How Far Can Ambition Take You In Automotive?

Michael Mobile Technician Utah Posted   Latest   Edited  

I have been thinking about my long automotive career. I am now 54 years old. I started into it at age 16 working at a body shop. Many of my friends in the business who have remained technicians have bodies that are telling them it is time to do something else. I have been fortunate to find a part of the business that does not require heavy lifting.

All of my life I have been ambitious. I have taken risks, failed and failed again. I have scored Blue Chip jobs only to have the rug pulled out at a time I thought I could retire with said company. I have discovered that I love teaching. What if I could of done this 20 years ago. where would I be now? Kind of a silly question. The past is the past, the present the present and the future the future.

I spent over two decades working under a hood. I was a go getter. I stayed late and came in early. Where did it get me? Working as a tech where do you advance to? Lead tech? What does that mean? In most cases it means you assist the up and coming techs while trying to get your work done at the same time. If on flat rate, it does not add up. I suppose many are happy to take on the daily challenges of automotive repair. They are satisfied with what they are doing. The bills get paid. What if you wanted more and it just is not there?

That was me. It took me on a very painful journey. I got into selling scan tools for a large company. I could not sell directly, it had to go through a parts store or some other company affiliate. It ended up being a financial disaster.

The good thing was that it opened my eyes to tools that I had never seen before. What inspired me to join up was a presentation by Bob Pattengale where he showed a injector waveform. He showed us that the injector pintle was broken inside. The injector “clicked” but no fuel was being delivered. There was no pintle hump. That was the tell tale. That was an “Aha” moment. That sparked my interest in more advanced tools. I was in my 40s at the time. The only use I had ever seen for labscopes was for ignition. I became a diagnostic tool junkie. Even though these new tools allowed me to be a better technician, it seemed that the shop I worked at made making money more and more difficult. I tried serving two masters. The diagnostic tool company and the shop. It just did not work well. The shop and I soon parted ways. I soon learned I was on the downward slope of what was once a good product offering. There was a company merger. I got out.

I worked for two other large companies. Both gave me a great opportunity. In the end, neither were the best fit. Again, I was on my own. I had to make a decision. Do I look for another job or do I try something on my own? I decided I wanted to be responsible for my own destiny. With my son, we formed a company that programs vehicle computers. We had already been doing some programming on a part time basis. Now it was game on! This has been a great opportunity. It has paid the bills. But there was an itch that needed to be scratched. I love teaching. Both my parents were teachers. I guess it is in my blood.

Over the last 9 months I have experimented with training. Just recently, I have partnered with a highly ambitious and talented technician. Pedro De Le Torre is exactly what makes our training company work. Last week we taught classes in California and Nevada. It took my old bones 3 days to recover but what a great time we had!

I wonder if the true evolution of an Automotive Technician is not just to diagnose and swap parts for 30 years but a journey of exploration, wonder and discovery. Many techs move on to work in schools. Some go to the parts world, Some go into like industries. Some are satisfied right where they are. Of course there are lots of ways to find wonder and discovery. It does not have to be in the workplace. For me, I am just never satisfied. I always want to do more. What is out there, what is next? Where can we go from here? What can we do to improve the industry, have fun and make some money along the way?

I suspect I rambled. I should be out working. Hopefully there is some sort of moral to this story…..

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Jonathan Technician
New Hampshire
Jonathan
 

WOW Mike! So as I’m currently reading your story. I am at a crossroads of my own. Do I keep wrenching or take an opportunity I have recently received in the mobile diagnostic field. Thank you for writing this piece. It has given me a lot to think about which path to take.

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Joel Diagnostician
California
Joel
 

Thanks for sharing your story is wonderful, this is me I wanted to go to the next level as well I love teaching.

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Hiram Owner/Technician
California
Hiram
 

Hi Michael great article glad you shared some personal items, I understand and somewhat on the same path the difference is I am in my retirement years as they say. My bones too hurt at times. I own a full service shop have been for 33 yrs. It seems its getting harder and harder to run. I've been full circle and it seems I have made good decisions also many poor ones along the way. Now its seems…

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John Owner
California
John
 

Hey Michael, I'm 50 years in our profession as a tech and shop owner. I'm still enjoying the daily but have taken the last 5 to delegate away my tasks as i prepare to escape. I think everything depends on your core personality and life goals. Personally i like to train the new techs into our great auto world.

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Bob Technician
Massachusetts
Bob
   

Mike, That was an interesting story and one which i can relate to. I guess the moral of the story is don't get stuck in a rut and don't be afraid to broaden your horizons. I have travelled some similar paths over the years. I'm a little ahead of you in years and also felt the need to change my situation to go easier on my body. Consequently, i have recently made some huge changes in my career…

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William Technician
West Virginia
William
 

As a dealer technician (very much in the grind), this speaks to me immensely. Thank you for sharing your story!

