The Truth About The Auto Repair Industry

Note: I changed careers to engineering in 1998. This article was written around 2000. In 2003 a link to the article hit the iATN forums where it had significant discussion with other seasons service technicians. I have posted some of the comments from that forum, and emails I directly received, below.

After working 15 years in the auto repair industry (1982 - 1997), I have some insight I would like to share with everyone. The auto repair industry has changed quite a bit over the years as more complex automobiles have driven a new kind of mechanic into existence. Some of this has fostered smarter, better trained mechanics. However, it has developed the parts swapping business into enormous proportions. Part of the reason I changed careers was because I was so frustrated by working in such a crooked environment. Bad mechanics that lacked morals made the most money and honest ones lagged behind significantly.

One key problem with the auto repair industry is the flat rate pay system which nearly all repair shops use. Basically it works like this: Labor time manuals are printed by the manufacturer for warranty repair time standards. These are times for a given job that are preset and are rounded to the nearest 1/10 of an hour. For instance, the replacement of an ignition module on a particular car may pay 1.1 hours in the warranty manual. That means that no matter how long it takes the mechanic to change that module, he still gets paid 1.1 hours. Aftermarket flat rate manuals are used for after warranty repairs. These manuals usually just take the warranty manual and multiply the time by 1.5. In some cases special times will be used instead. A mechanics flat rate time charge is usually referred to as a flag. For instance, the mechanic changing the module above will flag 1.1 hours for it under warranty or 1.7 hours retail.

Most mechanics are paid 100% commission based on what they flag. This is not always true but it is the overwhelming majority that are paid this way. For these mechanics, the motivation is to flag as many hours per day as possible. It is not impossible, or even that uncommon, for a mechanic to flag over 16 hours in an 8 hour day. The mechanic will make a given wage per flat rate hour. If he flags no time in a given day, he makes no money at all. Few shops guarantee a minimum income. There is no real maximum either. It is not unheard of for a fast, crooked mechanic to flag well over 80 hours in 5 day a week while working only a little over 8 hours per day. Thats not to say all mechanics that flag big hours are crooks though. The work load can be seasonal too. It was quite common to have a 50% or more pay fluctuation (flagged hours) from winter to summer.

The shop effectively makes a portion of what the mechanic flags so they too are interested in having the mechanic flag as many hours per day as possible. There is little motivation to be honest and quite a bit of motivation to rip off the customers. Most shops will not pay a mechanic to do a job twice. If a mechanic changed a water pump for instance, and the car came back with a leaking water pump gasket, the mechanic would have to replace the gasket and charge no time. The problem is that it is in the best interest of the shop and mechanic to blame the leak on something else that they can charge the customer for. Electrical and electronic parts typically have about half no fault found rate on warranty returns. That means that about half were misdiagnosed in the field or the failure was not found during lab analysis. Some components like engine sensors can have NFF rates over 90%.

Dealers/managers love those high speed guys because they make the company a ton of money. They figure what's a few blown out customers compared to a good profit. They're not going away, in fact, they are becoming all too common because that's what it's coming down too. Tech's haven't got a cost of living increase in years. When you ask a manager for a raise he says, "You want a raise, make more hours!" A few managers base their mechanics pay on hours produced. Techs working over 80 hours a week got a $2 per hour raise over a 40 hour tech. It is the exception to find a company giving a raise to the tech with the highest customer satisfaction.

There is not really a flat rate time for diagnosis in most cases. This means that a good mechanic that can troubleshoot a problem in 0.5 hours may charge significantly less than a clueless mechanic that spends 2 days swapping parts to figure it out. In the first case, an honest mechanic will flag 0.5 hours. Some may claim that since they are so smart, they will flag 0.8. In the second case, the same repair will cost the customer 2 full days plus any additional parts that were swapped as a guess. Again, there is very little incentive for the shop owner to intervene unless the customer complains.

Many mechanics will guess and swap parts until the problems are solved or the customer runs out of money. Only about one quarter of the mechanics out there can really troubleshoot problems accurately. Of those, only a portion can troubleshoot intermittent and more difficult problems. Most electrical and driveability problems on today's automobiles are intermittent. If you find a good mechanic you can trust, stick with him and tell all your friends.

