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A Mechanic's Life - Tales From Under the Hood

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/breakout/hiring-100k-jobs-nobody-wants-133726536.- html

    That GM training exec needs to get into the shops and see what kind of money the techs are really making, and just what they have to do to even get that.

    50-60K is more accurate and its one of the hardest jobs anyone could ever try to do for that amount of money.
  • I saw that article and I couldn't agree with you more. Here in California, top Porsche technicians, who are fully capable of building engines and diagnosing all the electronics on these supercars, would be lucky to make $70K.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    I saw that article and I couldn't agree with you more. Here in California, top Porsche technicians, who are fully capable of building engines and diagnosing all the electronics on these supercars, would be lucky to make $70K.

    And to achieve a reasonable standard of living out there demands a wage of????

    http://uptimeblog.enigma.com/the-uptime-blog/tabid/50748/bid/91519/Fewer-Mechani- cs-Fixing-Harder-Problems.aspx

    I had to laugh when the article mentioned Sears.....
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,985
    Pop and swap works pretty good in the PC world. Certainly cheaper than trying to track down a bad circuit; just replace the whole board or disc drive.

    Cars are more like newer Macs, where you can't even replace the glued-in laptop batteries, even if you figure out how to get the cover off with your spudger.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Pop and swap works pretty good in the PC world.

    Heaven forbid someone actually gets the training and equipment to truly diagnose and repair a failure.

    Certainly cheaper than trying to track down a bad circuit; just replace the whole board or disc drive.

    Some people always try to compare what we do to doctors, it doesn't work. Likewise trying to force us to be like the personal computer tech won't work either, there are in fact very few similarities.

    Would you be willing to pay for a tryzee on a $600 steering rack if the car is randomly difficult to steer because of a loss of assist? Not to mention there is no risk of personal injury or loss of life if the swapped out video card fails to solve a problem.

    The majority of problems the trade has to deal with fit easily into the category of the public trying to force us into being something that we can never be. Then as technology changes and we have to adapt to meet it we get exposed to yet another level of faulty perceptions.

    You might as well try and force a tomato to be a watermelon as to try and force the auto repair trade to be like the geek squad.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,664
    edited November 2012
    If you're single you can live pretty well on $70K in California, but with a family of 4---not so easy.

    If a tech with that level of ability has any ambition, he usually will open his own little shop after 5-10 years of wrench-bending at a quality specialty shop. By that time he's learned his trade and something about business and customer relations.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,985
    edited November 2012
    Heaven forbid someone actually gets the training and equipment to truly diagnose and repair a failure.
    We need guys like that. Us regular folks just can't afford them.

    Computer cards run life-critical situations every day. Think of a surgeon looking at a video screen while performing surgery. (Hope your wife is doing good btw).
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Computer cards run life-critical situations every day. Think of a surgeon looking at a video screen while performing surgery

    Comparing us to the medical field is a flawed comparison. If the video card fails in my PC, I can have another one for forty bucks and swap it out in five minutes. Heck the whole PC only cost seven hundred give or take. That equipment the doctor is using cost a little more than that. But that doesn't mean it can develop a problem. So they have to have more than one piece of equipment and be able to simply use a different machine in a few minutes or else stop the surgery.

    My nephew repairs those machines. You better sit down before I tell you what the company he works for charges just for him to show up to do his swaptronics.

    . (Hope your wife is doing good btw).

    Hey, thanks for asking! Guess I forgot to give you an update. The surgery went well and the clusters of bad seizures were gone right away. She has had one minor seizure during the night about three weeks ago. As of now she is struggling with short term memory issues, and has displayed some changes in her personality. But she is far better off than where she was, she just still has a long way to go. Her neurologist even took her down to only one medication and has hinted that he may try to stop all of the meds completely.

    On the bright side the subject of her finally learning how to drive has come up several times. She needs to be seizure free for a year for that to happen. She's already chosen our Escape to be HER car. :shades:
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,985
    How long does it take for an experienced tech to swap out an alternator? Why couldn't it be more plug and play so a novice could do it as fast? Why aren't they solid state in the first place? If you have to have some rotating mass to keep the battery going, why run a heavy gizmo off a belt instead of incorporating it in some other part that already has to move?

