Are there things mechanics keep to themselves and not let other mechanics know about them? I hope not, but I’m sure even doctors and lawyers have a few secrets they’re not sharing with each other. The big secret is there really are no secrets. What it really comes down to is knowledge. Every good mechanic has a few things they won’t forget about for a certain car or procedure. Especially one of those problems where the amount of time spent on the job far exceeds what the boss is willing to collect on it. But, by far there are more things you’ve completely forgotten about, because you don’t see that type of engine anymore, or it’s something you’ve never encountered before.
That’s where a bit of extra help from a fellow mechanic comes in handy. I have a lot of friends in the business who call me, or I call them when I’m stuck on some weird problem. Sometimes, neither one of us can actually help each other out, but we may in fact trigger a thought or memory that will.
Sadly however, it never fails somewhere in this crazy world of auto repair there are those who feel it is necessary to slam the next guy for not knowing something, call the other technician an idiot in front of the customer, and so on. These few are the type who won’t help their fellow mechanic in any shape or form. Whether or not it’s a guy in the next bay, or from another shop. I’m not sure if it’s because of an ego thing, or self-preservation in fear the competition is getting the next job.
It’s a poor practice at any rate, and I’ve witnessed firsthand egotistical mechanics more than once. Let’s face it, nobody knows it all and I’m the first one to admit it. That’s why I reach out and find help from another tech. Sometimes it’s because you just can’t make out the diagnostics, or it could be you don’t have the right tool for the job. Whatever the reason, there’s no harm in finding a source for that knowledge you don’t have.
This time around it was a 25+ year old Beemer with a battery drain that I reluctantly took on. European cars are not my specialty, but I managed to chase down the problem to the central module. To my surprise the dealership still carried the replacement part. Now all I had to do was install it, but plugging it in was only half the battle. It needs to be coded. That’s something my scanners wouldn’t accomplish. It’s time to make that phone call to my buddy in the European repair biz.
Now, Jack is a really sharp BMW tech at a very well-known independent European repair shop in town. Jack doesn’t warm up to just anybody. He’s been around as long as I have, and he’s seen the “wanna-be” techs and the slap it together shops come and go just like I have. To say the least, he’s a bit picky as to who he’ll help out. Ya can’t blame the guy, I know exactly how he feels. I called him up and asked if he could slip me in and code this car for me. “Not a problem,” he said, “Just pull up to the service bay and honk the horn.”
Of course, in his shop he’s the king, and I’m just the lowly delivery boy bringing the car into the service bay. Naturally, I had to endure the “Wrath of Jack” as he coded the module for me. Today’s lecture was about coding. “Now coding isn’t programming, and coding isn’t flashing, it’s coding. You understand?” Jake tells me in his usual stern manner. I nodded my head in agreement as he went on to tell me why BMW uses a coding system for their various modules as well as programming. I sort of already knew all that, because I read it in the repair manual when I was researching the repair procedure, but you’re in his shop. Let him tell you anyway; it’s best to listen intently and look interested.
Before long the car was ready for me to head back to my little shop and finish up the job. Jack’s a great guy, and any time I can help him out I certainly will. Of course, he’ll have to sit through the “Wrath of Gonzo” when he comes to my shop. (Gotta return the favor, ya know) Thanks for your help Jack, it's my turn next.
Working together to solve an issue and sharing information is important for not only the customer, but for both technicians as well as both businesses. This is an information world we live in these days, and sharing that information is all part of it. Some will say, “Don’t tell the DIY’r how to do it!” I say, tell him! If that person is capable of handling the repair, so be it! I’m no carpenter or plumber, but I’m sure going to give it a try if it’s something I feel confident enough to tackle myself. Hey, if I mess it up I’m sure the “Wrath of the Plumber” will be the next information highway I’ll be on. But, we all know, there are some things you can explain, read about, or watch on YouTube that even though it seems fairly easy, it turns out to be a whole lot harder when you try it yourself.
Whether it’s through training classes, videos, books, schools, or another mechanic, knowing something new starts with learning something new. I learn something new practically every day, and I feel it’s all part of doing a job to help the other guy. There’s always more to learn, more to share, and more than enough to do. It’s no secret that it takes more than a box of tools to fix today’s cars. It takes friends in the right places. Make some new friends and spread the knowledge around. Automotive knowledge was never meant to be … “mechanically confidential”.