport cars all day but I hardly have anyone trying to screw me over every day, day in and day out. I am happy I suffered through those first two years here. I am not back to what I made before but I am damn close and NO ONE HAS THREATENED TO KILL ME once in 5 years. It happened atleast one ayear in car biz.[:D]

Point is GET OUT if you can !!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am sorry for the rant but when you said HONESTLY it hit a nerve then I didnt even answer your question.
Link Posted: 5/5/2003 7:20:17 AM EDT
I have a friend that was a mechanic and became a Registered Nurse.  Now he does both part time.  He maintains ALL of my vehicles.  I know that often times he spends more time on my cars than he can charge for.  I also pay when I get handed the bill, and pay in cash.  I never have to wait to get my cars worked on.  I guess what I am trying to say is I know it is hard work.  I also know he is happier when he is working on cars.  I say if you don't want to open your own shop, lease a bay from someone.  Thats what he does.  That way he takes care of HIS customers only.  Without all the headaches of the "office work"  he pretty much does have his own bussiness with out all the red tape.  He keeps the clients that pay, and pay promptly and refuses to work on anyone he doesn't want to do work for.  And yes, he is that good.  He can afford to not take bussiness.  He stays that busy.  Do what you love to do and do what you love.
Link Posted: 5/5/2003 9:21:39 PM EDT
First let me say, I like your question for it shows you want market knowledge so I will approach it the same way.

I am a baby boomer, we make up most of the population by age group, and since we are farther along in our careers have the money to pay for repairs rather than being forced to do it ourselves.  We are most likely the hardest customers for we all grew up repairing our clunkers as kids.

I like honesty and communication above all else.

Hope this helps.
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Actually you would probably be surprised by the vast numbers of people in the "baby boomer" age range that have no clue about how a car, or anything else, works. We grew up in a rapidly advancing technological era where people specialized in certain areas. I grew up in Silicon Valley and it constantly amazed me how a guy who designs chip manufacturing equipment would look dumfounded when I tried to explain something to him about his car.

Honesty and communication. Now there are two things which should not, but all too often are, over looked by people in my business these days. Especially by service advisors in dealerships. At an independant shop the guy explaining things to the customer is usually the same person responsible for fixing the car - and standing behind the work. But at a dealership the point of contact is the service advisor. More often than not someone who has never worked on a car to make a living. Or in a few case I know of, someone who tried but could not hack it as a mechanic. In these days of (relatively) low maintenance vehicles service advisors are more concerned with selling you the things they can make a spiff on. When you have a genuine problem they do not ask the kinds of questions we mechanics need asked to help us make a good diagnosis. Communication! Way too many times I go back to my service advisor and ask him to explain WTF he wrote on a repair order. All I get is, "that's what the customer said". It's like if someone goes to the doctor with chest pains. He doesn't tell the doctor his heart is broken and then have the doctor listen to his heart and have the doctor say, "nope, your heart is still working. Give me $200 dollars and go home". He tells the doctor he has chest pains, dizzy spells, lack of energy. The doctor will ask other pertinent questions and then proceed with diagnostic procedures from there. This is what a [i]Service Advisor[/i] should do. But they aren't service advisors any more. They are simply service writers. Take your name, give you an estimate, get your signature, take your money, and don't let the door hit your ass on the way out. And they get paid pretty good money for not really caring about you or your car. When they do not understand what the mechanic has found wrong with your car, they make something up to cover their butt and try to sound like they know wth they're talking about. Do I think I have good service advisors where I am right now? What do you think? But my service manager thinks the worst of the two is pretty good. Even though he gets his butt chewed by that same service manager at least once a week! Explain that. Our dealerships F1 score - which means "fixed right on 1st visit" - is around 75%. About 7th out of twelve in our region. My personal F1, and one other techs, is about 98%. And we do most of the crap warranty work. Our service advisors CSI score is, get this, [b]35%[/b]. Next to last in our region. Yet management thinks they are good. Now you know where many of the problems with dealership service departments lie.
Link Posted: 5/6/2003 3:28:37 AM EDT
Link Posted: 5/6/2003 4:52:00 AM EDT
I had a small leak in the cooling system on my  Ford Van, the Ford Dealer wanted over $400 dollars to fix the problem.  I went to NAPA and bought a bottle of Iron Tite, mixed it first in a 1/2 gallon of antifreeze and then poured the mixture in to the radiator, for 8 bucks I solved the problem permanent, that was over three years ago.

My NAPA counter people where I trade are just as knowledgeable as any mechanic I've ran across. They help me diagnose the problem and then provide the proper part to fix it, great people and store owner where I trade.

Going to a dealership to get work done on your vehicle (especially in slow times)is the same as going to a bank that employs robbers to count the money.

Discussing this subject brings back dealership memories that I would rather keep suppressed,  now I need a blood pressure pill goddamnitt.  
Link Posted: 5/6/2003 6:42:00 AM EDT
Dealerships [rolleyes]
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