    VW Bug engines could be dropped in less than an hour and lots of guys would plug and play them. The world record was one minute, four seconds.

    Enjoy Turkey Day and better start detailing that Escape. :shades:
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    How long does it take for an experienced tech to swap out an alternator?

    What car? Say maybe a 1997 Pontiac grand Prix with a 3.4l? How about a Honda Civic with the 1.8l? Either will take anybody longer than it takes to do the alternator on a 2002 Cavalier.

    Why couldn't it be more plug and play so a novice could do it as fast?

    Aside from being a novice which means they don't have the experience, physical skills, or sufficient training ......

    Why aren't they solid state in the first place? If you have to have some rotating mass to keep the battery going, why run a heavy gizmo off a belt instead of incorporating it in some other part that already has to move?

    Because the real world doesn't bend to our wishes? BTW I'm thinking the hybrid vehicles are "almost" doing what you are asking, but they are anything but more novice friendly....
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,985
    edited November 2012
    How much training do you really need to loosen a bolt and a belt and swap a new alternator in? There's over 5,000 how-to's just on YouTube. I gotta pay the dealer $120 shop rate because the experienced tech has a more sensitive thumb than mine? (Maybe the tech actually has the belt tensioner gauge and actually uses it? You probably do but I wonder how many others do).

    Why do you have to attach a voltmeter and ammeter to an alternator to check its performance? That stuff could be built in too. If I'm driving down the road and the headlights start going dim, the dash should tell me that I have a bad alternator. It really should tell me that as part of the initial start diagnostics so I don't leave the house in the first place.

    Why don't the engineers work with the designers and bean counters so you can easily get to the parts? They'll have to rethink this as fewer techs enter the trade so the dealers can hire 4 or 5 "novices" and depend on one trained tech to pigeon drop from station to station to follow their work as they pop modules in and out.

    The hybrid tech is helping push the limits and it's proving to be pretty reliable too.
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 13,589
    well, speaking for myself, I "can" do a lot of repairs. What I am usually missing that Doc has is all the tools (and lift, etc.) to do it, and more important (and what you seem to be looking for) the ability to know what has to be replaced.

    I suppose a visit from the snap-on guy, and a shop manual, can handle a lot of the tools/how, but these days, the "what" is still a huge mystery!

    and I agree about design. I just had to change the low beam bulbs in my volvo, and it was actually pretty neat (and simple) to do the way they had designed it. That led to a conversation about Saturns, and how you had to dismantle most of the front end of the car to replace a headlight. Classic case of not thinking through the design to account for maintenance down the line.

    2013 Acura RDX (wife's), 2007 Volvo S40 (when daughter lets me see it), 2000 Acura TL (formerly son's, now mine again), and new Jetta SE (son's first new car on his own dime!)

  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,985
    Yeah, lots of stuff seems like it could just be snap in (so you wouldn't need a Snap On gizmo :shades: ).
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    The hybrid tech is helping push the limits and it's proving to be pretty reliable too.

    When you consider how many of them are actually on the roads to the percentage of significant failures that we do diagnose and repair, you'll find that they are right on par with everything else as far as failures go. Only they tend to be much more difficult to deal with since the decades of familiarity isn't there with them that we have for the more conventional systems. Meanwhile the prices for the components are staggering even to us.

    Everything that you are writing sounds like a lot of whining. Why does this and why does that are not in our control. Everytime we turn around there is another new style of fastener to contend with, take TORX for instance. Why did we ever need them, we already had both standard and metric allens to deal with? But if that isn't enough we had to have reversed TORX, tamper proof TORX, TORX Plus, and now tamper proof TORX Plus that are five pointed. Each set of those is a $200 + bill and all we need is for some engineer to design a component that has the fastener recessed beyond the reach of the conventional tool and you basically get to double every one of those tools for a version that has a longer reach. Oh, and no you cannot just buy the longer reach ones because we also have situations that don't have the clearance to use the standard ones and now we have to buy sets of shorties too.

