What it’s like being a mechanic.And the difficulties of owning a business.
Ever wondered what it’s like to be a mechanic? How about a mechanic that runs his/her own workshop, a busy workshop, with a continuous and steady flow of jobs?
Well to put it plainly, while it is a great feeling of achievement to own your own workshop and a business, it’s a never ending amount of hard work, commitment, skill, learning and at times extremely stressful. Believe it or not, we’re not even talking about the physical aspect of actually being a mechanic or repairing cars yet. That’s right, being a Mechanic, or Technician as we are more commonly referred to as these days, is a tough job. Running a small business successfully is even harder. For those of you who aren’t familiar, let’s start with a few examples of whats involved in owning and managing a business.
WORKSHOP & EQUIPMENT
Having a workshop is one thing, but keeping it tidy, and up-to-date is an ongoing mission. Oil spills, dirt & grease, tools and workshop equipment are the normal day-to-day things you have to clean or put away. Parts for larger jobs have to be stored and not damaged nor lost, and stock has to be neatly stored and easy to access, yet still not be in the way or take up too much space. Hoists and car lifts require servicing by specialists yearly and other equipment like trolley jacks, grinders, drills, diagnostic equipment and even computers, either require maintenance or updating to the latest software/model/design, but more importantly, be safe to use and used in a safe and correct manner. These are just an example of the things that must always be monitored. While this may sound slightly stressful to some, then you’ll be shocked to know that this is not the hardest aspect of the job…..
DIAGNOSTIC EQUIPMENT / SCAN TOOLS
As mentioned above, diagnostic equipment such as scan tools, constantly require upgrading, whether it’s upgrading a complete unit as the manufacturer no longer provides software updates for that model or if it’s just a simple software download and install, it must be done in order for us to work on modern cars. Even a simple service nowadays cannot be performed without a scan tool. Unlike the old days, where mechanics were called “Mechanics” because everything was mechanical and could be pulled apart and repaired, these days, it’s all about electronic components and most of the time parts require replacing as they cannot be repaired. But the main challenge now lies in being equipped with and using modern diagnostic equipment in order to identify the exact cause of a fault. This is why the term “Technician” is more commonly used, mostly in dealerships. It makes sense when you think about it. We’re no longer repairing mechanical items anymore, we’re spending more time getting technical and using technology to find and repair a fault.
In the past, a workshop would make most money doing services, but this is slowly turning around as we begin to see newer cars with more electrical luxuries and more computers stored under every nice bit of plastic trim and leather wrapped seat in the car and we seem to be spending more time on more cars finding an electrical issue than we carry out a service. Not only that, but every new car released comes with it’s own unique software installed in it’s old modules and in it’s newest control units that operate the latest luxury addition that controls a fancy flap or lifts the tailgate etc. More electronics unfortunately mean more headaches, obstacles and another lot of information you have to learn and store in your mind for future use. More so, if you don’t have the tools that are able to help you diagnose and repair a fault in these modules, you’re going to start struggling in this trade.
Sometimes, only having one scanner won’t cut it either, as all brands of scan tools have their pros and cons, some will do jobs others can’t and some will do things easier or faster or maybe better. So in this day and age, having 2 or more scan tools is the minimum and keeping them updated isn’t that bad, it’s knowing how to use these tools to their full potential, and learning to use a new one each time you have to upgrade the whole unit is where it becomes harder. New models use new programs that are different to the last and have more features that can definitely lead you on the right diagnostic path to quickly and correctly pin-point the origin of the fault. Yet in the hands of a mechanic who only understands the “Read Fault Codes” and “Clear Fault Code” portion of it, it really puts you back at square one with a lot less money than you started with. So again, keeping up with not only these expensive electronic tools but also other modern workshop equipment means more learning (how to correctly use them) and the more knowledge you need to store in your brain. This brings us on to the harder aspects of managing a small independant workshop…..
So now you get that having the right tool and keeping it updated and maintained is vital, but the truth is that the best and most important tools in any workshop, is not a tool at all. It’s actually a Mechanic/Technician you can not just rely on, but one that can use all the tools available to him/her to get the job done correctly, neatly and within a time limit that can result in a profit for the workshop. While some jobs simply can’t be done in a profitable time, they should still be completed successfully, in a way that repairs the initial fault or fulfills the service items required and satisfies the customer with a standard that is of the quality expected to ensure the problem doesn’t return.
