Top Ten Reasons Not To Become An Automotive Mechanic:
#1: Automotive Technicians in 2019 Just Don’t Make Enough Money
Automotive technicians just don’t make that much money. Whether you are working for a dealership doing service or working at a full independent automotive repair shop. The money basically sucks.
You have to be a top level mechanic to be able to beat the flat rate system at dealerships. Guess what? As you get older you may have more experience, but just can’t hustle as fast. Despite the fact that you are doing a better repair than the new freckled 20-year-old technician, you’ll be making less money.
The only people that make the big bucks are the owners of the shops and the corporate headquarters. Which is also rare that shop owners are really crushing it with money and profit.
The first people to be taken advantage of on the totem pole are the workers and the technicians.
If you own a repair shop you want the young technicians that are cheaper to pay. Maybe keep one or two experienced guys on, and let the rest go. They can fix whatever problems the young guys can’t, and yet you only have to pay a couple of them. The rest of the grunt work/oil changes / easy part swaps can all be done by the young guys.
Independent shops also don’t pay their technicians great. You will not become rich in fixing cars.
My advice to you if you want to get into automotive repair in 2018 is to focus specifically on the electronic diagnosis.
You want to stand out from the crowd by being able to use an oscilloscope and scan tool to diagnose hard to figure out electrical problems. This is where the automotive industry is headed and this is where the only technicians that will be making decent money without ruining their bodies will be.
How Can You Make The Most Money Working on Cars in 2019?
Better yet start out your own shop that specializes in Euro, Diesels, or Transmissions. These will lead you to the most money / less of pain in the butt.
The shops in Santa Cruz California and other parts of California that I see do the best are the ones that specialize. The BMW repair shop that always has its bays full of the newest and nicest BMW’s.
You want the high-dollar customers that have expensive cars ideally. You also want to work on the same brand day in and day out and know them like the back of your hand. Also, since most new cars require intense amounts of diagnostic equipment. You will only have to invest in one or two sets of the equipment for the specific brand you specialize in.
Ideally, you want the customer that watop-levelevel service and is willing to pay for it. You do not want to be the shop that the person brings their 1986 Honda accord in and wonders if you can get it to pass smog for $100. They mention they will pay cash, and “not tell anyone.”
Trust me, that is not the type of customer you want. But that is the type of customer you will get if your only focus is on repairing any and all cars, and at a great price. You’ll not make much money and never get ahead.
#2 Your Health Will Suffer Being an Automotive Technician for Life
This one is pretty straightforward working on cars is straight-up bad for you. From my time reading from older technicians they complained of back pain, wrist pain, and an overall feeling that they beat themselves up working on cars. Mix in a lot of breathing in brake cleaner, brake dust, and loud noises. You got a great recipe for leaving you with a ton of injuries.
I also think you should consider the chemical damage you do to your brain by breathing in all the different chemicals that technicians use on a daily basis. I know as well as you that you are not always wearing your respirator when you should, just like it’s it’s hard to find your safety glasses every time.
Most mechanics aren’t the kind of people that overly care about their safety or their health.
Most of us just want to pick up a wrench and start going. For me, it is hard for me to slow down enough to even put gloves on. Let alone change out of my nice clothes, before climbing under the car. I just want to go, and many mechanics are the same way. Time is money. Stopping to find your respirator or glasses means you’re falling behind on your shop time.
it is not a good mix for your future health that you and I and people that enjoy working on cars are like this. Mix it with an industry that is pretty unregulated in terms of safety for employees at shops, and the technicians pay the price later in life.
I cannot stress enough how much I think you should be taking precautions if you are working on cars today to alleviate some of this stress to your body. I know that it’s an unpopular opinion and other people may make fun of you for wearing a respirator while doing a brake job. But if you’re going to be doing car repair on a daily basis please protect your lungs, eyes, and ears.
#3 You Will Have To Deal With Disrespectful Customers & A Bad Reputation
Pretty much everyone in the world has either driven a car or rode in one. Humans everyday hop into a car and put our lives in the hands of the mechanic that last worked on it. What would happen if that technician had broken your brake line on accident? Or forgot to torque down your lug nuts past 20 ft lbs?
Technicians know they have your safety in their hands every day. If they make a mistake that could’ve potentially caused someone harm, they have to live with that. It is a job where no one respects you, but at the same time, you’re trusted with peoples lives and safety.
