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Gonzo
Gonzo

Jack of All Trades - - - - - Who benefits from being certified - the tech or the customer?

Jack of all Trades

 

 

 

It pays to be a jack of all trades when you're a homeowner, and it doesn't hurt to have a little knowledge about the family transportation either. I'm pretty handy around the house myself, so in a way I guess I'm sort of a jack of all trades too, but I definitely wouldn't call myself an expert. I know my limitations, and when it's time to call in the pros, I will.

 

When I'm on the other side of the wrench I'm the professional, and I see a lot of those home brewed repairs come into the shop every day. But it's not just the DIY'rs that can be a problem. The same thing holds true when it comes to the sub-standard repair shops and their so called "mechanics". The ones who don't keep up with the technology, but are working on today's cars without any scanners, scopes, or proper information. Drive by and you'll see the same cars in the same spots in front of their shops for weeks at a time. Of course, I don't really know the circumstances of why so many cars are left at the front door, but to me, that frontage real-estate is too valuable to be used as a parking lot for cars that aren't making me a living. Ask around to the locals in the area, and you'll find most of them won't take their cars there.

 

I call these shops the true "jack of no trades", they're your typical kind of repair shop that's pretty handy at banging something apart and figuring out how it works, without any training or reading a tech manual. I'll bet if you took them your toaster and the Buick, chances are they'll eventually have them both repaired… eventually… if you can wait that long. For the most part, these guys can get by for quite some time, but sooner or later they'll have to give up on the car and find somebody who knows something about that particular type of problem.

 

When the phone rings and it's a shop I've never heard of with a technical question for me, it doesn't take long to determine what kind of repair shop they really are. Listening to how they explain the problem or how they tested for the problem gives me enough clues to their abilities.

 

"I've got one I'm sending your way. I think it needs a new starter, but it's one of those "Northstar" engines, and I don't have the tools to get to the starter," one of those bright tool jockeys tells me.

 

In some ways, I guess there has to be these types of shops out there. Where else would that type of car owner go who is only looking for cheap parts, cheap labor, and cheap results? (The car in question did make it to my shop… the motor was locked up… needed more than a starter.)

 

Risking today's modern car issues to a shop like this is just asking for trouble. With the amount of advanced electronics and tight engine tolerances even changing the oil can lead to major problems. Not to mention swapping parts without prior knowledge of what it may involve as far as reprogramming or security issues.

 

I find it hard to comprehend how the general public believes all technicians are created equal. In some quirky way I really believe they think that. It's the only way I can make any sense as to why saving a buck or two on repairs for the trusted family vehicle is left to some low-life repair shop.

 

The other day a lady called the shop with exactly this type of situation. Seems her Cadillac won't shut off once it's started. One shop put in a new computer, one shop tried a new starter, and another put in a new battery. But, the engine still won't shut off. The last guy tells her he can't find it, and shows her a fuse she can pull that would shut off the engine. She goes on to tell me, "I had my car at several shops, and they tried everything they can think of, but it still hasn't fixed my car. I'm out of money, so I need to know what you'll charge me to fix it, before I bring it in."

 

I might as well try to guess what's inside an unlabeled can from the supermarket.

 

"How about we run some tests on it first to find the cause of the problem," I told her.

 

No dice... testing is not what she wanted to pay for. (To many people still think you fix cars by the amount of dollars and that any problem can be estimated over the phone. It's all that matters to them and they see no reason to pay for your diagnostic time.)

 

Then you have the so called family "jack of all trades". He's the most dangerous one of them all. He'll take 6 months or more to change a head gasket or something. Then when the owner does get their car back… it still isn't right. Now the owner doesn't want to upset the family, so they usually won't say anything, they'll just bring it in and have me diagnose it. When I finally get a chance to examine it, I find they failed to replace the original head bolts with the ones that came in the gasket set.

 

"I didn't change them because the original ones looked good enough to reuse," the family mechanic will tell me.

 

Once I straighten out (teach) the so called "family jack of all trades" on what stretch bolts are all about the car ends up going back with the same guy for another six months just because "he's family... and he'll take care of it".

 

After years of seeing the same thing happen over and over again, I really think there should be a way to separate the good from the bad "jacks". I know a lot of great techs out there, but I know a lot more I wouldn't let near my screwdriver drawer. Certification is a step in the right direction. It's a way to give the customer, techs, and other businesses an idea of what kind of person is behind the wrench.

 

Some guys don't want to have the intrusion or some badge on their arm just to prove they understand the complexities of their job. Let me set the record straight. Certification tests are not for the one in a million guy who knows "everything", nor are the tests set up for the beginner to pass. These tests are designed for the knowledgeable tech with reasonable experience in the field. They're not for the socket jockey who fixes everything by smacking it with a 3lb. sledge.