A technician who is passionate about the trade is usually highly skilled with their hands and always going to be willing to constantly learn and strive to be the best they can. The better ones are able to not only quickly and effectively learn to use all workshop equipment and, while no technician can know everything about every car, they would have a great enough knowledge to know what path to follow in order to get the job at hand completed.
Finding this technician who is motivated to get the job done is sometimes a difficult task and you need to have a few technicians come and go before the right one comes along. Then when that one does show up, you then need to make sure they stay. Not exactly by the amount of money you pay them but by creating a welcoming environment and rewarding them when deserved. Letting them know they’re appreciated always creates a good working environment and helps them grow with the business. Having two or three or more Technicians gets trickier when it comes to keeping everyone happy and more importantly, getting them to work as a team in order to get the jobs out the door. This becomes beneficial for not only the employer but also the employees. While the employer can trust his employees to get the work done, the employees are happy to come to work each day. But don’t forget, we are all human and everyone has a bad day every now and then so you have to accept and prepare for the plain fact that mistakes do happen and some mistakes can really hurt the weekly profit.
Finally, when it comes to Technicians in the modern day and age, there’s the learning, or “upgrading” side. Like any other tool in the shop, technicians require a form of upgrading in the way of further courses. Cars are constantly changing and therefor the way of doing things is also forever changing. This may mean sending employees off to short courses to further their skills and keep their methods current.
BEING A MECHANIC/TECHNICIAN
Being a mechanic/technician alone is hard enough. You need to be a lot smarter than some people believe. There’s so many cars in the world and you’re automatically expected to know how every little thing in each car works. Yes, the basic principles are the same but the actual design and method of repair or maintenance varies dramatically across the board and unfortunately you do not have enough time in your entire life to learn how to know it all.
Then there’s the physical aspect of the job that requires heavy lifting, manouvering your body upside down under a dash board, bending over engine bays, levering, hammering, tightening, loosening and the rest. Don’t forget the cuts, knocks and bruises you know are coming before it actually happens only because it happens every day. Yes we expect to gain at least one extra graze or bruise or worse every day at work. Usually holiday periods for a mechanic consist of more relax time than anything else just because the aching muscles won’t allow you to do any other activities.
To top it off, the only place you can ever go from work, is straight home to the shower because usually you can’t stand the smell of your own clothes and you don’t want to be going anywhere else covered head to toe in oil and grease. But even though you do it everyday, you still love the job and the satisfaction of finding a fault and repairing it, or rebuilding something is what keeps you motivated.
You’re probably wondering by now what the point of this entire blog is all about and you’re about to find out. A lot of the time, the hardest aspect of the business is the customer and striving to help and satisfy you guys. While many of you are loyal to a certain workshop, whether it’s C&S Service Centre or another shop, and many of you we know well enough to have a joke and a laugh with, then there’s the small bunch that show up without notice and think you can magically fix it or service it in 5 minutes because you’re going away the next day. Or you get upset with us if the bill is too expensive or if you don’t believe that part needed to be changed etc…
Everybody at least once has seen or read a news report regarding a mechanical auto repair shop that has been caught ripping people off and replacing unnecessary parts or even worse not replacing any parts at all. Right? Well this is where it gets harder for the smaller workshops as many first time customers are full of doubt and concerns before we even touch the car. Well you should know that those dodgy workshops never last long and the majority of workshops are definitely not out to rip anyone off or cause you unhappiness. Believe it or not, we strive to see our customers happy and satisfied. Because really, at the end of a hard day, whether it be physically or mentally or both, seeing a customer leave your shop happy and satisfied with the service you have provided, means you have achieved your goal. Seeing them return and having them recommend their friends and families means you have also earned their trust.
So next time you’re leaving your preferred garage, keep in mind that they have certainly tried their best to ensure you are safe and happy. If you feel you’re being mislead, the better way to approach the situation would be to simply ask a question. If a mistake has been made, you can be certain it will be fixed as fast as possible. We are only human after all. 🙂