However, people have about as much respect for mechanics as they do for an insurance salesman.
Did a couple of bad apples ruin it for me and you? Yes. Is there still a majority of good technicians out there? Yup, but that doesn’t make a good story on NBC or CNN. They’d rather do a story about people getting ripped off by dealership technicians, or the oil change spot that didn’t actually change the oil.
Doesn’t it suck being an honest technician and having people expect that you are ripping them off? Absolutely, it blows. No sir you really do need to change your air filter, I am not just recommending that because “everyone always says that.”
Even giving people free advice as friends can be a hassle. It can be frustrating to tell someone the right way to go about fixing their car, only to watch as they take it to someone else and spend a ton of money on stuff they didn’t need.
People also expect you to diagnose their cars for free. They don’t understand that you don’t want to work outside of work just as much as they don’t. Plus, what can they help you with? They better be buying you some beer or giving you some cash. How often have you called them at 11 pm to ask what the correct temperature is to bake some muffins at. Or for some tips on how to file papers properly.
Overall I think the general public has a distaste for mechanics that isn’t deserved. If you’re a technician you have a level of skill that is comparable to doctors, surgeons, and every other profession. My friend who was a technician for 30 years once sat next to a brain surgeon on a plane. When the surgeon asked him what he did, he laughed and said its nothing compared to you, I just fixed cars for 30 years.
Is being a brain surgeon similar to being a mechanic?
The brain surgeon looked at him and said with all seriousness, “yeah, brain surgery really isn’t that different.” Are all technicians book smart enough to become brain surgeons? No. But the skill of drilling out a broken bolt, or diagnosing electrical faults parallels many things doctors do. You learn that the same things apply to both worlds as well.
Do doctors keep stuff clean? Are they using adhesives to put things together? Are they sure they have the right tools?
Do they double check their work to make everything is done and torqued properly? Absolutely.
I get it some people get into this career because they absolutely love fixing cars. For you, I have no advice other than please take care of yourself and find a job or start a shop where you can be a self-respecting technician.
#4 As a Mechanic You Are A Disposable Employee To A Shop Owner
As a technician working for someone else, you are a disposable unit. There are always more technicians looking for work than there are quality jobs out there. Sure, it may be a pain in the butt for the dealership to replace you, but you can bet they will. Being a mechanic just doesn’t give you much job security at all.
If you do not want to be a disposable part of the business you need to learn other areas in which you can excel. Study business, learn how to open your own shop and think of new ways to be constantly staying at the leading edge of automotive repair.
That way at least you can always have some skills that are applicable to the market. You want to be the guy the other technicians come to when they can’t diagnose a problem. You want to be the man diagnosing the problems so the other guy can change the parts.
#5 General Drama at the Workplace (Not Much Team Mentality)
If you work at a dealership and have to deal with service technicians and a service manager quite often these relationships become very antagonistic.
Most technicians at dealerships do not particularly like their service managers, and the same can be said for the service writer and the technicians.
Why Do Coworkers Not Get Along in Automotive Shops?
Everybody is pissed at everybody, and no one is being paid enough.
Say for example a customer comes back two weeks after having their car repaired. It is a woman, retired, who is completely fired up and now yelling at the service writer that he needs to do something about it. Despite the fact that it had been two weeks, and the scratch is so blatantly obvious that there is no way it left the shop like that.
The service writer goes and asks the technician, who denies leaving any such scratch– and points out that the customer had the car for two whole weeks before bringing it back in. The technician laughs at the service writer and says good luck with the crazy lady.
The service writer now goes back and tells the woman that he can’t do anything about the scratch because it has been too long. He also tries to say nicely that the technician says he would never of left a scratch without seeing it, and that she should’ve brought it up sooner. Too much time has passed, sorry the writer says.
She steps up her game and is now yelling loud enough that all the customers in the waiting room are turning their heads. The salespeople are now giving the service writer a look of absolute disgust. Their eyes say everything “makes this woman shut up!”
So, the service writer says “ok ok ma’am please calm down, we will take care of the scratch for you”. Now, he goes back to tell the service manager that he has approved her scratch repair request which will cost the dealership $500 for a new panel.
Then the service writer gets yelled at by the service manager for approving her work order when she was clearly lying.
Now the technician that gets blamed for the scratch on the car but the woman made up also gets yelled at by the service manager even though he didn’t do it. do you see how it’s a cyclical relationship of people being upset and taken advantage of?