    I've lost count of my oil filter wrenches, I have more than thirty of those today.

    Why do you have to attach a voltmeter and ammeter to an alternator to check its performance?

    Quite simply because a system failure doesn't always add up to just one part failing each and every time and the "SYSTEM" needs to be tested correctly.

    How much training do you really need to loosen a bolt and a belt and swap a new alternator in

    For some people, that would be none in most cases. Their natural mechanical talents will see them through. It's kind of like singing, you are either born with that talent or you are not. From there practice and lessons can make a significant difference in one's abilities. But if you were born without one of those talents all of the training in the world could never really make you "good" at one of them.

    Question back at you. You replace an alternator by "loosening a bolt and a belt and swap a new alternator in" and it doesn't fix the car. So you replace the alternator again and it still doesn't fix the car. So then you do it over and over and over again. If just replacing a part is all that is required to be a mechanic you'd be a superstar at that point wouldn't you?

    There's over 5,000 how-to's just on YouTube.

    Does everything that you can find on you tube reflect reality?

    Why don't the engineers work with the designers and bean counters so you can easily get to the parts? They'll have to rethink this as fewer techs enter the trade so the dealers can hire 4 or 5 "novices" and depend on one trained tech to pigeon drop from station to station to follow their work as they pop modules in and out

    They have been trying to do this in shops long before the day I first stepped into one. At one time the techs made about 50% of the door rate, today that number hovers between 20-25% and instead of being hourly where everyone could help each other flat rate dominates the workplace and it has been a cut-throat way of life for decades.

    Today manufacturers are stopping paying diagnostic time in many cases or only paying for a very small amount. .3hrs or eighteen minutes under warranty. Heck that really isn't enough time to locate the car, connect the scan tool, pull the trouble codes and road test the car to try and see if the problem is active. But then the tech still has to check for TSB's, pull up service information and/or a schematic and actually perform the physical steps that resemble some kind of a diagnostic routine. The techs are being pushed by management to try and work in a manner that almost reflects what you seem to think should be involved when in reality that only creates pressure to perform at a level that proves that they (and you) are clueless as to what it takes to genuinely diagnose and repair a problem with confidence.

    If you don't allow for and pay for the techs to diagnose a vehicle problem you are training them to skip that phase of the repair event and that only leads to cars not repaired and parts replaced needlessly. The problem is, in the past they (and you) would simply blame the techs for failing but right now you have me standing in the way pointing out that it doesn't matter how much you want magic it still requires hard work at this level and always will. Not paying for it will simply lead to technician and shop failure, that will ultimately show back up as a cost to you the consumer somewhere, somehow.

    Why do you want the techs and shops to fail? Do you have to make sure that you have something to complain about?

    These forums are full of those kinds of failure stories, yet all you want is to keep that failure string in place.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,985
    edited November 2012
    right on par with everything else as far as failures go.

    That's good, since most cars are pretty reliable these days. They just aren't easily repairable.

    prices for the components are staggering

    Retail customers like me are amazed at $800 "headlights" and $300 BCMs that have to coded to the VIN for another $200. (Yeah, I do like a good whine now and then).

    system failure doesn't always add up to just one part failing

    But on a diagnostic tree you take it one step (part) at a time, whether you are a tech or a chunk of software.

    I can't sing but I can stumble through the national anthem just fine. I'm not building a Formula 1 car, I just want to get my daily driver back on the road. Knowing the scales doesn't matter any more than knowing alternator theory or Nick Tesla's mother's maiden name.

    You can find fakes on YouTube. And at your local service center. YouTube, Edmunds Answers, all the dealer and service rating sites offer feedback and the community will help you weed out the fakes. Break down 200 miles from home? Your first stop should be the net. Perfect strangers (just like you) will help you narrow down the possible issues and garner tech recommendations.

