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Mechanic's "Ten Commandments" And Tips

jimmy123456789

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I put lots of thought into bettering my craft as an auto mechanic and have come up with my own “ten commandments” of sorts to both help myself and the other guys in the field.

1. NEVER LIE OR BE DISHONEST WITH CUSTOMERS. There’s too much legitimate work on vehicles out there to EVER lie to a customer or feed them a line of BS. This is the biggest plague on the automotive industry. Guy’s will call a leaking oil pan and clean up the leak with brake cleaner, or only change one bank when doing a tune up because “the back ones are a PITA” If that’s your attitude, GTFO of this business.

2. Always make things easier for the next guy. Whether that’s spraying down tie rods and cam bolts to free them up before doing an alignment, putting anti seize (I’m starting to like Fluid Film for this application better) on hubs to prevent brake rotors from rusting on, or inside knuckles before replacing hub assemblies,etc. For instance, if I replace an outer tie rod, I will wire wheel the threads of the inner tie rod, run the jam nut back and forth to free it up for when an alignment is done. No sense in fighting with rusty, crusty stuff. Anti-seize goes on bolts that are known to either seize and snap off, such as Jeep Wrangler rear shock bolts, or seize in place, such as Chevy truck upper control arm cam bolts or Ram 1500 lower strut bolts.

3. Use the right tool for the job. Your hands are not hammers, don’t use your hands or legs to break things loose (kicking stick on wheels, hitting the ratchet/wrench/prybar with your hand to break a bolt loose,etc.). Your ratchet, wrench, impact, etc. are also not hammers. Don’t use SAE sockets on metric because it’s “close enough” (there are exceptions to this, such as 5/16 and 8mm). Don’t use a 1/2 impact and 2 reducers on a 7mm bolt. I’m so lazy I’ve gotten to the point to where I’ll rarely use an actual hammer, I prefer using the air hammer with a flat chisel bit to remove rotors, a pointed tip to get hub assemblies to spin in the knuckle and come right out. Saves wear and tear on your body too.

4. Torque wrenches exist for a reason, use them! With most things, once you get an experienced “feel” for how tight things should be, you can get pretty close with your hands or air/electric tools, but I still break out the the torque wrench for EVERY wheel I put on. Too many guys go gung-ho with the impact and make things WAY too tight. Even things as simple as oil filters. Bottom it out and give it 3/4 to 1 turn. I should NOT need a 1/2 breaker bar with a cheater pipe to take out an oil drain plug or oil filter, but I’ve been there.

5. Take care of your body. I wear safety glasses whenever I’m working on a vehicle, can’t risk screwing up my eyes, which seem to be magnets for dirt and oil/coolant/brake cleaner/brake fluid/transmission fluid. Been there, done that, no thanks. Won’t see me kneeling directly on concrete unless I downright have to. I have thick pieces of foam I’ve cut down and made a kneeling pad for when I’m racking up a vehicle on the lift. Didn’t for the first several years of doing mechanic work and my knees are already paying for it. Same with wearing gloves. I know the old timers will make fun of you and say you’re wearing “bitch mittens”, but I don’t know how they’ve done it all these years after seeing what their hands look like. Didn’t wear gloves either for the first few years but I quickly learned the advantage they provide.

6. Always be learning, never be content. Always be looking for the faster/easier way of doing something. Never do things the “hard” way if you can help it. Won’t see me breaking out an old school combination wrench or ratchet if I can help it. It’s all cordless/pneumatic whenever possible. Same goes for things like wire brush vs wire wheel. Once I wire brushed something a few times I’m like “fuck this” and break out the die grinder with a wire wheel.

7. Stay organized. Digging through a drawer full of sockets/wrenches/pliers or whatever is a waste of time. Keep your toolbox organized with everything in a designated spot. Socket rails and other organizers like that greatly aid in finding tools easily.

8. Don’t be a parts changer. Test, don’t guess. When you tell a customer that their car needs x part or x repair, let that be because you’ve gone through the steps to verify not only the problem, but have gone through all the diagnostic process needed to verify the actual cause of the problem. Too many guys just get a trouble code, look up the most common part replaced for that code and shotgun a part at the car. And yes that’ll work roughly 75% of the time. It’s that other 25 that gets you.