On the other side of things, mechanics are often blamed for problems they did not cause. It seems all too often that a customer would claim the oil change we did caused their headlamps to flicker intermittently or some other bizarre problem that is in no way connected. Customers also seem to think that today's cars are smart and that there is some mystery machine hidden in the the shop that, when plugged into the car, will tell the mechanic everything that is wrong from low tire pressure to internal engine problems. This is far from accurate. Yes, modern cars do have sophisticated electronics on them and they do give the mechanic information such are fault codes and data values but they don't troubleshoot and they never will. On board software does have the capability of determining an out of range sensor or improper outputs. It can give the mechanic valuable information to help him narrow a problem down. It will never troubleshoot for him! An engine control forinstance, which is generally the most sophisticated control on the vehicle, can only read values at the pins that connect it to the wiring harnesses. It can determine if a circuit is open or shorted or out of normal range but that is about it. It is up to the the well trained, smart mechanic to determine where the actual fault is. As I said earlier, most electrical and driveability problems are intermittent. That means that no matter what tests you run, chances are they will all pass. This is where data loggers and real smarts come into play.

It seems for the most part that bigger cities have more crooked shops than smaller ones. I think this is because a poor reputation in a small town will put you out of business whereas in a big city there are plenty of customers to go around. The strategy is usually to get all they can out of you when you do come if assuming you won't be back anyway. Also watch out for "mechanic of the month" award winners. These guys are usually the ones who flag the most hours to get a bonus on top of it. They are generally the most crooked as well.

Example Issues

I will now give a few real world examples of some of the things that go on in a shop. A new car dealer had a scam going that involved all the service personnel. They would bring new cars right in off the convoy truck and claim every one had alignment problems, driveability problems, and transmissions problems. Each of 3 mechanics would flag the maximum allowable time for work they supposedly did although no work was really performed on most of the vehicles. While these were all warranty claims, it is still fraud and the manufacturer was getting ripped off for more than a year. Some of these mechanics were being paid a 6 figure income by all the phony time they flagged. The dealership was finally caught and closed down but those same mechanics got jobs at other dealers. How would you like one of them working on your car?

A little old lady brought her car into a shop. A mechanic sold her over $2000 worth of parts and labor and the car was still not fixed. After all of that, it turned out there was a bad spark plug wire causing an intermittent misfire. The customer was still charged the full amount and none of the unnecessary parts were removed.

One mechanic was charging for piston ring replacements on certain vehicles under warranty on a routine basis. Few of the engines were ever taken apart. He would work at a dealer for a year or so until others would start to suspect and then go to another dealer to do it again. He rarely worked a full day but typically got paid over 12 hours per day.

During the 1980's, before detergent gasoline and deposit resistant injectors, the injectors would periodically need professional cleaning. The process typically pays about 1 hour but really only takes about 15 minutes of a mechanics time since he can connect the machine, start the process, and do other work while the injectors are being cleaned. Starting in the late 1980's, deposit resistant injectors were introduced and detergents were added to gasoline to prevent clogged injectors. Some mechanics will still try to sell you an injector clean as maintenance. There are cases where injectors may need to be cleaned to correct poor running but it is really not a maintenance item anymore. Another similar situation arises with the throttle body. Throttle bodies will sludge up, especially if you use natural (non-synthetic) oils. It was common in the 1980's to periodically clean the throttle body. In the early 1990's, new measures were taken to eliminate the need to clean the throttle body. In fact, some throttle bodies come pre-sludged with a special coating to allow proper idle speed. If you remove the coating, your idle may be too high. Some mechanics still sell throttle body cleaning as a maintenance item. It generally takes about 5 minutes and they will charge you an hour. In some cases it will actually cause an idle problem where one was not previously present.

Warning signs?

There are a few warning signs you can watch out for:

What Can You Do?

Lacking knowledge of modern automobiles can really open you up to rip off artists. ASE certification does not mean you have competent techs, although it is a step in the right direction. I passed the heavy duty truck brake tests and I had no idea how the systems even worked and had never worked on one. I also passed the transmission tests with little knowledge or experience on transmissions. The tests are generally too easy and they give no indication of how honest the mechanic is. While ASE may attempt to better the repair industry, and they do help, they can't fix the root cause of the problems. I would, however, recommend ASE certified mechanics over those that are not.