Is this someplace I dream of working? Heck no. Do I think you should try to work in this environment? Not a chance. If you’re even reading this, you respect yourself enough to realize this isn’t a good work environment.
Are independent repair shops better than working at a chain or dealership?
Yes, most people will say to avoid dealerships and chain stores like the plague. I am not saying this is true of every shop. And if you work in a shop where this isn’t the case, stay there! However, the fact that this situation happens often enough that all technicians know about it– means that you should be aware of it. Chain stores typically treat you like a disposable item and don’t pay well. Independent shops typically treat you more like a fellow human, and if you prove yourself you get paid more.
I don’t know about you but I want to work in a place where the customers respect me and the people working there also respect each other. I think that this is hard to find in the automotive world and if you can stay there, learn how the owner created that environment, and apply it in your own shop.
#6 The Worst Customers In Any Industry / Service Job
Not every customer sucks but the ones in the automotive industry suck more than any other.
Why? Because they have the advantage of the general public assuming that all mechanics and technicians are hacks and not to be trusted.
That means that even if you did everything correctly if that customer complains loud enough and with a big enough microphone people will listen and assume that they are telling the truth.
This happens at an insane level in the automotive industry. Someone brings their car in for routine service and ends up back again in a week claiming that now their transmission is broken and it is your fault.
Yet, you explain you didn’t touch anything to do with the transmission and there’s no way you changing their air filter broke their transmission.
The customer doesn’t stop however, they threaten bad yelp reviews, facebook reviews, and disputing the credit card charges. They then say they have a lawyer in the family and you can expect to be in small claims court.
You run a full-time auto shop and have two kids. You don’t have any time to deal with going to court, yet you’re just getting started out as a shop. If this person posts all this bad stuff about you, your business will be hurt. No one in the community will trust you. Everything was going so smoothly, you think.
Guess what? You probably just have to eat the repair and replace her transmission for her. This is an extreme example, but this kinda stuff happens all day every day. Swap the word transmission with AC Condensor, heater core, or starter. Still the same story, you’re blamed for something you are %99 positive had nothing to do with you. But to keep a customer happy you have to eat it.
Are some automotive repair shops hacks/scammers?
Yes, there are plenty of shops that are dishonest and deserve to be called out. It is the same as any other industry (plumbing, electricians, and doctors even). The issue boils down to this there are certain shops that deserve to be called out for being scammers and hacks.
If you’re going to get into the automotive repair world you need to find a shop that has an unbeatable reputation. They do not scam people and that they have repeat customers.
You want to work for a place that doesn’t care about the one customer complaining for make-believe problems. You want to work at the shop that tells the scammer customers to take their business else where, and “we will happily see you in court.”
#7 The Tools You Have To Buy To Be Even An Entry Level Technician
What other job are you expected to buy $30,000 in tools only to be used in someone else’s shop where they pay you a less-than-great wage?
Read this study here that found the average investment of new technicians to be around 7-11,000 dollars.
It also is an industry that has a culture of spending incredible amounts of money on tools in order to fit in. That is the dumbest part of the industry to me. Being an outsider looking in the fact that so many technicians have become slaves to the tool brands really blows my mind.
Consumerism has hit this career hard, and the culture of having the best tools despite the price tag has led to a lot of exploitation from tool manufacturers. Sure, having quality tools is great. But a big expensive box to put them in, because that is what everyone else has? Stupid.
Don’t have a Snap-On rolling tool box? You aren’t a professional technician in the eyes of a lot of others.
To me, this is one of the biggest drawbacks of being an automotive technician that people do not talk about. You are going to go into debt in the beginning buying tools. This is never a good idea especially when you are starting a career that you are unsure about.
My recommendation is to not buy the most expensive tool cart and to not run out to the Snap-on tool truck every time it comes by.
Buy used tools, buy tools from someone that is leaving the industry, buy tools online that aren’t Snap-on to start. Buy specialty tools if you will actually use them more than once.
This is also another reason why I feel people that want to get into repair work and technician work should definitely look into the aviation industry.
They are looking for new technicians in 2018 and beyond, and you get to use the highest level tools provided to you by your employer.
I am talking tool boxes that are stocked with $100,000’s of tools just for you. Who can access those tools? Just you with your chip activated secured tool box. Sound pretty sweet? Yeah, it is.