9. Take pride in your work. This goes with anything, but if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Do it right or don’t do it at all. Too many guys out there, when doing a brake job, don’t replace rattle clips, don’t lube caliper slides, don’t clean hubs before installing new rotors, etc. Putting “whatever” oil you have close by instead of the proper grade because “It doesn’t matter”. There’s many other examples of poor workmanship I can cite.

10. Have the right attitude towards your work. If you’re one of the guys in this field that whines and complains when you have to do something out of your comfort zone, or you find yourself saying “X is stupid, why do you need that” or any such sentiment, GET OUT OF THIS BUSINESS. If you’re not prepared to learn and grow your skills each and every day, as well as keep up with the tools needed to do proper work, you’re in the wrong business. Figuring out new things and new systems I’ve never worked on before gives me the “warm fuzzies” like nothing else in life can, and I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead, even though I might get frustrated while working on it. If you’re a guy that only aspires to do low level work or never venture outside your comfort zone, you’ll likely get frustrated with the business due to “low pay” or “crap work”. When really if that’s all you aspire to, that’s all you’re going to get. Too many guys are happy to put out mediocre work and almost take pride in their ignorance of not being able to understand this “new shit”. It takes lots of effort to learn ad keep growing as a tech, and few of them are willing to do it.

This are just some of the observations I’ve had in my 6 or so years of working as a professional auto tech.

What others can you guys think of?
 

Clb

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Well said!
anz7tzgs68f21.jpg
 

SomeGuy

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I'm sure there's going to be a pile of haters in this thread in short order...

but not me, I wish that the rare times I need to bring a vehicle in for service (usually warranty work but w/e) the people working on it had your attitude and approach to it. Not being in the trade but doing a ton of work myself, I always do things "right" no matter the time/cost up front, it's cheaper in the long run.
 

jimmy123456789

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No commandment about flat rate work? :stirthepot:

On flat rate, I have no problems with it as long as the shop is willing to bill customers extra to deal with rust, most won’t, however. It’s fair to charge the customer for things not in the scope of normal work, such as broken fasteners, seized parts, etc. My position on it has changed since I originally posted my flat rate threads on pirate.

Oh, and warranty times are still BS. There should be one book time for every job, regardless of warranty or customer pay, and bill the customers extra for having to deal with rust and other complications. That’s partly why I try and make things easier on the next guy, but I also do it selfishly because the next guy might be me, and I don’t want to fight with it anymore than they do. Still aim to always put out quality work and do it as quickly and efficently as possible, as I'm quite lazy and want to accomplish the task at hand as easily and with the least effort as possible. Essentially I have the flat rate mindset of always looking for shortcuts and ways to make the job easier.


Far as shops go, I won't work flat rate without some kind of hour guarantee (30-35 hours a week) so shops have incentive to not over hire. Don't have to deal with that because I currently work in an hourly shop.

I'm looking for any and all mechanic tips, tricks and ways to make life easier, as well as your general outlook and how you approach fixing cars.
 
Last edited:

Etyler2

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Oh fuck, not again.

Why did you bring up flat rate?

I’ll bet a dollar you poke at hornet’s nests.
 

FleshEater

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On flat rate, I have no problems with it as long as the shop is willing to bill customers extra to deal with rust, most won’t, however. It’s fair to charge the customer for things not in the scope of normal work, such as broken fasteners, seized parts, etc. My position on it has changed since I originally posted my flat rate threads on pirate.

Oh, and warranty times are still BS. There should be one book time for every job, regardless of warranty or customer pay, and bill the customers extra for having to deal with rust and other complications. That’s partly why I try and make things easier on the next guy, but I also do it selfishly because the next guy might be me, and I don’t want to fight with it anymore than they do. Still aim to always put out quality work and do it as quickly and efficently as possible, as I'm quite lazy and want to accomplish the task at hand as easily and with the least effort as possible. Essentially I have the flat rate mindset of always looking for shortcuts and ways to make the job easier.