I want to make it clear however that there are some very sharp and honest mechanics out there who are underpaid for their ability. Sadly,it is the parts swappers and mechanics that do maintenance that really bring home the most money despite lower pay per flat rate hour in many cases than specialists. Training usually pays actual time at best. Some dealers don't even pay for training. The affect is that mechanics have less motivation to attend classes. Most vehicle manufacturers now require at least some degree of training which is helping to drive the right behavior. Modern mechanics working on high-tech systems require a significantly higher skill set than mechanics of yesterday. Vehicles have become very complex. Most of the problems on these high-tech systems are intermittent making it even harder. Some manufacturers don't seem to understand what it takes to troubleshoot problems on these modern systems and believe that the mechanics out there simply don't have the aptitude to learn what they need to so they don't give the detail of information required to really understand these systems. This adds to the challenges a good mechanic faces. Modern vehicle troubleshooting requires many of the techniques a doctor would use to troubleshoot problems with humans. The real frustration comes when these vehicle doctors take home less money than a mechanic that just swaps parts. I would guess that only about 10% of the mechanics out there fit into the vehicle doctor category. Another 20% have some skills for troubleshooting. Many of the rest just swap parts and their skill is the speed at which they can change these parts. Often it is the doctors who really end up troubleshooting most of the problems for the others but he does not make the money for it. That should be improving as vehicles become more complex.

Modern vehicles are significantly more reliable than older ones. The newer the better. Modern vehicles require very little maintenance and very few repairs compared to those just 10 years earlier. Generally, any of the larger automakers make a better quality product today than the best cars of 10 years ago.

I blame most of the problems with the repair industry on the flat rate pay system. It can drive the wrong behavior throughout the organization. It gives clear incentive to go for speed and not accuracy. How would you like your pay cut in half because business was slow. Go home and tell your family that and see how it makes you feel. Upsell becomes easier to justify. It can be a very stressful living. Now work in those conditions and watch the guy next to you cheat the system and rake in the money with bonuses and praise from management to boot. Mechanics are no more dishonest than anyone else by nature, flat rate pay is to blame.

5/3/2003 update: Since writing this article I have received numerous emails from both former and current mechanics. Nearly every email has started with something like " I totally agree....", "you are right on the money...", "that is completely accurate..." and so on. So, I would like to start posting some of these articles on this website as well. If you are or were a mechanic, please send my your stories or input on this subject. I can post it anonymously, or preferably, giving you full credit. Just let me know which in your message. I am pasting some of these messages below.

There are a few organizations working to promote more advanced auto service. You can find some of them at:

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I've worked in a small town independent shop for almost twenty years now and I can honestly say your story is spot on. One thing you're leaving out is the service writers. They're just as crooked as the techs they feed. I work in a big shop. Dealer size. Flat rate pay scale with no benefits and it sucks. The owner is a bipolar tyrannical narcissist and very verbally and physically violent. Generally an all around piece of crap. He once told me that although he doesn't condone the crooked actions of his service writers and the techs they feed, but they make me money. We had a ex dealer tech sell timing chain guides on a explorer 4.0L. It was a quoted 16hr job. He was done with it by noon and I found the parts in his tool cart. Nothing was done about it even though I spoke up. In return my hours were dropped to 25hrs weekly and when I asked about work load I was told to not worry about it and the owner added that my comeback rate was a zero for the past six years. I guess it was a attempt to shut me up.

One tech and service writer had a little scam going with the state contracted cars. They give us a $500 no questions asked repair limit without authorization so every ticket was $497 bucks and the work wasn't even done. The state controller caught on of course and you think the two would be fired but no. They still currently work there.

I was given a job because another tech couldn't figure it out. Power draw on a Ford Escape. They were charging the customer 4hrs to track it down but the tech couldn't pinpoint it so I got it. I figured out that the collage student didn't drive it for two months and the battery went really low. The car had a 250 milliampere draw until it went to sleep as described by ford. I cut the bill down to a hour and the other tech bitched about the four hours he spent on it.

