A Tribute To Car Repair Technicians

May 2, 2010

Some years ago a trade publication, read primarily by technicians and repair shop owners, ran an ad placed by a specialty tool maker. It read: “Don’t let some nut ruin your day.” The ad showed a mechanic with a puzzled look on his face gazing at an inaccessible nut and bolt assembly as if saying to himself: “How will I ever get that thing loose?”

Of course, in the technician’s mind the real nut is the automotive engineer that designed the car in such a way that repairs at times are all but impossible. This reminds me of a former employee who would regularly call on his wife to access certain remote auto parts that only her smaller hands could reach. I guess he figured whatever he lost on the cost of a manicure he made up by getting the job out the door more quickly.

What I’m really getting at here is the lack of appreciation for what auto technicians face in their daily jobs. As a group, auto repair persons have been much maligned. Although the days of the “pay me now or pay me later” commercials are over and comparisons to primates are rare, there lingers a notion that auto technicians are somehow inferior to the person working on, let’s say, your washer.

Consumers are used to the idea that there will be an upfront charge to open the back of that $400 washer, but the auto repair industry has a difficult time selling the notion that there will be a diagnostic charge to check out a $25,000 Ford Fusion. Evidence the demand for free engine light checks at AutoZone and Aamco transmission.

Not only are the automakers stacking the cards against the repairers, but quality control at aftermarket parts makers seems non-existent to installers who often have to replace new defective parts with no re-imbursement. It’s not much consolation that the job becomes easier the second time around.

Add to these considerations the tight time restraints put on service facilities by consumers and it shapes up as a pressure packed work environment. Recently, a customer scheduling a front end alignment, oil change and cooling system flush indicated that the car was needed by noon. Un-fortunately, the fact that the alignment would be performed by another shop made the request unrealistic. The customer understood and made other arrangements but the point is that no one likes to give up their cars for any extended period.

Car technicians are a very resourceful lot and don’t need your sympathy in the least. Nothing is more inspiring than to listen to two or more technicians discussing a baffling repair. The conversation drips passion and resolve with some gallows humor thrown in. You can tell that they aren’t going to let some nut ruin their day.

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