Far as shops go, I won't work flat rate without some kind of hour guarantee (30-35 hours a week) so shops have incentive to not over hire. Don't have to deal with that because I currently work in an hourly shop.

I'm looking for any and all mechanic tips, tricks and ways to make life easier, as well as your general outlook and how you approach fixing cars.

The mechanic who stickers my car for inspection knows his shit. I don't know about the guy working with him, but the guy that owns the business has built a lot of cool custom stuff. He literally has a sign on his wall that says "We will not work on any cars older than 2004" or something like that, because they're rusted out shit boxes. He also charges people $75 an hour if he has to look for insurance and registration for inspections.

If you own your own shop, this works...he isn't hurting for work, at all. Sometimes I think I'm in the wrong line of work.
 

Jackie Treehorn

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Antiseize blends in and looks invisible on the lip of a can of Barq’s root beer if one of your fellow mechanics happens to drink the stuff.
 

Projectjunkie

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Bolts all the way on and tight, or not on at all.

if it slips from your hand, 100% focus on watching and listening to where it bounces

I didn't build it, I didn't break it, if you're in a hurry for it, you're in the wrong shop

I can look at most cars and decide not to get involved if they've been fucked with by retards. A chuckle weeks ago, one slipped past 2013 mustang v6 with 85k miles, clean as could be, needed a clutch after teaching a kid to drive, somebody had hacked a too small clutch in there, over tightened the bolts they bothered to tighten, had to track down why the clutch and pressure plate didn't match, had to look for more fucked up hidden shit, had to find ahs cut down new pressure plate bolts, but showed him the parts, and charged him extra. Good customer, electrician by trade, not afraid to buy quality parts locally, Digby rush me when shit went wrong

I don't shotgun parts either, but at some point, you tell the guy you're 95% sure their never been touched 200k mile car needs an alternator, or fuel pump, and that more diag time will eat into the cost of replacing what they likely need

in mining, where downtime is big bucks, it's pretty acceptable to shotgun the 1st part, tho not my preferred method
 

tracyb

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i only read rule #1

Fcukin right. for any small biz. i'm a weld/fab contractor and rule one is the reason i have done well. my line is ' i will never lie to you, and wil do what i say i will when i say i will' and on my end it hard not to over promise, and it happens, in that case i take a loss and consider it an education. i always pay to learn, in one way or another.
 

Donk

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I don't shotgun parts either, but at some point, you tell the guy you're 95% sure their never been touched 200k mile car needs an alternator, or fuel pump, and that more diag time will eat into the cost of replacing what they likely need

in mining, where downtime is big bucks, it's pretty acceptable to shotgun the 1st part, tho not my preferred method

I'm an aircraft mechanic so ymmv on this.
I always put in a little bit of extra diag time to confirm a fault. A big time waster I see on a regular basis is bad magneto drops. 9/10 times an excessive mag drop is fouled plugs and most guys will drag the bird straight into the shed to clean the plugs before running it but that 1 time they'll find the mag drop is still there and they've just wasted a couple of hours doing the plugs for no reason. It takes 5-10mins to do your own mag drop check before dragging it in and has helped me catch several dead mags and saved me hours of plug cleaning.
Maybe it's just me but IME people are pretty unreliable when it comes to accurately reporting a fault and that extra 5-10mins it takes to check it out yourself is time well spent.
 

jimmy123456789

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At $100+/hr shop labor rates are high enough that more automotive mechanics should be taking the same approach.

That’s why the industry needs to charge an hour diag time to verify exactly what’s going on. But if they’re going to charge diag time they need to guarantee their work.

It costs the customer and the shop more time and money to go shotgunning parts in the hopes it “might” fix it rather than checking and testing things to make sure. Makes you look bad as a tech as well. No room for guesswork in this business IMO. It’s far too easy to test things and verify what the problem is. Better than pulling a code, going to identifix/google and throwing the most commonly replaced part at it.