It's hard to be an honest tech these days. There's no motivation or compensation for it. My words to anybody who reads this and is thinking of becoming a tech, don't do it. Don't waste your time. If your honest all you're gunna get is terrible pay, swollen hands, arthritis, bad knees, and a hurting back. Most customers automatically think you're a crook. In California if you do smogs like I do the bar has turned into head hunters. We had a good tech smog test a diesel truck and was fined $1k bucks because he accidentally used the wrong machine. Easy mistake to make when it's busy and every customer is in a hurry. The bar rep told him even though he performed the smog correctly he has to pay the state for using the wrong machine. He said it was a new rule that was put into place three days prior and the tech didn't read the email before performing the test. I hate this trade. No matter what you're the bad guy.

Joshua in California

I read your article, and I was amazed that someone else got out of the business for the same reasons as I did! I had been in the Auto Industry for over 19 years before I got sick of it. I have a Degree in Automotive Technology, I am a Chrysler Level 4 Master Tech, ASE Advanced Master Tech, Chrysler Gold Certified Warranty/Service/Parts Manager. I also spent 3 years as an Advanced Automotive Instructor for Secondary and Post Secondary Students.

Your commentary on the Auto Service Industry was right on the money. Everything you mentioned was exactly right. So many dishonest techs make twice the hours turned as an honest tech because of the flat rate system. It's that way at every Dealership I've ever worked in. The dishonest techs get the gravy work because Management knows they will up-sell anything they can whether it's needed or not, while the smart, honest Tech gets the driveability and electrical problems to fix. Unfortunately, I have a conscience. The last Dealer I worked at laid me off because I brought to his attention the warranty fraud, insurance fraud and customer theft by deception like brake jobs that weren't needed. The next week I was laid off because of "lack of work". I guess he didn't want to hear someone complaining about the things that put money in his pocket. The same guy heads the local Merchant's Association and Chamber of Commerce. Cool Huh?

I actually watched their "Top" GM Tech diagnosing an intermittent Air Bag Light illumination on a customer vehicle. The complaint was that every time the customer accellerated quickly, the Air Bag light would come on. So what does he do? Naturally, he starts tapping on sensors to find out if the light would come on. He decides that the problem is more than likely with the controller, so what he does next really amazes me. He gets a large ball peen hammer, and smacks the controller with it. What do you think would happen when you whack a controller housing an inertia switch? You got it, both bags go off, and the windshield gets blown out! So what does he do? Quickly hides the hammer! Then the Service Manager, knowing what happened, contacts the customer's Auto Insurance Company, and gets them to pay the bill! He puts a new controller, dash and windshield in the car and test drives it. Guess what? The light still comes on. One of our Chrysler "B" Techs comes over with an ohm meter and checks the front Air Bag Sensors. The problem was a faulty sensor. What does the Serivce Manager do? Submits a warranty claim for the Air Bag Sensor to GM. I was completely amazed at the whole chain of events. What really got me was that this guy was supposedly the TOP GM Tech in the Shop. He doesn't even own a DVOM. You know why he's the Top Tech? He does more brake jobs than anyone else, which translates into more hours turned than anyone else.

I could go on with more stories, but you know exactly what I'm talking about, because you've seen it too. I just wanted to let you know that I'm glad to see there are other honest guys out there that care more about doing their job right than ripping off insurance companies, warranty and customers.

Thanks for writing your article. I'm not sure exactly what line of work I'm going into next, but chances are, it won't be back in the Automotive Trade.

Thanks again,
Bob in PA

I have been an electronics technician for several years now, and am currently in the world of computers... That wasn't the way it always was though.

In a previous job, I was a dyed in the wool radio repair tech/automotive electronics installer... Real good one too (2 time certified master installer). Anyway, when I worked in this profession, I was paid by the hour, not based on flat rate or jobs completed. That gave me the most incentive to do the job right, the FIRST time, and truly build my troubleshooting skills. It got to the point that I was the best at my shop.

One day, my boss and I had a falling out. I will not go into details, but I walked. I was already deep into computers, and was taking several classes to get me into that world. So... to make a long story short, I needed a job to pay the bills, and my friend (a mechanic) had been telling his supervisor about my electrical diagnosis skills... something that was truly lacking at the dealership.

