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Folks Of Interest Professional Mechanics

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Truckdoctor Andy, Oct 10, 2019.

    Joined: Jul 20, 2006
    Posts: 1,861


    Went to work in 1977 for an independent shop. Went to work for the Ford dealership in 1981. My hands started going bad so got into warranty administrator for an engine remanufactor. Then was in the parts end of it until a little over a year ago when I retired
    Truckdoctor Andy likes this.
  2. garyf
    Joined: Aug 11, 2006
    Posts: 200


    Look forward to a bad back, knees, no pension a large investment in tools and constant training to keep pace. There are a better professions out there and with what you have to know for what you are doing now, could master any one of them easily. Look around most auto repair shops are still without a/c, do you think they care about their employees ?
  3. X-cpe
    Joined: Mar 9, 2018
    Posts: 693


    You might try your local community college. I know where I teach they have non-credit courses on how to start and run a small business. Most small businesses that fail don't do so because of technical incompetence but because they don't know how to do the business side.
    deucemac, David Gersic, slack and 2 others like this.
  4. southcross2631
    Joined: Jan 20, 2013
    Posts: 2,943


    I started in the mechanic field when I was about 12 back in about 1962. Not by choice, my dad was a mechanic and said he needed my help and you did not say no to that man! I tried many other things to get away from being a mechanic, but the need to feed my self and my family always brought me back to being a mechanic
    I tried the feast or famine dealership deal and it just wasn't for me. I tried the independent repair shop deal , but always ended involved in the owners family problems.
    Went to fleet maintenance and never looked back. Worked at the Fred Harvey garage at the south rim of the Grand Canyon working on tourist's cars. Made good money with good benefits. One day I was standing inline at the bank and overheard one of the park service mechanics say he was transferring
    so I applied for the job and due to the fact that I was a veteran and was qualified and was already living there I got the job.
    Thought I needed to buy a house rather than living in a govt house I transferred to Delaware Water Gap NRA . in Pa. Once I got there I found out real quick that I could not afford a house in that area on a govt mechanic's salary. So it was time to transfer again.
    Found a job in south Ga. at the federal law enforcement training center. The housing was affordable
    and the weather was good. It was the best move I ever could have made. I found that I could buy a house and afford to race again. I did side work and with some help from securing the Huddle House restaurants sponsorship I was able to have successful dirt track racing operation going from a pure stock to a limited late model. After the track closed ,we went drag racing.
    Moved my way up from heavy mobile equipment mechanic to work leader retired from there in 2009. Now I draw a Govt. pension and social security. It was a good ride.
    Moved to Florida in 2012 to care for my mom after my stepdad passed away and opened my own Hot Rod shop , never advertised, never had a web site , never even had a sign out front but people found me by word of mouth and we were always busy until I had a falling out with my mom and she told me she did not need my help so I closed up shop and moved back to Tn. The only thing I work on now is my Morris Minor Gasser. I don't even change the oil in my daily.
    To all of the guys who are sick of their situations , you may have to pick up stakes and move to find where you belong. I have lived and worked in 8 different states and would not trade my adventures for living in the same house and the same town unhappy for my whole life. Yes moving sucks , but sometimes it is what you need to do.
  5. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 43,481


    my main suggestion is to try to figure out how to do it without having to borrow any money. It's tough, but that's the only way to actually get ahead, imho.

    Just jump in and do it. If it works, it works. If not, you can still get a job working for someone else.

    I did this 30 years ago, I didn't make a lot of money at it because I liked to work on other people's projects, instead of stuff like trucks, where the money is.
    slack, Truckdoctor Andy and Old wolf like this.
  6. Dennis D
    Joined: May 2, 2009
    Posts: 564

    Dennis D

    Worked as a mechanic most of my life. Crash and rescue equipment in the service, automotive and then went into the forklift industry after that. Switched over to the parts dept. for the last 10 or so years that I worked. Took me a long time to figure out that selling parts was a whole lot easier than installing them. D
    Boneyard51 likes this.
    Joined: May 5, 2015
    Posts: 592


    I went to a 2 year technical school for auto mechanics only to find out that I was to slow when I went out in the field. Work at a Chevy garage, had a good Boss and made a lot of friends. I found that you have to be good at troubleshooting and to repair only what is broken. Oh yea, don't clean and paint the valve covers when replacing the gaskets.
    loudbang and Boneyard51 like this.
  8. Boneyard51
    Joined: Dec 10, 2017
    Posts: 2,744


