For those of us who have been in this industry awhile, we have noticed that there are certain qualities that become typical characteristics of Garagemen. I want to try to describe that here. I’ve seen how these traits become engrained into a true garageman’s character. Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s the nature of cars. Cars are designed by people and they wear out. So, the people who can really fix them require certain talents and develop these traits.
I like to compare garagemen to farmers. The true garageman knows when a car is fixed properly or not; just like only a farmer can judge the crops and farming techniques of another farmer.
Successful Auto Repair
Like a farmer, the garageman’s success depends on his discipline, his knowledge, and his use of tools. A farmer has to wake up early to complete his work; he has to plant his crops at the right time in the right depth and in the right soil; he has to follow set procedures to insure the plants will grow. A successful crop only results when a farmer has self-discipline, knowledge and the right tools. Garagemen are the much the same. There is a discipline one must follow in repairing a car; there is a huge body of knowledge one must read and gain from experience, and one must have the right tools. Of course there is a significant difference, too. The garageman is not dependent upon the forces of nature for a successfully repaired car. For that reason, farming can be more risky than fixing cars, but we have our own force of nature and that is, you the customer. You can sometimes be as challenging for the garageman as drought or floods would be for the farmer.
Besides discipline, knowledge and owning the proper tools, here are other characteristics of a true garageman. Men (and a few women) who like to work on cars want to understand how things work. They take things apart to find out what’s inside and what makes it tick. When a part fails, they’ll open it up to analyze what went wrong. Slight discoloration of metal may draw a blank stare from a layman, but show it to the garageman , and he will explain in detail how it’s the absolute cause of a bearing failure.
A Garageman Understands Auto Repair
To find out how things work, it means being willing to get your hands filthy dirty every day. It means washing your hands over and over. It means crawling under cars, lying on your back underneath a car six inches from your face, smelling noxious fumes. It means standing with your hands over your head for hours, or being hunched over a truck straining to fit your hand into hidden places that could be hot, sharp, and hurt. These are examples of things that our customers often don’t think about.
Being a true Garageman, means to love the truth. There is no BS about fixing a car. If it’s fixed, it works; if it doesn’t, well you can’t blame anyone but yourself. And actually, true garagemen prefer it that way. They are great truth seekers. Garagemen can spot a lie a mile away—whether it’s the customer who says he’s not going to fix his car because he’s selling it next month, a mechanic who says the master cylinder is leaking when it’s not, or a service adviser who is recommending rotors and pads when pads alone will suffice. Nothing will make a true Garageman more angry than a lie.
Pride in Auto Repair
True garagemen take pride in making things work. With every broken vehicle, it is war. It is war to get the right parts especially on some cars, like that 1979 Porsche sitting in our shop. It is war to diagnose a drivability issue. It’s war to install a rear main seal. It’s man versus the Machine. So, when the car is fixed, it’s victory. Every fixed a car is a war won. Garagemen take pride in every one of those victories. Nothing will make a true Garageman more frustrated than a mechanic who doesn’t care because that means he wasn’t really willing to fight. That mechanic has no honor in the eyes of a true garageman.
The true garagemen can say I don’t know and ask for help. He knows that the guy who says I am a great mechanic is not. He knows that there is no end of knowing everything about cars. There is always something to learn because cars are always changing. He knows that to win the war means sometimes bringing in reinforcements. And it means being willing to lend a hand to others when they are struggling with that car. You cannot go it alone all the time.
So, who is a true Garageman? He is someone who is curious even when it’s risky or unpleasant. He is a truth seeker who doesn’t stand for any bacon sandwiches; he derives satisfaction from seeing something broken made whole, he is willing to help others and ask for help; he embraces the challenge even when it’s not going to better his bottom line, and he does the right thing even when it hurts.
In my opinion, the world would be a better place if more true garagemen were running it.
Read more about expert auto repair in Garden Oaks by Adolf Hoepfl & Son Garage.