I started, and I was good at what I did. I specialized in electrical troubleshooting and repair. Of course, I did a lot of other repair work, but I was always good with cars, and never ran into any trouble, whether it be as complex as a tranny rebuild or a simple water pump replacement (Thanks, Dad!). The nice thing about electrical was that I could bill out as real time... In the course of my job, I NEVER had an electrical troubleshooting session last more than 2.5 hours... That was my specialty, and I had MANY happy customers. Most of the time, I spent my days tracking down burned or damaged harnesses, and repairing them... (Its amazing what people will do to install a radio). One time, I misdiagnosed an engine control module as being bad, and actually asked the service MANAGER if I could eat the price of the ECM, and the labor. (He let me, and the customer was quite thankful for our honesty in the matter). I have always been honest, and thought that if I made the mistake, I should be the one to eat it. The trouble started when I got a new service writer.

My service writer did not like the fact that I would repair a harness after 30 minutes of troubleshooting or even an hour... even if it was something as simple as a single pinched wire, he insisted that I replace the entire harness... What was once a 1.0 to 1.5 hour job turned into a 6 hour job, with LOADS of parts, PLUS a troubleshooting charge! Every time I suggested the less expensive way, my service writer would threaten to have me written up for insubordination. He even changed my timecard punches! Seeing as I had to continue to pay the bills, and I had very little interaction with the customers, I wasn't truly able to argue with that.

I guess my point is this: In a case like mine, I was a fast, efficient troubleshooter. I HATED to replace parts, and refused to do so unless I could prove the part was bad. I watched the others around me pull the "parts swapping" game, and it made me sick. I never made more than 38 hours a week, and I saw other guys pulling down 70 + hours, AND leave early on Fridays. every time I raised a little dissent, my service writer would stick my with oil changes and tire changes... Not that I couldn't do the "gravy" jobs. He would just give them to his other techs. I once saw a guy replace an engine all because it had an intermittent oil pressure sensor (I swiped it and put it on another engine, just to see). But it wasn't always the tech. In my case, it was the service writer...

Now I am out of THAT dealership, and since class finished up, I have been running networks. That job is salary, and I am not judged based on my flags, thankfully. Ironically enough, in both professions, if a tech does their job well, they are needed less and less.

Thanks for your time,


I see the same things every day at my dealership. I bent over backwards for greedy managers and writers for the last 14 years. We're have I gotten? Basically nowhere. The more you know the worse you're treated and not only that, I spend most of my time helping other techs diagnose their work. Why you ask? Because I can no longer watch our customers pay for repairs they don't need. I don't feel as bad with warranty repairs but there is just too much misdiagnoses happening out there that I believe it has become an epidemic. The technicians aren't to blame however. If a new tech comes to a dealer that is bent on unnecessary up-sells then he will eventually become brain washed into believing this is how a repair shop should work. Dealerships know they can hire any sucker to do this work at next to nothing. Dealers are so reluctant to even send techs to training anymore because they loose money. Did you know that GM has closed all of its training centers except for the six regionals. They actually think you can learn all there is to know about a specific system in 2 hours over an interactive distance learning course. Most dealers don't even know how to set up those training courses either! It's no wonder why dealers are failing with customer satisfaction. NO TRAINING! I truly believe something in this industry will have to change soon. I think if you teach someone how to do something right it sticks with them and they will in turn realize their mistakes. Dealers are to blame for the failing technicians as well as the manufacturers. Dealers have adopted the tire store mentality. BIG MISTAKE! Technicians come into the industry with high hopes and good intentions only to be misled by empty promises.

Electrician - General Motors

I grew up in a drag racing family, so naturally I loved to work on automobiles. I kept this love for auto's all through high school shop, tech school, a few local shops then i went to a dealership. I thought I had reached the place I wanted to be, I found out differant. Being a somewhat nice guy that has no need to cheat people I was completely disgusted with the dealership. For the 5 years I worked there I never once enjoyed going to work after my first week. I have never seen the people cheat folks like that, they would treat people like their best friend then stab them in the back with a repair bill that they would have to get financed. This is not what I wanted to do or be, so being the nice guy finally paid off and a customer (dear friend) put up some capital and leased me a closed down service station and I started my own shop which is very successful at the present time. I almost lost the love I have for repairing auto's and helping folks because of a bad experience, thank god I stuck with my morals. So to any one else in this situation, don't give up on what you love to do just find another place to do it. Thanks for letting me share a little I'm a slow type and not very good with words but I think y'all know what I mean.