I look at it this way: this arm patch I have that says Automotive Master Technician isn't for me… it's for that lady with the locked up Northstar; it's for that shade tree guy who fixes all the relatives cars and the shop down the street that needed some help. That blue seal outside my door doesn't change my abilities at all, but it does let the customer know they are dealing with a professional.

 

Some techs may say that certification isn't the answer; some will say it's not necessary. That's an opinion this jack of all trades can answer with… "Well, at least I can prove I'm the master of one."

 

 

This story was brought about after some long discussion with other techs and shops. Some like the idea of a certified repair shop others thought it was not important. I've wrote about this subject many times in the past, but this is the first time I've tried to make one article totally regarding certifications.

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Great one Gonzo! It's funny after 28 years in the automotive repair field I only had 3 ASE certs. They just expired so I renewed them and got one more and am scheduled for 2 more this month. The title Certified definitely carries weight. After being a master all these years I might as well have the patch. Also you are master at writing, keep up the good work....

 

G

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Thanks Gary, I did the same thing as you did. I only did what I had to do, thinking ASE certs. was a waste of time. What I've found out is that it's NOT... when it comes to other techs and customers. Having that Master Tech placard attached to my name is an accomplishment, but I do believe it does carry more weight with everyone else I deal with on a day to day basis.

 

 

Great one Gonzo! It's funny after 28 years in the automotive repair field I only had 3 ASE certs. They just expired so I renewed them and got one more and am scheduled for 2 more this month. The title Certified definitely carries weight. After being a master all these years I might as well have the patch. Also you are master at writing, keep up the good work....

 

G

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I personally have carried my Master Certification with my L1 advanced for more than 10 yrs now. I initially got them out of pure pride but now I know as the shop owner how important it is to have these certifications on my arm as well has hanging in my shop. Thank you for the great story Gonzo.

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What bugs me is that one guy at another shop can get ASE in brakes and then the shop can hang up a sign that say's "ASE techs employed here".

 

:angry:

 

That being said there were good chariat repair men and bad blacksmiths too.

 

 

 

B)

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Great comments guys... awesome. And I agree with everyone of them.

Our jobs, our careers, our livelyhood has changed dramatically from the time our grandfathers were mechanics. I'm really surprised that more thought hasn't gone into making certification mandatory.

 

As far as the shop that hires one guy in who is certified in ... lets say... parts counterman or some other "non-related' certification to the job they are doing at that paticular shop. Is just plain incompetence. It really comes down to more education at the customer level. They need to know they can ask if you're certified in brakes if your working at a brake shop. I've never had anyone ask me what I was certified in... they just assume you're "certified" because you've got the blue seal. So to make things easier for them I went as far as posting my score sheets on the wall in the office.

 

Thanks again... more stories coming... keep reading, keep commenting... and don't forget to leave a comment at the magazine websites if you see one of my articles. It always helps. Thanx again. Gonzo ASE CMAT

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Here's a good one. I got an email from a tech, who tells me he's a really good tech and that having some piece of paper doesn't make him a better tech. That all his experience means he qualifies himself as a great tech.

 

The guy actual works at a non certified shop and he even told me, "We don't need a scanner to fix cars here."

 

He read this story and completely missed the point. The point is... certifications are not only a source of pride and a way to let yourself know you "know" your stuff... but it's a way to show others. You might as well told me you were an astronaut because you stayed at a Holiday Inn once.

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Nice artical Gonzo. As a Master ASE tech for 27 years now I can say I am very proud to wear the badge and show all my customers I care! I personly think all techs should be required by law to be certified.

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ASE certification is a must; we need to promote it more.

 

One thing we tend to forget about is the level of overall professionalism. Much of our industry lacks the demands or standard on how competent a shop owner needs to be. I am an ASE master with L1, but I must admit that's not enough today. Every shop owner needs to understand that running a shop takes many different skills, such as business skills. I think this is where many of us get into trouble. And, I am not saying you need to be a great tech to be a great shop owner either. In fact, I know many great shop owners who never picked up a wrench.

 

Oh, by the way, the tech that emailed you about not needing a piece of paper to prove his credentials....I wonder if he feels that way about his doctor, attorney, dentist and accountant....hmm, I wonder....

 

Great article Gonzo, this is another area that as an industry we need improvement.

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ASE certification is a must, we need to promote it more.

 

One thing we tend to forget about is the level of business certification. No where in our industry is there any demands or standard on how competent a shop owner needs to be. I am an ASE master with L1, but I must admit that's not enough today. Every shop owner needs to understand that running a shop takes many different skills. I think this is where many of us get into trouble. And, I am not saying you need to be a great tech to be a great shop owner. In fact, I know many great shop owners who never picked up a wrench.

