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Restoration for the Mechanic - modern repairs, old mechanic


Gonzo

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Restoration for the Mechanic
tp.gifElectrical issues on today’s cars have certainly taken 
center stage.  Mechanical issues are still there too, but 
it’s not uncommon to have a mechanical problem be 
diagnosed, monitored, or calibrated by some electronic 
means.  You just can’t get away from the electrical 
if you’re in the automotive repair business these days.  
It’s taken over just about every facet of the automobile.  
 
    Today’s mechanics have become something entirely 
different from the stereotypical mechanic from just a 
few decades ago.  It’s not that long ago when the 
electrical section of the repair manuals were just a 
chapter or two, today… its volumes and volumes of 
schematics and diagnostic procedures.  I’m old enough 
to remember when points and condensers were still 
the norm, and I’ve watched the industry go from 
electronic ignition to today’s electronic jungle of wires 
and processors. We’ve definitely come a long way with 
the technology.
 
tp.gifEven though I work on all these newfangled electrical wizardry systems on the modern car, deep down I’m still the kid who got a kick out of tearing down an old junker and putting it back together.  Now, I’m surrounded by modules, proximity keys, and sensors.  Occasionally it’s kind of nice just to step away from the computer and just turn a wrench or two. I look forward to those simpler kinds of jobs, the ones that need a craftsman’s touch and not a box of transistors and capacitors to figure out what to do.  Back to a time when a driver was more mechanical involved in the process of operating the vehicle.   Heating vents with levers and cables, or a hand choke that needed just the right touch to get it started.  No electronics, no service light, just the essentials.  (For you younger techs, I’m referring to the days when you actually had to unlock a door with a key.)  
 
tp.gifI still marvel at the ingenuity and engineering of those times. I guess it’s one of the reasons why I like going to old car and steam engine shows so much.  It’s all about the mechanics for me.  Electronics are great, but to see the early mechanical devices that were commonplace a century ago still amazes me.  How they figured it out, and how they made it work is shear brilliance.  (If you ever get a chance to study some of those early mechanical systems, you might be surprised how things were accomplished prior to the computer age. It’s quite fascinating… well at least to me it is.)   
 
tp.gifIt’s great to be able to step back once in a while and just be a mechanic.  Back when things were rebuilt and not just replaced with new. There’s a certain satisfaction in taking a broken mechanical device and making it functional again.  It’s those jobs that after you’ve wrestled the components into place, and everything is finished you realize that you’re covered in grease, but for some reason you’ve got this big smile on your face. It’s the look of accomplishment, a smile of pride in a job well done. 
And while you’re cleaning up the tools, you look over at the finished project still smiling, knowing you’re done and can move onto the next project.  It just doesn’t compare to finishing up on a modern car when the last thing to do is watch that blue line steadily move across the computer screen, waiting for it to say “Task completed”.
 
tp.gifNot that I’m putting down the modern car, no far from it.  It’s just nice to take a break once in a while from the technical mumbo-jumbo and just be a mechanic for a change.  Even though it’s pretty awesome to solve a difficult electrical issue, it’s hard to beat a good old fashion mechanical repair.  For me, when a restoration project shows up at the shop I get a chance to turn off the laptop and open the toolbox.   These restoration jobs are just as much for the customer as they are for me.  It’s a restoration of some of my old almost forgotten mechanical abilities. (Yea, I still got it…)  
 
tp.gifWe put a lot of trust in the modern electronics, something the engineers and designers of those automobiles from a few decades ago never even though of.  Their own ingenuity and craftsmanship kept them going.  Components were built to be repaired not replaced.  I think it’s safe to say that a car from 50 years ago is more likely to start and run in another 50 years but I seriously doubt a car from today would have the same luck. There again, it might be something a technician/mechanic of that era might figure out how to do by then.  Me I’ll still stick with being a mechanic/technician … I still like the physical repair aspect of the job.  
 
tp.gifThe future of electronics in today’s cars is constantly changing; sometimes we notice the changes while other times you can’t physically see them.  Sometimes all it takes is a little R&R on an old jalopy just to make me remember how far we’ve come.  In the meantime, the latest restoration job is done so it’s time to go for a test drive. 
 
tp.gifI’ll get back to the laptop and the modern car world just as soon as I get all the tools cleaned up… it might take a bit though … I’m still admiring the restoration job and I’ve got some more smilin’ to do.
 

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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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