    Andy, just do it. Check with your local governments for permits, every locale is different. But you will need at least a sales tax permit. Here in Oklahoma, that comes from the state. You probably already know about flat rate and how much to charge per hour. Buy insurance.
    It would help if you could secure a large account before opening your own shop, but not absolutely necessary.
    Keep good records for tax purposes. Get a good bank and always use the same teller, they can help you if needed.
    But remember.... your in business to make money... not friends..... charge everyone! Business is business, separate it from friends! Choose your jobs! Brakes, water pumps, clutches + driveline... stuff like that makes money. Complete overhauls ..not so much.
    Keep it a one man shop, until you absolutely can’t anymore.
    File a business return on your Federal taxes. Find you a good tax man.
    These are most of the things you will need. Probably missed a few items.
    If I can do it.... I sure you can! I loved being my own boss and making decision for my own business.... right or wrong !

    Last edited: Oct 11, 2019
  9. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 43,481


    Spot on, Bones!
    Boneyard51 and Old wolf like this.
  10. I worked on trucks ,bulldozers anything diesel. and there was plenty of work. Its simply very hard to be able to charge enough to actually make money. Yea its a living. But I wanted to make real dollars. Then theres the problem of getting folks to pay their bill. Some folks have died owing me money. I still have their rubber checks! I went to driving trucks. Find someone who has their own cargo insurance and DOT authority. And work for 25% of gross revenues. and when you go to check them out take a hard look at their equiptment (Trucks & trailers ect. If its junk walk away. If they cannot do any better than that you cant make any money off them. I always told everyone up front I was there just for the money. I assumed they went into business just to make money.I wanted them to make money from whatever I did while in their employ. And I certainly wanted to earn as much as possible.
    Boneyard51 and Truckdoctor Andy like this.
  11. Its pretty easy to work every day and swap nickles.
    Boneyard51 likes this.
  12. Ok look around how many really old guys do you see turning wrenches? how many really old guys do you see still working walking around on concrete? now how many old dead peckers do you see still herding a 80,000 pound truck?
  13. Blues4U
    Joined: Oct 1, 2015
    Posts: 3,820

    from So Cal

    I turned wrenches professionally for 10 years for a couple of different heavy equipment dealerships, starting out as a mechanics helper and moving up through the ranks to journeyman Field Mechanic running my own truck outfitted with an air compressor, oxy-acetylene torches, Miller arc welder and an 8600# crane. I did that for a number of years, than I was moved into a Service Manager position because the place needed one and I was the most qualified for the job (meaning I was dumb enough to take the assignment). The Service Mgr job is the hardest job in the industry and I wouldn't advise anyone to do it. That job would've killed me if I'd had stayed with it. I put in more hours, worked the hardest of anyone and earned less than my mechanics did. Fortunately I was rescued by a head hunter that was hired by an international lubricants company looking for a technical services rep that was experienced in the heavy equipment business that they could train on lubricants. It was the perfect job for me and I grabbed it and never looked back. But I've continued working in the same industry ever since then, just from a different angle. Now, after 20 years in this business I'm the guru that gets paid to advise others on best practices.

    Anyway, the customers I work with are ALWAYS looking for good tech's, ALWAYS. There is always a shortage and a good man can easily get a great paying job. But it's hard work. At your age, you're not too old, in fact you're a prime example of just what they're looking for. With your experience you could easily transfer into the heavy equipment business. I'm assuming you can handle a welder and a torch; you won't have to do too much welding, they usually have certified welders for the serious stuff, and there's not much "body work" to do, but you do have to be reasonably good with a stick or wire feed welder, there will be cracked frames and other repairs that have to be handled. I'd say it's about 10% of the job. Get on a job assembling a large mining truck on site at a mine and you'll spend over a week doing nothing but running beads.

    But I'd recommend getting into the waste hauling (trash) business. I work with the 2 largest waste companies in the country, and again, they are always looking for techs, and more than that, they need smart guys that they can move up into Fleet Manager positions. That is not an easy job, it requires a lot of multi-tasking, but the rewards are really good. These are large companies with great benefits, full medical and retirement; and there is satisfaction working with other highly driven peers; and the industry rarely, if ever, suffers from economic slowdown. Even during recessions the trash keeps flowing, and it has to be collected and deposited in land fills. You can securely work until retirement, and it's a small industry. People that are good are often lured away from one employer to another with great incentives. That's where I would go. You're truck and equipment experience will transfer easily. And you already have the tools.
  14. Black_Sheep
    Joined: May 22, 2010
    Posts: 992


