15 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Auto Mechanics
The United States alone, roughly 750,000 auto mechanics work for long hours diagnosing and repairing, and preventing motor vehicle problems. But thanks to some stereotypical portrayals in media and a complicated vocabulary of car parts, drivers can sometimes feel like their ignorance could cause technicians to make use of their expertise. However, that’s not true, mechanics say–the techs are there to assist. For a better understanding of what their role entails, mental_floss spoke to a number of mechanics in mobile mechanic Raleigh North Carolina both independent repair shops and dealerships. Here’s a look at what happens following the car is parked.
1. THEY WISH YOU’D STOP WIPING BOOGERS ON YOUR SEAT.
The car is often the living room of a mobile home, with decorative accents along with music and dried snot. Charles is a mechanic who works at the Volkswagen dealership and also runs The humble Mechanic blog, has experienced a fair amount of nose gold when working on cars. “People seem to like picking their nose and wiping it on the seat,” the mechanic declares. For a clean job it is recommended that you bring in your vehicle without body fluids or other trash in. “Sometimes there’s a pile of filthy clothes on top of the spare or fast food wrappers lying on the floor, which we request customers to take off. Many cars are clean, however, people aren’t always clean.”
2. THERE’S A SPECIAL BOOK THAT TELLS THEM WHAT TO CHARGE–EVEN IF IT’S TOO MUCH.
Have you ever left feeling that you’ve overpaid for a repair mobile mechanic Philadelphia PA This is possible, but not entirely the fault of the shop. Most every mechanic working on a flat price (as as opposed to a per-hour cost) refers to an industry trade manual that estimates how long a typical repair can take. If you’ve spent, say, $200 for a two-hour job that a skilled mechanic could complete in 30 minutes, you’re still billed according to the manual, and you’re not entitled to a reimbursement.
The auto tool industry could be a part of the problem. “The way it becomes unfair is when a mechanic buys a new specialty tool that may cost $300 but that pays for itself quickly,” says Ryan who was a mechanic in Colorado. “It means they can do the job in less time, but the customer still pays for full time.”
3. THEY CAN FIND MICE AND SQUIRRELS STUCK IN YOUR AXLES.
Depending on which part of the nation you live in, the warmth of a car’s underbelly could be attractive to animals and rodents. Charles knows of acorns socked beneath hoods and caught a squirrel in the grill’s edge. “The biggest thing we see [in North Carolina] is chewed wires from mice,” he declares. “They’ll build a den in your airbox. I’ve also had to wash deer guts off.” In the event that you’re going to store your car for a prolonged period of period, Charles believes that some form repellent spray for rodents could be helpful.
4. THEY MIGHT RUN SOME ERRANDS IN YOUR CAR.
While few mechanics actually go out on joy rides, the fact that they’re not compensated for the time needed to test drive one means your new, spotless Honda might develop a surprise ketchup stain on the driver’s seat. “Basically, every vehicle needs to be driven to make sure the problem is resolved,” Ryan declares. “If you’re headed out to lunch and you need to confirm that, it makes sense to drive it down the road.”
5. THEY MIGHT RESCUE YOU IN A ROADSIDE EMERGENCY.
Though their individual morality differs, many mechanics feel they are obliged to stop when they see a driver stranded. “I do a lot of highway driving in the winter and the rule of thumb is if you see someone stranded on the highway, you stop and check on them,” says Ryan M., a mechanic from Winnipeg. “I’ve also pulled lots of vehicles out of ditches and off curbs.”
6. DEALERSHIPS HAVE ACCESS TO RESOURCES THAT PRIVATELY-OWNED SHOPS DON’T.
If you’ve ever thought about whether you should take your out-of-warranty vehicle in for repair in a smaller, locally owned repair shop rather than the dealer’s brand, here’s an idea to think about that many of these smaller companies can’t afford the kind of data provided by car manufacturers to help successfully diagnose and treat the issue. “We’re able to go deep into the Volkswagen brand,” Charles says. “There are plenty of sources that we can access that an independent company could not. We can access the engineers working on the car, if we require that. The car’s brand is an ally. Small shops aren’t likely to spend $15,000 a year [for that data] to be a specialist in one type of car. Once it’s outside their scope of knowledge, it makes more sense to go to an dealer.”
7. YOU’RE TECHNICALLY NOT ALLOWED IN THE GARAGE. EVER.
You’ve probably heard advice about getting a mechanic to show you the defective component to ensure they’re not simply performing work that they haven’t done. This requires a trip to the door which is prohibited and marked “Do Not Enter.” However, according to Ryan the mechanic, you’re not supposed to be back there no matter what reason. “Insurance companies don’t want customers in the garage, ever,” he states. “It’s not that dangerous, but it’s not supposed to happen.”
8. THEY SOMETIMES MAKE THEIR OWN TOOLS.
Although mechanics usually begin with their own tools, some even invest tens of thousands in supplies–there will always be instances where they’ll need to come up with a new idea. “A tool might be missing, or not put back in the right place,” mobile mechanic Long Island NY Charles states. “Or an organization may not produce what you require. I have a whole drawer of sockets that I have cut up and wrenches. Making a custom tool is enjoyable.”
9. THEY USE A COOKIE SHEET TO STAY ORGANIZED.
While cell phones have become useful to keep the track of when a piece must be assembled however, some mechanics prefer to organize their work by laying out pieces in a specific order. “If I’m working on a vehicle I’ve never seen before, and it’s a complicated job or a job spread out over multiple days like a transmission rebuild or something like that, I’ll take a cookie sheet and magnets and lay things out spatially to stay organized,” Ryan M. says. “You can also mark parts with a Sharpie.”
10. THEY DON’T ALWAYS PERFORM EVERY LITTLE TASK.
Vehicles that are in for maintenance are expected to go through numerous small adjustments, but that checklist of tasks can be ignored depending on how pressed for the time the technician is. “Stuff like lubricating door hinges or latching mechanisms gets missed all the time,” Ryan says. “It doesn’t affect performance at that moment, but it can over time.”