If you have a misfire, for example, don’t just sell plugs and wires. Pull out the scope and see whether it’s a no spark misfire or no fuel misfire, misplaced plug wires, etc.
 

junkytj

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That’s why the industry needs to charge an hour diag time to verify exactly what’s going on. But if they’re going to charge diag time they need to guarantee their work.

It costs the customer and the shop more time and money to go shotgunning parts in the hopes it “might” fix it rather than checking and testing things to make sure. Makes you look bad as a tech as well. No room for guesswork in this business IMO. It’s far too easy to test things and verify what the problem is. Better than pulling a code, going to identifix/google and throwing the most commonly replaced part at it.

If you have a misfire, for example, don’t just sell plugs and wires. Pull out the scope and see whether it’s a no spark misfire or no fuel misfire, misplaced plug wires, etc.

It's no surprise you missed the point. If there's a common problem with a vehicle and it's in a shop with experience enough to know the common problem, I have zero desire to pay anyone to diagnose it. Order the common part before the fucker is rolled onto the lift and change it assuming the part is a couple hundo or less and you can do it in less than an hour. Even if it doesn't resolve my current issue, it likely needed to be done anyway. If it didn't, it made your troubleshooting easier and you may have found the problem while futzing around with it to fix. Either way I'd rather pay you to fix something than diagnose.

All that goes out the window if you have little experience or the vehicle isn't a typical problem or the part is too high. In the 5 years I spun a wrench, 99% of the time I could diagnose a problem by looking at the complaint and the car on common models.

I deal with this shit on a larger scale every day. I have mntnc techs looking at equipment and trying to diagnose weather I have a bad circuit breaker or a bad phase monitor or a bad PLC card. Meanwhile the plant is going to shit. All 3 of them togehter don't cost a grand. Replace all 3 and go bench test motherfucker. I don't care about your accuracy, I need shit running.
 

jimmy123456789

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It's no surprise you missed the point. If there's a common problem with a vehicle and it's in a shop with experience enough to know the common problem, I have zero desire to pay anyone to diagnose it. Order the common part before the fucker is rolled onto the lift and change it assuming the part is a couple hundo or less and you can do it in less than an hour. Even if it doesn't resolve my current issue, it likely needed to be done anyway. If it didn't, it made your troubleshooting easier and you may have found the problem while futzing around with it to fix. Either way I'd rather pay you to fix something than diagnose.

All that goes out the window if you have little experience or the vehicle isn't a typical problem or the part is too high. In the 5 years I spun a wrench, 99% of the time I could diagnose a problem by looking at the complaint and the car on common models.

I deal with this shit on a larger scale every day. I have mntnc techs looking at equipment and trying to diagnose weather I have a bad circuit breaker or a bad phase monitor or a bad PLC card. Meanwhile the plant is going to shit. All 3 of them togehter don't cost a grand. Replace all 3 and go bench test motherfucker. I don't care about your accuracy, I need shit running.


Of course if something is known to be a common problem I’m going to check that FIRST and verify that it either is or isn’t functioning properly and go from there. Never will I shotgun a part without looking at it and diagnosing first. A plant is different than most automotive customers, most don’t have the money to just “replace all 3”, they NEED an accurate diagnosis. They can’t afford to just throw every common failure part at the car until it’s fixed. Accuracy will save them more money in the long run, even with a 1 hour diag charge, than shotgunning parts left and right.

Diag fees are necessary because any good tech, regardless of known common failures, will VERIFY the actual cause of the problem before making the call. And a tech’s time isn’t free, nor are the tools needed to diagnose said problems. Hence why diag fees are necessary in auto repair.

If you had chest pains, would you want the doctor to just “shotgun” a 5 bypass surgery without testing and diagnosing things first to find the best course of action? Same goes for auto repair.
 
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I'm thankful to be an amateur wrench but make use of the internet a lot when diagnosing. I rarely even look at my service manuals now. A lot of the time somebody has even posted a video of the repair and sometimes I make it through their shaky focused in the wrong spot video and it makes the job easier sometimes even by showing how not to do it. YMMV. :flipoff2:
 
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