I've got a problem with dealerships myself. I've been working in dealerships for the last 13 or so years. I am a saturn trained tech and I was very happy with saturn until a few years ago, when untrained techs were getting better jobs than the trained techs because they didn't pay the untrained tech as much as the trained ones. So while some lube tech is doing a trans or a head gasket im doing oil changes so i left saturn and went to Nissan. I've been at nissan for about two years now and the problem i have with nissan is that they do not want to train me to work on there line. Plus they say that untrained nissan techs do not get paid for diagnosis time, so if i take three hours to diag an electrical problem i get paid nothing. Every time i ask for schooling the response i get is "if you don't like it leave". I feel that the customer is paying good money to get there car fixed by a trained tech so when any dealership states that all techs are trained its more than likely a lie. So to all you customers out there I'm sorry to say that your more than likely getting your car fixed by some body that doesn't know the first things about fixing automobiles.........sorry


I have just read your article and am glad some people are speaking out about this wrong doing. I was originally going to take my career into the direction of mechanics because, as many other individuals,I spent my teenage years helping my dad fix and rebuild tractors and auto's and enjoying ever moment of it. After finishing high school I decided to change my original plans and pursue a different degree, but I continued performing routine repairs for friends and neighbors as an 'on the side' source of income occasionally. To cut to the chase I would just like to add a few of my most interesting repair stories showing the dis-honesty of some of the individuals out in the field.

1. I was working as a part time automotive machinist while attending college in north Chicago suburb (big city example). My boss had taken his Astro to a dealer and asked for them to locate why his steering was slopping during the first half of the day. He returned from lunch with a written report and estimate. As I recall the parts list was, steering box, tie rods, ball joints, and steering colom 'rag joint'. The total with labor was just over $1000. He said he couldn't believe it and asked if one of us could shut down our machine station for a little and take a look under his van.. so one gentleman did. He found one missing, and other loose bolts mounting the steering box to the frame. $0.95 later the van was fixed and steering was back in great shape.

2. I myself was involved in a collision, and having it caused by the other individual I decided to have the car taken to a dealership (small town in Southern Illinois)to be fixed by their insurance company instead of dealing with all the paper work to get the money myself. The car was T-boned directly on the front passenger side tire with only a small fender dent. After being at the dealership for a few days time they left a message saying that they were having trouble finding what was making the steering loose after replacing both tie rods/ends and the strut on that side.... so the repair would take a few more days. They called a few days later and said they had to replace the ball joint on that side and I could pick up the car however they were unable to start it. I went in and looked at the report they kept, they had tried swapping distributors, ecu's, the vane air meter and spent 4 hours of diagnosis as well as several hours of labor while replacing the parts...and couldn't start it. I asked if they had checked the plugs, reply was 'no, its too simple'. They opened a box and allowed me to use some tools to I removed a plug and it was terribly carbon'd and soaked in fuel. We then replaced the plugs and the car started within the first second or two of cranking. I was STUNNED that they didn't try checking the plugs after spending all of that time/money. (They also drained my expensive dry cell battery and replaced it with a standard instead of charging it, I didn't notice this until~two months later)

Now the second part of the story. After having the car home for about a weeks time I decided to take it back in because the steering was getting very sloppy. They had it for another half week and ended up replacing the entire steering rack, which is an utter pain on my particular fwd car. I picked the car up this time and after another week the problem came right back, at this point I took it upon myself since not many parts hadn't been replaced at this point. I found a loose bolt on the rack mount and that they had NOT replaced the ball joint that was on the receipt!! The insurance company had also stated the "total cost" would have been $2800 and the final bill was over $3000!! They had charged over $600 just for the repair work that could have been fixed by a set of spark plugs. Luckily the insurance paid...

I could go on with many others:

My mothers was told her radiator, hoses, thermostat and water pump had to be replaced because of a leak... the leak was only coming from the weep hole on the water pump seal.

A friend was told he needed a new transmission control computer when he had his 700R4 trans. rebuilt because the 'old computer wouldn't recognize the new parts'....etc.

I was told that I needed to buy a brand new Eaton M90 ($1700) supercharger for friends car and that they had to dispose of the old one (I have old Mitchell OnDemand books/software and had already looked up what parts I needed to rebuild it) I asked if they could order the part numbers I had written down on the exploded view I printed.. the parts man was embarrassed because I had caught him, but he didn't even apologize.