    I spent 30 years working on class 8 trucks, semi trailers, reefer units and assorted pieces of heavy equipment. I enjoyed the work but over the long term it took a toll on my body. Knee problems slowed me down but frequent bouts of tendinitis in my hands and elbows eventually forced me to look for less physical work. I still work in the industry as an account manager, taking care of parts and service customers for a large independent parts and service provider.
    Old wolf and Truckdoctor Andy like this.
  15. Boneyard51
    Joined: Dec 10, 2017
    Posts: 2,744


    Andy, as I stumbled into/ through my business, looking at the many items to work on and sell, I found my main money maker to be Zero turn lawn mowers! A good side business to go with a shop. Also don’t turn down agricultural ( tractors etc) work. It’s all made out of metal! And means money!
    Become a dealer in something that sells. One of my friends that has a lube shop that makes a fortune and on the side he sell race car stuff. Like the old saying goes” don't put all your eggs in one basket” .

    Last edited: Oct 11, 2019
    Truckdoctor Andy and Old wolf like this.
  16. Our local NAPA store had a Really sharp Machinist. He was there for decades. Then one day he just quit. Stated he could not walk on the concrete any longer. He wound up driving a truck pulling a gravel bucket for the local cement plant. He was home every night. went to the same places to pick up the raw materials. As you get older the joints & and muscles get worse and worser
  17. I should mention that along with decent pay and benefits we get long weekends Christmas holidays and I take two months off over the summer. Doesn’t get any better.

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
  18. Become a Specialist in all the things no one else wants to do. You’ll be swamped, you’ll have little competition, let it be known to the parts houses and other shops that you are their ass saver.
    Getting started without borrowing money means you’ve already saved a bunch or working doubles until the work load of your shop forces you to quit your day job.
    427 sleeper and Truckdoctor Andy like this.
  19. msgt tank
    Joined: Aug 14, 2018
    Posts: 11

    msgt tank

    i worked for a Ford car dealership for 20 years to the day. The diesel thing got so complicated with removing cabs and tons of add on wiring from government trucks just got the best of me. I didn't want to lay on a top side creeper all day with a monster headache. I didn't complain, i just knew it was time to put in my notice. I gave a six months notice and they didn't believe me until i loaded my tool box. My wife and i sell vintage car parts and get old projects running. I am grateful for the education i got from all the Ford training centers and other mechanics along the way. I hope someone learned something from me.
  20. bigdog
    Joined: Oct 30, 2002
    Posts: 481


    I had my own shop until health issues forced a change, now in auto parts. I see lots of decent mechanics opening their own shops, most of them fail. Why? Being a good mechanic does not mean you're a good business manager. Either take some business management classes or do a lot of studying on your own. Do your market research and figure out where your customers are going to come from. And figure you need to have enough operating capital to go three years before you show a profit.
    Truckdoctor Andy likes this.
  21. X-cpe
    Joined: Mar 9, 2018
    Posts: 693


    I tell my students the same thing. Now is the time to start planning your sideways or up move, so when your body quits you will be able to continue to meet your responsibilities.
    Truckdoctor Andy likes this.
  22. Tri-power37
    Joined: Feb 10, 2019
    Posts: 298


    My Grandfather and Father were mechanics that owned their own shop together. Then my father myself and two brothers have had the shop for 30 years. Dad passed away 10 years ago and my son and daughter have been working there about 10 years my son as a mechanic and my daughter runs the office. Now there is a nephew taking shop class in high school who doesn’t know his ass from a pork chop but he is a super nice kid who wants to learn.
    Truck doctor Andy the advice I can give is pretty simple. Word of mouth is all the advertising you will ever need. As already stated don’t ever do anything for free it is staggering what it costs to run a business- just be fair with charging and you will be fine. And I would be hesitant to open a garage solely by myself you can’t answer the phone, deal with walk-ins, price jobs, make invoices, book keeping and then work on cars all by yourself. Try and get at least one other mechanic or good apprentice and a nice lady in the office to keep the men and the office organized. Don’t neglect the office duties that is actually where you can sink or swim. Go for it you will do fine!
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  23. X-cpe
    Joined: Mar 9, 2018
    Posts: 693


