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Article: Let's Make A Deal! For some, car repair is all about cutting a deal...NOT...quality of the workmanshipLET’S MAKE A DEAL You know everyone wants a deal, something cheaper, something “thrown in” to sweeten the pot. Money (as always) is always the driving force, and I don’t think that will ever change. A deal is a deal, but if you can’t make a deal… well, then, deal with it. One bright morning, a mid-90’s Subaru showed up at the shop on the back of a wrecker. It’s one of my regular customer’s young teenager’s car. The phone rang, it was the dad, Oh, and did he have a story to tell… a real whopper of a story. “My son told me he was driving along when the car bumped the curb and flattened two tires. I haven’t seen the car, but my son said there wasn’t any real damage. So, I don’t think it should take you very long to get it back on the road. Do what you can, and call me with the estimate.” I only saw the driver’s side of the car when the tow truck pulled up. The tow driver came in and tells me, “Wherever you put this, you won’t be able to move it again. You’ll have to drag it or put it on “dollies”, it’s pretty messed up. If I were you, I’d stick it directly on the lift.” Ok, ya got me, no real damage aye? But, the tow driver tells me differently… now I’ve got to go look for myself. No real damage? Hmmm, let’s see…the whole passenger side of the car looks like someone tried to peel the sheet metal off with a can opener. Underneath the car was even worse. The upper and lower passenger side control arms are bent. The wheel, spindle, and tire are sitting on the oil pan area. The sway bar looks like a pretzel, both rims on the passenger side are beyond reuse, the tires are torn apart and shards of rubber are peeling off of the steel belts, and the transmission has been ripped off its mounts. Yea, you’re right……he just bumped the curb……..yea sure he did. Looks more like he rode the edge of the curb like a bucking bronco for a long-long way. My guess is somebody was trying to drift around corners or slide it sideways with the emergency brake on, and probably took out every bus stop, park bench, and light pole for a block or two. Ok, the tow driver gets a “thumbs up” on this one; let’s put it on the lift. I told the customer what I had found and the estimate for the repair, and as always I let him know about any “hidden” problems that might be lurking under all this stuff. He was not a shocked as I thought he would be even after I gave him the price for all the work that needed done, but definitely concerned. He kept hinting around as to what I thought might have caused the problem. From the conversation on the phone he was hoping I would say something like… mechanical failure, slick road conditions, defective part, or something like that. The farthest thing in his mind was that the kid might be the problem. I told him what I thought had happened, he didn’t want to believe it, but he was going to check into to it. In the mean time, order the parts and start getting it ready to get back on the road. Several days later all the parts showed up, and I could get a better idea of the damage with parts that weren’t bent like a pretzel. It wasn’t long before I found a few more flaws in the little “Scooby-do”, nothing major but the kind of thing that should be replaced. The extra parts were just a few brackets that were bent, but I knew dad’s pocket book was getting tight. His main concern now was how much I was willing to chew off the original bill to help him out, and to my surprise he confirmed my suspicions as to what caused the accident. Oh yea, the kid was trying to drift the Subaru. (DAH! Now how do ya drift a front wheel drive car… ah, slide with the e-brake???) Now I can do a lot of things, and lower repair costs in order to save the customer money is one of them. Money, or not, I think there is a lesson to be learned here. I thought it was appropriate to make a small request to good old dad. If he wanted a cut on the price of the job, then let’s make a deal. “You bring the little ridge runner to the shop dressed for work. He can earn his keep and save you a few bucks in the process. Maybe even take a different approach to driving in the future,” I told the dad. My customer was a little taken back by my deal to save him some money, but it sounded like a good idea. Now his only job was to get the lad down to the shop ready to fulfill his part of the bargain. Work stopped until I heard back from him. In the mean time, the car is stuck on the lift with no wheels and only half a suspension. With a service bay tied up, it’s starting to cost me money. 2 days go by, then 4 more, another week and still no answer. Finally on a Monday morning when I reached the point where I wasn’t going to wait any longer… the dad calls, “Just fix it, and call me when it’s ready. My son doesn’t want to do it, and I’m not having much luck in getting him to your shop to help at all. So I guess I’ll have to deal with the cost of the repair instead.” A little different deal than I expected. Well, a deal is a deal. I’ll handle my end of the bargain, and old dad has decided on how to handle his. There’s an old saying that comes to mind, it goes like this; “If you want to save a dollar … do the job yourself, but if you have to pay someone else to do it… don’t ask for cheap work, unless you’re willing to share the cost in some way.” After another day of getting everything back into place the car was ready for the road again. Sure there are few battle scars still showing, but mechanically the car is in great shape. That only leaves one more deal that’s not quite finished. … … the father needs to deal with the son. . . .
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I'm looking into which machine I should buy just curious if anyone has bought one yet and what there opinion is on the one they have. Thanks !