Not to mention being an automotive technician is a less-than-reputable career, but imagine telling people you work on Boeing 747s and are flown around the country to fix them.
Sound like more respect? I think so.
#8 What Do Real Technicians Say About Being A Technician? I Asked– Here it is:
Guess what? They pretty much all say they wish they had chosen a different career. Or that while they complain a lot about the job, they still love it– but, it is far from a glowing review of the daily life of a mechanic/technician.
Sure, some say they can’t imagine doing anything else but they also admit that there are a lot of difficulties in the automotive repair world the other careers do not suffer. I think it would do better justice to you to just post their responses as screenshots to my original question. This discussion took place in a facebook group for Professional Automotive Technicians. It is a closed group and most of the members are actually working in the automotive sector in 2018. Some for 30+ years and others that are just getting started.
They all paint a pretty bleak outlook of the automotive industry and being a technician in 2018. However, they also give some great tips for what to focus on if you still want to pursue it as a career in 2018.
Many technicians were they wish they had become electricians, plumbers, contractors or anything else where they got to still use their hands but we’re apart of a respected career. You get more beat up doing the automotive repair then they would doing the construction or electrical work. It is just insane how bad doing car repair day in and day out is on your body.
#9 The School & Certificates (Even Though It is Arguable Whether it Helps or Not)
Ever heard of an ASE? Automotive Service Excellence. Basically, it tests you take / classes that once you pass you become a certified ASE technician. You have to keep retaking the tests (paying more money) every couple of years to keep up to date. It is the industry standard for general automotive technicians, and most shops will have at least one ASE certified technician on hand so they can post up the placards all over the shop.
Is the actual guy changing your oil, tires, or working on your brakes ASE certified? Well, chances are unless the shop makes a point of saying every technician is ASE certified they aren’t.
There are tons of programs out there focused on getting you to pay loads of money to get a degree in automotive repair.
They want you to pay them so that you can pass a test and put up their sign or badge on your jacket.
Does having certification in 2018 mean you’re a better technician? Maybe. Or it means you’re lacking real experience, and can’t actually wrench.
But are there plenty of horrible mechanics out there that have ASE certifications? Absolutely.
Bottom line is that more schooling and having certifications will never hurt you.
If I were you and thinking of going this to a route I would look into specific schools so you can be an expert in one thing (say diesel technician, or electrical diagnosis). This site gives you an overview of types of certifications (associates degree or one-year certification) and costs.
That is where you will be able to come out of school with a specific career path in mind and be miles ahead of the competition.
#10 There Are Many Better Career Choices Than Being An Automotive Technician
I like the idea of loving my job and the people around me. I like the idea of serving people and having them respect what I do.
Will you be respected as a smart, trustworthy human in the automotive industry? Probably not.
The few times it does happen will feel like magic.
You will be the only one celebrating that you caught that dangerous problem before it cause someone to lose control on the freeway. Usually, no one will be there to pat you on the back when you find out why the person’s brakes were locking up unexpectedly.
It just isn’t a career that gives you that kind of satisfaction on a daily level. Victories will be celebrated by yourself.
When you do talk to the customer oftentimes your enthusiasm will be met with suspicion.
For certain people, they love being technicians, and I don’t want to say that is not for everyone. I
You should go into it with the right knowledge and know that the drawbacks of being an automotive technician in 2018 are real.
There are plenty of careers out there you can learn faster and make more money at.
Even being a plumber or an electrician can provide you a much more fruitful future, and much less damaging on your body.
If you really love the idea of wrenching and fixing cool things please check out the aviation industry. They are desperate for new technicians, read about it here, and they are willing to pay better than the automotive world.
You can learn about planes, you can get flown around the country to fix them, and you can use the best tools that exist daily. Read about the pros and cons of being an A&P mechanic here.
Also, not everyone will think you’re a crook when you tell them what you do for a career.
Somehow, even though people trust their lives in cars every day they somehow do not respect mechanics.
That’s a disturbing fact and I hope it changes in the future. From all the technicians and mechanics out there, we thank you for being a respectful/trusting customer.
I don’t want to tell you that you should absolutely never become an automotive technician. I encourage you to learn everything about the pros and cons of being an automotive technician before deciding for yourself.
Learn the skills, become a top technician, and never stop being on the cutting edge of technology and diagnostic equipment.