I'm sure we could all go on and on..

Thanks for writing about it,


hello,you are correct in your evaluation of the auto repair industry,i am a tech at a and boy do "we" give it to the factory and the retail customer,there really is no way to survive in the industry without being a "fabricator and crook",from the owners to the parts dept. etc. it is all smoke screen to bound and gag the un-suspecting cust.and frankly i am tired of it,however our country's pace and structure for business encourages this type of behavior,just observe the enron execs.scams of a couple years ago.just too much injustice all around,too many folks want to get paid without honest, hard,just honorable work.i think the

answers lie way back in the 20th century.

Hey guy, loved your article. Your story was hilarious. You sound like you would have been cool to work with.I am an insurance adjuster now (bet you body guys will love that) but I was a mechanic for10 years and it is a corrupt, horrible industry to work in. For starters, I had no training in the beginning. I hacked away at some poor person's car until I figured out how to wrench. I never really did any lasting damage to anyone's car, but when I made a mistake I rarely paid for it out of my own pocket.

After a while I got some certs and a good supply of tools. I got really good at r/r all types of things, especially motors and transmissions. Foreign cars were my specialty. However, my driveability skills were suspect.

I took some classes, got more certs, got good at driveability, and I thought I had finally made it. This is when my pay hit the glass ceiling. I was working flat rate, which is the biggest scam in the world. I hear mechanics all of the time talking about how much they love flat rate and they are simply fooling themselves. Flat rate does not take into account for rust, warranty repairs, or any work after 40 hours in which you should be getting paid 50% more. Honest, prideful workers are getting totally screwed by flat rate.

I saw the light, and took my time finding ajob that was rare in this industry, or at least in the Motor City/Suburbs: 40 hrs a week, no weekends, and a salary. With my next job I simply negotiated a high weekly salary. Unfortunately, this guy I worked for was a Jekyll and Hyde type. He could be really cool, and then for no reason he could be the biggest back stabbing prick in the world. He was so convinced that he was the best mechanic in the world and anytime he perceived a slight against this, he went out of his way to make me look and feel stupid in front of anyone who was in earshot. I was so sick of the endless succession of power-hungry nobodies that I knew I had to get out of the business.

The worst part about being a mechanic (besides the pain and the filth) is the assholes you work with and for, especially if everyone is on flat rate or other types of commission. At only one job did I get any kind of health insurance, and only two jobs gave me paid vacations. It's like working in 1910 or something.

I've had people put razor blades upside down in my metallic bolt tray. I've had a co-worker take a customers car joyriding (supercharged Thunderbird turd) without permission and blow the motor on it, then try to blame it on me! I've had guys steal my tools. I've had guys steal my money. I've had to wake up passed out drunks that fell asleep in someone's car. I've had guys, including bosses, offer me cocaine, methamphetamine, weed, heroin, and any other type of drug you can think of. Keep in mind these people were working on an innocent person's car.

I worked with a guy that pissed all over the interior of someone's car when they were $11short with their money. I worked with another guy that would steal any kind of money and jewelry and, especially, drugs out of someone's car and blame it on the bums walking by.

I've had bosses that would not compensate me for on the job injuries, including having my scalp accidentally ripped open by another emplyee being a moron (using a large impact extension to wind a door spring on the ceiling and dropped it on my head), and stepping on a 1/4" thick nail. I've had bosses give me raises but cut my hours. I've had bosses call me "retard" "asshole" "faggot" "moron" in front of customers and other employees. I've had a boss stoke a personal problem between me and another tech, and the other tech threatened me with a .357 magnum. This is because I called him out for stealing another co-workers mustang!!!! Everyone thought this was hilarious.

I worked for a guy that would dispose of his tires by loading them on top of his car and flooring it until they flew off. I worked for a guy that would charge $500to replace an oil pan gasket on a F-150and simply put bathroom caulk around the gasket. I've seen it all.

Of course, I've ran the gamut of idiotic customers, but cars are so complicated and mechanics have a deserved reputation of dishonestly that you can't blame them.

