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There's one thing I'd like to have back from my youthful days …my flexibility. All that movement and bending I used to do; contorting like some circus act and getting up from it all with no ill effects. Yea, that'd be nice, because I still need some of that flexibility today.


I've gotten myself into a lot of crazy positions over the years, and it's not getting any easier. After all these years I still have to get my head under a dash like some acrobatic act. I don't know about you, but I find rolling down the window and sticking my feet out of it works better than bending my back in some awkward positions.


Its bad enough being under there but it makes it worse that I have to wear "cheaters" so I don't have to try and bend my head back so far to find the bifocals, and squeezed under the dash is not the appropriate time to lose that flexibility. At times I've had my whole arm shoved through some air conditioning duct looking for a mouse nest, retrieving little "Tommy's" favorite school pencil, or a valuable ring that made its way down the heater vents.


But there was this one car I'll never forget. A little Mazda Miata convertible came in the shop one day. It was more than your normal street driven Mazda, it had a full roll cage welded into the car. It still had the factory doors on it but they were practically useless. Oh they opened, but you would have to be extremely small to fit under the roll cage bars and squirm your way into the driver's seat. I would guess there was about a 2 foot opening between the bars. The main roll bar support was welded between the hinge area of the door and the door opening. This formed the convertible top arch, and came down into the back seat area. To make it even stiffer, they added a horizontal bar just above top of the seat cushion. It was welded to both ends of the arched piece. It wasn't a small pipe either; more like about 3 or so inches in diameter. The factory seats were replaced with those hard plastic racing seats, which made it even worse to crawl into the car.


I found it a lot easier to do one of those "Dukes of Hazards" leaps into the thing. It wouldn't start, that's why it was at my shop in the first place, so crawling around on it was part of the job. This thing was set up to go racing, from top to bottom, but retained the street look from the outside of the vehicle. It meant business. (Ok, it's still a Miata though.) It had two problems, one which turned out to be just as difficult as the other one. The crank sensor hold down bolt had sheared off even with the block. That alone took some dexterity to remove the broken section.


The other problem was someone took the computer out of the car. (I think somebody thought it was a ECM problem, when it really was probably only the broken bolt to the crank sensor.) The ECM had been removed by another shop, but after it was removed the owner of the car wasn't getting along with them at all so he had it brought over to my shop. The computer was also "hopped-up" for racing (where people find the places to do this to their cars, never ceases to amaze me.) The computer was under the center section of the dash below the ash tray area. It would have been a piece of cake to get to, if you could squeeze between the door and the roll cage. Not happening, sorry… even with the doors wide open the roll cage took up most of the door opening.


There was only one way I was going to get to that part of the car. Head first down thru the top, dangling your feet and butt over the back of the seats and the horizontal tie bar that ran from side to side of the roll cage. All this while guiding both arms through the now darkening floor area, keeping in mind you have a ratchet with a 10mm socket on it, the ECM, a small screw driver between your teeth (don't drop it) and a flash light.


With all the blood rushing to your head and your entire weight resting on the top of your skull it wasn't the most comfortable position to be in. To make it even worse, you had to move from one side of the foot well to the other to get all the bolts installed. The whole time I was doing this upside down side show act, I kept thinking, if the shop suddenly caught fire, they would find me right here just like this, upside down, feet straight up in the air, and that pocket screwdriver still clenched between my teeth. (Still ain't dropped it.)


The worst part about it, once I got in there, I never put any thought on how I was going to get out. It's not like I have the strength to do a "stand on your head pushup". Come on, I'm not that young anymore, and besides, I don't think I could have done one of those even back in my younger days when I was in the Marine Corps and worked out everyday.


The only way I could get out of there was to corkscrew myself off my back and get over onto my side, slip down into the back seat area (ain't much of a back seat) and duck around the roll cage bars, all the while trying to keep from blacking out. Mind you, those race seats don't have any give to them, and very little padding. Oh, the things I get into… and out of.


What a day that was. I hope the owner never wants me to change that computer again. But, I'm sure there will be an even more difficult one out there sometime in the future. I'll have to pass on them anymore. It's that flexibility thing, you know. I play a lot of golf to help retain some of that "youthful" flexibility, (at least that's the excuse I'm giving the wife). But, there's one thing for sure; the older I get, the more I'm going to avoid standing on my head in tiny cars with roll bars and racing seats in them.




Thanks for reading my stories, they are here before final editing and publishing. Your comments help me decide which ones get sent onto my publishers.


Leave a comment and don't forget to stop by my website www.gonzostoolbox.com


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Edited by Gonzo
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Nice Frank, how about the next time I need a short, jockey size guy... I'll call ya, and see if you can send him my way. LOL


Gonzo, this is just the reason that I always like to keep a jockey size technician under the age of 40 working for me. It is always nice to have someone you can stick into those tight places or have little hands to get to the spot no one else can reach.

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Ah, yes, I see I'm not the only one that find it some what "unmanly" to think I can't do the "25" thing anymore.


I gotta admit, after I write these stories down, I find myself laughing.... because the relationship we all have of the situations we all deal with is the same no matter where you're at.

Love to hear the comments... I really need to finish my hottub area.. cause, I sure could use it.


Gonzo, every time I "think" I'm still 25, I get into trouble. My lead tech needed someone to help bleed brakes the other day. The wheels were off and the car was about 3 feet in the air. I was walking thru the shop and offered to help. My tech asked if he should lower the car for me to make it easy to climb in. Now me, being that "manly man" said, "I can still climb into a car, buddy". Well, all I have to say....I am not 25 years old anymore...I do understand that flexibility issue!

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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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