 

Great article Gonzo, this is an area that as an industry we need improvement.

 

What's a wrench? :rolleyes:

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I agree with all of you. but let me chime in on being certified. I've ran across a few techs with advanced/master certificates but do not adhere to there credentials. I had one I walked by working on intake job and seen no torque wrench. Didn't even own one. Said as he points to bicept, this is my torque wrench. Didn't last long. Another time I heard one tell service manger you don't even need that relay. Will wire it this way and it will be fine. It burns me up for this type of behavior. Why bother with certs if you work like this. Other than getting in the door but the truth will see you free. Your free to load you tools and go LOL. I'm in TN and I believe there's not enough passion for the job around here. I'll tell you strait up there few and far between around here. I can show a master tech a thing or two if there receptive. My moto is show me the evidence. That falls on every one in the process. Service writer says I can only get you one hr diag, then every one starts jumping to conclusions. So even with a great tech sometimes his hands are tied before he begins. My experiance with day to day operations is its a crap shoot with high car counts. Too much hustle and bustle. No matter how many rules,reg,certs,procedures in place. I guess I'm venting. But if were all honest about it, its a hard way to make a living. Even before you throw my dad,brother,uncle,Jody said all it needed was this little screw turned. But I look forward to going to work tomorrow and doing it all over again because I have the passion.

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Point well made Jeff. The "point" is... certificates don't make you a good mechanic... there's bad doctors, lawyers, dentists...etc... certificates and the mastering of this trade has its limitations. Every jerk has a wrench, but not all wrenchers are jerks. Some are, with or without a certificate.

 

Thanks for the comments. The goal of most of my stories is to bring out the comments and the involvement from techs across the country. Being involved is what can make the difference in the future. You're ideas are good ones and the passion for your trade shows in your post.

 

 

 

 

I agree with all of you. but let me chime in on being certified. I've ran across a few techs with advanced/master certificates but do not adhere to there credentials. I had one I walked by working on intake job and seen no torque wrench. Didn't even own one. Said as he points to bicept, this is my torque wrench. Didn't last long. Another time I heard one tell service manger you don't even need that relay. Will wire it this way and it will be fine. It burns me up for this type of behavior. Why bother with certs if you work like this. Other than getting in the door but the truth will see you free. Your free to load you tools and go LOL. I'm in TN and I believe there's not enough passion for the job around here. I'll tell you strait up there few and far between around here. I can show a master tech a thing or two if there receptive. My moto is show me the evidence. That falls on every one in the process. Service writer says I can only get you one hr diag, then every one starts jumping to conclusions. So even with a great tech sometimes his hands are tied before he begins. My experiance with day to day operations is its a crap shoot with high car counts. Too much hustle and bustle. No matter how many rules,reg,certs,procedures in place. I guess I'm venting. But if were all honest about it, its a hard way to make a living. Even before you throw my dad,brother,uncle,Jody said all it needed was this little screw turned. But I look forward to going to work tomorrow and doing it all over again because I have the passion.

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I've read all the comments here and I find that I am floundering with my position. I am an ASE CMAT. I persevered to reach that level because I care about my professionalism and wanted to demonstrate my competence.. But it is my feeling that the industry does not care, ASE cares only for the money we pay them, and pay them, and pay them. And I really don't think the consumer either knows or cares enough to demand a certified, competent technician, if it seems right when they leave, and it was cheap enough, it was good enough. All that comes from the lack of education of the consumer. Oh, sure ASE has their website, but unless a customer is actually looking for it and the information there, why would they ever care, or even know it exists? And I was at a NAPA conference once where one of the attendees was being recognized for having achieved certification in every area ASE sells a test for. This guy was maybe 50 yo. and he had the requisite experience in every area, and demonstrated competence? More like he was good at pick-and-pray tests. At that time I lost a great deal of respect for the ASE certification process. Even if this guy had worked on all things mechanical since he was weaned I can't believe he was experienced, skilled and competent in every single area of certification.

 

Maybe it's just because I live in Michigan and the state requires all automotive repair technicians who expect to be paid for performing repairs on motor vehicles for the general public to be certified, but I really don't see any value in the ASE certifications beyond, "I did it! See there's the patch". Now if ASE put more effort into educating the public, and instilled some integrity into it's certification process, then I might change my mind. As for the mandatory certifications and loathsome lack of skill or caring that is complained about, maybe the industry should either establish some legally binding standards, like the BAR associations or the AMA, or work with the government to establish some regulations. But since we are much more comfortable sitting around and whining, I doubt much will ever change, except on the micro level.

 

But it was great article Gonzo, I enjoyed reading it and you are completely right.

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