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hello Michael, I too started out in a body shop and it did not take me long to figure out there was no such thing as an ‘old body man’. Most were middle age and in poor health after breathing dust and fumes in the shop all day. Dust masks were rare and a cheap respirator was only used when spraying enamel finishes. Of course back then a body man had to know and work on all systems of any…

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Matthew Owner/Technician
Oregon
Matthew
 

What a great and interesting path you've been on. I see your replies and comments often and have wondered how you got to where you are now. I feel like I'm probably an anomaly in the automotive industry and in my field in general. I'm turning 50 this June and have been heavily into the automotive repair part of things for over 25 years. Almost all of that self employed. I grew up most of my…

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Craig Diagnostician
Illinois
Craig
   

Michael, if lives were electrical circuits we are obviously on the same parallel path. I just went 50 times around the sun today and I have wandered many of the paths as you. Training, equipment sales, state emissions referee, I think it all comes down to being a constant problem solver, willing to change directions, learn quickly, and fix things be it mechanical or professional. Keep learning…

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Bruce Owner/Technician
Massachusetts
Bruce
 

Great story, some of the challenges you've been through in this field are universal. I began in my (now ex) father-in-law's body shop, went from a newbie to doing it all, licensed appraiser, frame repair, bodywork, painting, and wet sand and buff. Where the frame repair was more mechanical, I transitioned into mechanical work. Mid divorce left and went to a Ford dealership. Took advantage of…

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Michael Mobile Technician
Utah
Michael
 

Bruce G, It would be fun to compile a book from all our experiences. This way when those that come after us fall down, they know they can get up, dust off and move forward. Failure and Triumph are part of the American Dream.

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Fred Business Development Manager
California
Fred
 

Amtrak maintenance: GREAT suggestion Bruce!

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Bruce Owner/Technician
Texas
Bruce
 

Michael, I also tried the diagnostics sales with the same “big company”. When they took away our ability to direct sell, I saw the writing on the wall. I told my regional that there was no way a parts house outside sales rep was going to move our product for us. They obviously never looked into the daily life of these parts house guys. I left them in summer of 2010. Some hung in there until the…

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Michael Mobile Technician
Utah
Michael
   

Hi Bruce A, About six months ago a position opened up at the local trade tech. The wage was better than I currently make as a mobile guy and the benefits were outstanding. I thought maybe it would be a good compromise. I was not hired. It turns out I did not fit into their culture? Nobody would give me a straight answer. I am sure due to hiring and HR laws. So that just solidified that if I…

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Bruce Owner/Technician
Texas
Bruce
 

15-20 years? I am only 56 but after a time in the Army and then 30 Plus in the automotive repair industry, I feel like I am 80. I worked my tail off when I was younger usually making a six figure income as a mechanic, flat rate of course. Even now, I make good money but trying to grow the business is difficult as a lot of those who think this looks easy can't handle learning multiple diagnostic…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Bruce A., I worked in San Antonio for quite a few years and I know as well as you, the general thought is ‘Any Monkey can be a Technician’. I was glad to find Slim's Automotive back in the day. They pushed the techs to test and prove out any problems. It was not a ‘parts cannon’ shop like we see so many of today. I started out in Virginia and the automotive industry was at the time very…

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Bruce Owner/Technician
Texas
Bruce
 

Glenn, You would not believe how many times I go to a shop to do programming and the techs are sitting around watching Netflix or playing solitare on a PC instead of brushing up on their craft. I am always reading up on news bulletins (emails) from the auto repair, collision repair,and glass industries as I have to be on top of my game. I usually get things that are not even in MOD, NoData, or…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Bruce, I see this modern tech issue as well. Seems like they a burned out from showing up to work, much less actually working? Media and internet has caused excess distraction in todays world. Recently, I was called to an AG dealer to perform a cab tractor DEF and engine harness replacement. It was not burned or damaged anywhere, but the flunky tech and telephone tech support determined…

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Jesse Owner/Technician
Pennsylvania
Jesse
 

Hello guys, it is interesting hear other rant sometimes, heres something to think about, automotive has the best training for electronics by far, the computerization on heavy equipment is a bit daunting because of custumizabilty, although they use the same electronic systems such 5v ref, hall effect, analog inputs, all of sensor types as automotive, the stuff is just bigger, takes bigger…

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Jason Technician
Georgia
Jason
 

Hi Michael, as well as others. Been reading this and nothing but excellent posts, I hope I don't mess it up. Ambition, motivation, drive, or whatever you want to call it, is a HUGE factor in anything. You need a goal to keep this journey going. I believe that being challenged creates a goal, in which you may have to learn and evolve to meet the challenge, where when it's over you see the growth…

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