    Reputation is everything. Thirty plus years ago I had a former student open his own shop in a 2 1/2 car bay. Pretty soon he had to hire a helper, then rent another bay and hire another mechanic. He outgrew that and moved to a bigger shop where he needed to keep 5/6 guys busy to make his nut. He later sold the business and did other things for a couple of years before he opened a new shop. A one man shop on the backside of a building with no road frontage. I saw him on Friday of his first week in business and his soonest appointments were for the next Friday.
    Boneyard51 likes this.
  24. deathrowdave
    Joined: May 27, 2014
    Posts: 1,791

    from NKy

    I was ASE line mechanic for 4 years fresh out of school . It’s a dog eat dog world. I would work on customers stuff as if it was my own . Rebuild , starters , alts, carbs , trans , etc. . Parts and Service Managers always raising hell , we don’t get commission on selling time to rebuild stuff , replace it was the moto. The last straw was an older gentleman came in with a factory office used car , it was knocking like a telegraph operator ! The service manager told the gentleman he didn’t hear a thing , come back if it gets worse . The gentleman exits and I saw him turn to the rear of the building , so I beat feet out the back and stopped him. I ask him if he changed his own oil . He was a bit pissed and ask me “ do you think I did his ? “ I told him Hell No ! I going to help you ! I told him take your car home drain the oil in a pan , screw the plug back in , and start it up , when it locks up , pour your oil back into the engine and call the Bastard and tell him it locked up . 2 hrs later the Gentleman is coming in riding in a tow truck his car in tow , locked up engine . The Service Manger says to me Damn it was knocking but I didn’t think that bad , I was hoping it would last until out of warranty . I told him your a rotten Bastard , to do this and I quit that day . Went to the Power Company , became a Stationary Engineer , and worked on everything from a pregnant whore to a basketball game !
  25. olscrounger
    Joined: Feb 23, 2008
    Posts: 3,497


    What he said. I was heading toward working on tractors etc but ended up at a Utility. Lineman etc to Supt-44 yrs. Son, two nephews, two son-in-laws and grandson all lineman. Great trade and always in demand--all are over $200K per yr. Right now there are several lineman jobs posted for $63 an hr and $30K signing bonus.
    jimmy six and Truckdoctor Andy like this.
  26. After 35+ plus years, I'm counting down the days....... Times, Methods, Knowledge has changed, which it's doing daily...... If it keeps up at this pace, i'll be an antique before retirement.......
    Instead of continuing on in the field somehow, and after a lifetime, or so it seems, I'm going to look at the garden section at Home Depot! Someone's gotta water the plants!
    Choose your own road, and good luck..... It's a love/hate, but you'll walk away with the skills that last forever.
    I'm over the daily routine. I'll be able to tinker when I want, and how.......
    Being a wrench isn't all that glamorous, but good money at times, but your body will suffer in time......
    Those that have been and done can attest............Good luck.
    Truckdoctor Andy and 427 sleeper like this.
  27. 2OLD2FAST
    Joined: Feb 3, 2010
    Posts: 1,735

    from illinois

    If you want to make $100K a year @ 2000 billable hrs = $50 hour X (at least) 3 so you can cover overhead ( rent , utilities , taxes , maintainance , accountant, workman's comp. ,Insurance , ,find a good insurance agent who knows business , your personal insurance as well as family , someone to do billing and inventory ( or do you want to do that for free?) . When medical professionals are finishing up Thier schooling they Have to take at least 2 semesters of business management. The point is , it's not easy being an entrepreneur , some times you name it , some times you don't . SALES , selling things is where big money is made , the service industry , not so much ... It's much easier working for someone else , you don't have to go back to the shop to , do books , clean , repair equipment , catch up what you're behind on , etc . You collect your check , gohome to the family ,and do what you like , you don't have to live your job ..
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2019
  28. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 16,179


    Not exactly. Selling things is not where it is at. You can only sell a thing once. If you want to sell another thing, you need to make another one.

    Selling services is where it is at. You can sell a service over an over again.

    The difference between a product and a service is this: If you can drop it on your foot, it is a product. If you cannot, it is a service (and no, the package that it comes in does not count).

    Software, for example, is not a product. It is a service. Why? You can sell it over and over again, for as long as people are willing to buy it.

    A car, or a car part is a product, once you sell it, it is gone.

    If you can produce something that does not disappear when you sell it, you can make big money.

    We start entry-level Software Engineers, right out of school, at $185,000/yr, with full benefits. In two years, if you are good, you will be over $200k. They only have to make it go once, and we can sell it hundreds-of-thousands of times.
    Truckdoctor Andy and Boneyard51 like this.
  29. I was an Automotive technician for 20 years. Switched to sales and photography, then switched to automotive inspector, then got sponsored and became an Automotive fire and mechanical investigator, shortly I will become a farmer.
    Truckdoctor Andy likes this.
  30. Boneyard51
    Joined: Dec 10, 2017
    Posts: 2,744


    Bullshit! When I was in business I made dollars selling equipment... made pennies servicing! If I had my choice, I would do no service ... only sell. But to be a good dealer you have to give service along with sales. Just my experiences.

    Truckdoctor Andy likes this.

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