    I've fixed a lot of different stuff without ever having a "genuinely diagnosis". I want to be able to do a lot of the stuff you describe without having to visit your shop. That should be the last resort for most of us, not the first stop for a fix. The forums are full of failure stories because the design engineering is lousy.

    The reason management is pushing the techs is because they can't afford you either. :P

    Why do you want the techs and shops to fail?

    Who can afford to have a shop do all their work anymore? Why "fix" something when it's faster and cheaper to swap a known good part in and send the core off?

    Those of us who are cheap and still able-bodied enough to crawl under there and change our oil don't want to have to go to a shop. (And don't get me whining about vertical oil filters and splash shields that block the drain plug and filter; you'd think topside suction fittings would be standard by now).
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    The reason management is pushing the techs is because they can't afford you either

    When the day finally comes that you wake up and understand that what you cannot afford is us not being there, will it be too late to do something about it?
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,985
    edited November 2012
    That's up to the manufacturers to figure out. Right to repair may wake them up a bit on that score. For all the enthusiasts that post on this site, the vast majority of people are appliance drivers. No one pays to fix toasters or TIVOs but there are plenty of online resources telling you how to mess with them yourself if you want to.

    Cars are too costly to toss, but the younger urban crowd is simply tossing the idea of car ownership. The tariff is getting too high for the value. When you get down to it, no one wants to pay for a simple oil change, much less a replacement alternator.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    That's up to the manufacturers to figure out.

    Figure out? Since when is it in any manufacturers best interest to have a fleet of service ready technicians that can efficiently prolong a vehicles lifespan? That fox has been guarding the hen house way too long.


    Right to repair may wake them up a bit on that score. For all the enthusiasts that post on this site, the vast majority of people are appliance drivers


    Then maybe its time to come up with a new logo and marketing phrase. When I look at the top it says "The Car People" but what I'm often seeing here is anything but people who are totally into cars. There is a lot of the fluff stuff and what its like to own another one for a year but that really isn't getting into cars the way we do. We are coming up to the end of this year, and I'm counting pennies to decide what software packages I'm going to add to increase my vehicle support. I now have Suzuki for my Tech II, and I just aquired the Toyota Techstream. It would have been nice to put a new roof on the house but there isn't any more money. Maybe next year I'll be able to spend some on the house.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Is really talking about the same problem technicians face.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/magazine/skills-dont-pay-the-bills.html?pagewa- nted=1&_r=0

    For us we virtually own our own businesses inside someone elses. If yo go to work at one of those manufacturing jobs, you don't have to purchase your own machinery to do the work. The cost to replace my hand tools today could buy me a McDonalds franchise and have some money left over. Yet when I'm gone my daughter might just as well haul it all to the scrap recycler.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,985
    edited November 2012
    The manufacturers (Ford anyway) design parts to last ten years. That saves them money on warranty claims and makes for happy customers and earns them a good reputation for reliability.

    Ford and the rest are supposed to have a fleet of service ready techs already - they are called dealer franchise employees. That's worked out great - the dealer wants to maximize profits so they overcharge the customers and the manufacturers want to squeeze the dealers so they whack warranty dollars.

    People won't buy cars that break down in three to five years (they'll go buy Toyota and Honda) and at some point they won't be willing to pay for diagnostic fees. Especially to find out something they already know, like their door actuators that 100 other people are posting about online are broken.

    It was a brilliant move for AutoZone to drive traffic to their stores with free code reading. The manufacturers just need to shortcut that process so we don't have to leave our own garages.

    Following up on your NY Times article, maybe the solution is fast shipping of our cars off-shore since no one wants to go through the rigors of training for $10 an hour just to see their job get sent to India. Too bad the freight would be a killer because the repair by highly trained Chinese techs would be lots cheaper than what you'd have to pay at the neighborhood dealer.

    There's a business opportunity for you - freight up nice older cars and get them completely rehabbed off-shore from the frame up. Bring 'em back and resell them. Profit. Currently lots of those older cars just go to Mexico or Saudi and don't come back.
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