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Growing Up With Wrenches
Unlike kids of today, my childhood was long before video games and color TV. Most of my free time was spent climbing trees, playing in the crick (creek, to you city folk), riding my bike, and tinkering with anything that had a motor. Wrenches, sockets, and screwdrivers were just part of growing up. I would tear apart an old mower just to see what was inside. Most of the time it would end up in a pile of parts. But, by the time my dad came to see what I was doing, he would stand there in disbelief and just shake his head. Then dive in and show me how to put it all back together. Good times for sure. There was no You Tube, no on-line help. Just dad and son, and I’m sure it’s the same way my dad learned his tinkering abilities too.
These days it’s all about the computer with their programs and the internet with its billions of websites. There aren’t as many kids that I know about who spend their summer vacations building tree houses or turning an old horizontal lawn mower engine into a homemade go-kart like I used to do. Times have changed, but the need for those wrenches are still as important as it was back in my youth. However, now a lot of those early learned skills have to be developed through a trade schools or at a high school shop class. That is if the economy hasn’t budgeted the shop class out of existence.
Growing up with wrenches was just something I did. Which is probably what led me to enter the automotive field as a career. It’s a good living, and you get to meet a whole lot of wonderful people every day.
But, as it has been for decades, there’s still a big shortage of mechanics out there. As I see it, the big problem isn’t so much a people shortage, but a shortage in “qualified” mechanics. I look at it this way. Back in the day of carburetors and vacuum modulated transmissions a lot of guys and gals didn’t go to any school to learn the trade. Most picked up bits and pieces of how things worked through on the job training. The older mechanics would teach the younger ones and so on and so on. But, all of a sudden the average age of the “qualified” and “experienced” mechanic is well over 50 years old. Somewhere along the line less and less of the younger generations wanted to pursue a career in the automotive field.
What happened? From my point of view, I see a few things that might have been the cause. First off, the computer age. Cars went from points and condensers to electronic ignition, then onto the full blown electrical nightmare we have today. The older generation of mechanics all had a similar background working with hand tools and could understand the basic principles of an automobile. But, as the industry changed to more and more electrical systems their knowledge base dwindled.
The smart guy who wanted to stay up with all of these changes did what was needed, and that’s study as much as possible. While the other guy who was still stuck with the learn as you go method would just slap part after part on until they got it right, and yes, there are a lot of “guessers” still in the business today. Now, the car wasn’t as simple as it was before, and the average dad wasn’t able to tinker on his family car as past generations could. But, the change to the computer age isn’t the only reason that caused this shortage of qualified mechanics. Ultimately it comes down to the amount of time and effort to learn these new systems, the amount of investment one has to put into it all and most importantly their overall income.
The average professional mechanic has well over $100,000.00 invested in personal hand tools, tool boxes, and testing equipment over the course of their career. But, the pay varies as much as the diagnostic fee does from shop to shop. So, maybe part of the problem for the new techs coming into the business is NOT making the decision to start a career in the automotive repair trade but, making the investment in the tools when the pay isn’t all that great.
So, where does all this low wage, high investment come from? The investment into tools is an easy one to figure out. But, the wage side of it is a bit more complicated. Let’s face it, all those shops that feel the best way to keep work in the shop is by having the lowest hourly rate is the real problem. Nearly all consumers make the general assumption that all mechanics are the same and that price is their only factor to be concerned with.
In my opinion, right there is the real problem. Instead of shouting about a shortage of mechanics, which by “body count” their certainly isn’t a shortage we should be talking about doing something for the consumer. By starting at the bottom with those low rate/low skill shops and pulling them up to a more qualified level of expertise.
Look at the attendees of any one of the trade schools or college based courses and you’ll see that there is a turnaround in the quality of the mechanic field just waiting to happen. But, nothing like growing up with wrenches. It’s the tech schools and the attrition of the parts swapper shops that’s going to make the changes. The tech schools allow an individual not only to learn those same skills I learned growing up with wrenches but an even more importantly the skill needed to be a qualified mechanic and whether or not this trade is right for you.
It not going to be easy to make sense of all the information and skills that the future mechanics will need to know. They’ve got to be a whole lot more aware of so many different systems than what a few hand tools can help with. But, there’s still a place for the right person with the right kind of natural mechanical ability especially if they have those growing up with wrenches skills. There still out there, but some of them don’t know they have those gifted skills because they didn’t have the opportunity to experience any of it in their youth. Then again, the trade schools have their hands full teaching the basic hand to eye coordination, as well as bringing the students up to speed with the latest greatest electronics, so someone with that natural talent will likely shine through.
Eventually, all those shops and mechanics that try to undercut their prices will fade off into the distance. Fewer parts changers and guess-until-ya-get-it shops, because the cars are getting smarter every year and the mechanic will have to do the same. Maybe, the days of growing up with wrenches is a thing of the past. Now we need more and more trade schools, conventions, seminars, and podcasts to keep upgrading our skill levels. Hopefully, in time, the trade will have the respect and salary to go along with the advanced diverse knowledge the modern mechanic needs to have. Even if they didn’t grow up with wrenches.
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Branded Gas station with C-Store and Auto Repair shop strategically located on heavily traveled roadway. In addition to C-Store it features 3 bay repair shop with repair work alone of $250,000 annuall View the full listing
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