Auto Mechanic

Auto Mechanic

Charles ~ Humble Mechanic

Raleigh, NC

Male, 32

I am one of about 200 master certified VW techs in the USA. I do everything from basic maintenance, to advanced diagnosis. I eat, sleep and breathe VWs. I also have my own website dedicated to helping everyone to understand their car, and see the behind the scenes of being an auto mechanic. You can see more at

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Last Answer on October 20, 2013

Best Rated

Why aren't there more female mechanics? Do you actively try and hire them?

Asked by McCrmck over 5 years ago

This is a really good question, and not one that I have given much thought to. 1st, we actively try and hire the best, man, women, black, white, it does not really matter. We hire based on skill, knowledge and attitude. I have never seen a women fill out an application for a mechanic at my dealer. Now, as for the why. I think it has a lot to do with numbers. I am sure there are more "car guys" than "car girls". Most mechanics are "car people" in one way or another. That just works its way into the field. I have not worked with any female mechanics. I did go to tech school with a few female students. Most of them were awesome! Smart, logical, hard working, all things you need to be a mechanic. I can tell you that if a female wants to be a mechanic GO FOR IT!!!! Thanks for this question. It is something that I would like to know more about. I will update this post if I can find a good female mechanic to interview, and shed some light on what they think.

Is there a general rule of thumb where you tell clients they'd be better off junking the car than repairing? For example, if the repairs will cost more than X% of the value of the car?

Asked by Steiny over 5 years ago

I don't have a set value that I use. I take it case by case. Thankfully that is not something that comes up all the time. For me it is more about the total picture of the car. Lets say a car that is worth $5000 requires a $2000 repair. If that $2k repair will make that car run perfect for several years, and all the other maintenance is done, I would say do it. If that $2k repair will just "get the car by" then we need to look at the overall condition of the car. Does the car need a $2k repair plus $1000 worth of maintenance? I might say trade it in. I guess any time you get into the 30%-40% range you really need to consider the big picture.

Let's say a mechanic has a thriving shop - busy, profitable, happy employees, the works. If the mechanic wanted to, how could he scale that business? Obviously he could expand the existing shop or open others, but are there other less obvious ways?

Asked by 4 on the floor over 5 years ago

Interesting question. One that I will answer 2 ways. First, if you are just looking for more income to the shop(nothing wrong with that, it is why you are in business) You can do a few things. Consider rotating shifts. This will allow the mechanics more time off, while keeping the shop full. Consider 4 teams that rotate days off. This can allow mechanics to work 4 longer days. This will also allow you to be open longer. That is the next point. Staying open later 1 night a week can help. You will get the folks that work during normal business hours, and can not make arrangements to leave the car to get work done. Fine tune your processes. Can you switch to a computer system that will allow the repair order to be generated faster? Can you print the RO in advance? That will save time, and allow more focus on the customer. Those are a few things that you can do to bring straight money in. Now, here are some things that might not bring you financial capital(on the surface) but will 100% blow your competition out of the water. TEACH! What if you set aside 2 nights a month and held a clinic for your customers? Teach them how to do small things on their car, air filters, wiper blades easy maintenance stuff. Teach them what good oil looks like, and how to tell if their coolant needs to be flushed. You might not make a ton of money that night, but the social capital you will build will be priceless. Offer the same type of class to the local high school drivers ed students. We teach kids how to drive, but nothing about changing a tire. THAT will set you apart. Start a blog( you can see my site for what I am talking about here) Much like the class, you can show folks what to do, what not to do, and share some of the crazy things that us mechanics see. Think in the terms of "likeable expert". Not only are you telling people how awesome your shop is, you are SHOWING them. I hope that can help spark an idea or two for you shop. Feel free to email me Charles (at) Humblemechanic.com maybe we can bounce some more ideas around!!!

Awesome thread, just read through it twice. Does being an auto mechanic translate into being handy in other non-auto areas (like household stuff and plumbing)?

Asked by Jacko over 5 years ago

Thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate that. It does some what. Although not as much as I would like ;) I will say that it does let me know what I am NOT capable of doing, or maybe what is better left to the pros. Things like drywall work and advanced wiring for the house. The cool thing is, I have a ton of tools to do many different jobs.tive tex I have started getting into working with wood. I built this hutch for my tool box. Mechanic Tool Box It came out really good. The Snap-on hutch costs about $3000. I spent about $250 to build that hutch. I figured that I had a few shots at making a hutch before I even came close to the snap on hutch. HAHA.

Is there a particular book or video that you'd recommend to the auto-ignorant that'll at least give us a general overview about how the main parts of the car work so we're not TOTALLY clueless when we visit a mechanic?

Asked by Mellie over 5 years ago

The average customer should turn to their owners manual. That will at least have maintenance schedule. It will keep you from paying for a service when it is not due. I have yet to find a "how a car works" type book that is worth a darn. So I am working on one. I want people to feel good bringing their car in for service. More like visiting a friend, rather than worrying "How am I going to get screwed this time" Start with your owners book. It is one of the most under used resources in the industry. I use customers books all the time. I can't know every feature on every car, so that is where I turn. If you happen to be put on the spot with a repair, ask the mechanic or service advisor to SHOW you the problem, and explain what is going on. If they can't or wont, get the heck out of there!

I've heard about mechanics adding charges to the bill that really should just be a costs of doing business, like charging for oil rags and other misc supplies used during a servicing. Should I be fighting those types of charges or do you defend them?

Asked by Dr. Mike over 5 years ago

It is the shop that adds that stuff not the mechanics. But that is not really your question ;) My dealer adds "shop supplies" to every job. They cap it at $20. There are times when we wave that fee just to help a customer out. I have really mixed feelings about the charge. You can make a good case either way. We could just add it to the cost of labor. Then when you compare labor costs we will be a few dollars higher. We can bill exactly what we use on each job. Then a customer will question why we used 2 shop rags instead of just 1. We don't bill separate for things like washer fluid, p/s fluid/ cleaner and so on. They are billed as part of the shop supplies. That is a charge that you can easily get removed. Just be cool about it and ask the shop to help you out. The customer that throws a big fit, and yells and screws about it, rarely get them removed. It is the shop that adds the charges, not the advisor that gets yelled at for it. Hope that helps. Charles

Is there a consensus among insiders as to what car brands are most/least likely to end up in the shop for repairs? Is there a particular make/model that you'd advise everyone to stay far away from?

Asked by samsam over 5 years ago

There are some common "great" cars. Most folks will say that Toyota is the best car on the road. Ask the folks at the dealers how that worked out a few years back. Then you read about how all german cars are trouble. Here is the facts. ALL brands have issues. Some more than others, but they all do. Cars will break, parts will fail, people will fail to maintain their cars properly. Then there is the fan mentality. Some folks are die hard Ford people. Me, I will not own another ford again. The one I had was junk. But I will also not own a Honda again. The service at my local Honda dealer was awful. The worst part was, I work for the company that owned the dealer. Brands that were thought of as bad years ago have really come along way(Hyundai and Kia). As long as you understand that all cars will break, buy the car that fits you and your needs. Oh, and good MPG doesn't hurt either.