However, I kept my nose clean, kept my integrity intact, and when my nationwide insurance employer called my references, they received nothing but good reviews of honesty and dependability. Finally a mechanic was rewarded for his honesty. Too bad it this rarely happened when I was actually wrenching!

Working on cars sucks.

Mechanics are in such high demand. This isn't the 60's when any jerk with a screwdriver and a set of sockets can be a "mechanic". To all of the auto techs out there: refuse flat rate. You are screwing yourselves. Offered $28 flat rate hour? How about $28 dollars every hour no matter how busy the place is!!! People pushing buttons in factories are making this wage with good benefits and pensions.

Mechanics screw themselves with a silly "I'm better than you" attitude. It's so childish, so irrelevant, and so idiotic. The bosses stir this pot, and it's the most basic form of psychological strategy: divide and conquer.

Mechanics are forced into dishonesty by their greedy employers with unfair warranty times, unfair pay practices (flat rate on a rusty 15 yr old Taurus for example) and other forms of unfair compensation.

Yet mechanics are slitting their own throats by accepting this treatment because their egos won't let them accept the fact that they are the victims of the most brilliant scam (flat rate hour) ever pushed on a worker. Mechanics must unionize, or at least refuse the flat rate hour. Mechanics must negotiate for a salary. This virtually eliminates "shortcuts", shoddy work, repairs not performed, and other scams perpetuated by mechanics and bosses alike. Why are mechanics busting their balls, working, racing all out to fix a car? For the customer? Rarely! Making the owner rich is the name of the game.

And finally, mechanics can't put their eggs in one basket. How many mechanics over 40 do you see? Over 50? 60? All mechanics should go to school, get a degree, get a regular job in education, insurance, or another field that they can readily use their hard won skill.

Thanks for reading my reply. If anyone out there reads this, thanks for taking the time.I refused to accept the truth for years, and I was too weak to attempt to organize. Follow suit with theFordtechs: they have the right idea!!! What are they gonna do, fire you? You can literally have a new job in 24 hours without trying. A good mechanic is hard to find. Keep wrenching. Andy

As of yesterday I was terminated from my job for expressing my believes about the auto industry. I left alot out out of fear of repercussions looks like I should of just said it as ot was. This dealer I worked for was forcing us to commit warranty fraud and every time I challenged it I was threatened and shut down. Its was insanely hard to make money because they wanted it to be ran through as warranty. They're excuse were slow and it gets you paid. Here is the post that got me fired. Not nearly as good or detailed as yours.

I'm gonna go on a incredibly long rant here. so if your interested. just sit back and take a moment to think about what I'm saying.

The automotive industry specifically being a technician. It's a job that has potential. It's a job that requires you to have excellent problem solving abilities. You have to be mechanically inclined. You have to approach cars from a logical point of view and sometimes a illogical one. You'll never stop learning. There will always be more training (most of which you don't get paid for) Cars are ever evolving like the world around us. It's up to us to keep up and keep you driving down the road.

The first thing you have to understand is most if not all are commission. we get paid as jobs are completed. There is a set labor rate for everything we do. If a transmission pays 10 hours we only get 10 hours no matter how long it takes. No matter what may happen especially under warranty. If a bolt breaks coming out because its rusted. Some how its are fault so we must pay our time to figure it out and get it done. This is just one of many problems with the flag system. Another big problem is because we get paid by the job we are forced to try and beat the clock. This means doing everything as fast as we can without messing up. (Quantity over quality?) Remember we are only as good as our last mistake in this industry. Of course we get In trouble if we mess up a car. Sometimes we even have to pay for it despite the fact someone in management is constantly saying we need to hurry up or they will hire another tech or some other threat blah blah blah. we are constantly rushed. No matter if we miss diagnose a car or break something we are required to fix it for free. The biggest problem because of set labor times is if you cant keep the shop busy all day your techs cant make money. We need car after car to survive. When things get good and there is finally enough work to make a decent check they hire another tech claiming we are "behind".

Unfortunately the sad truth is this industry thinks anyone can come in and fix a car. We are monkeys with wrenches. no respect. no loyalties. Forget are continuing education. Having to buy tools and stay educated. All that matters to them is cycle times and your production of hours. If your hours are low it couldn't possibly be that they are not providing you with the opportunity to make a paycheck. They will walk in the shop see you standing there and be upset that your not doing anything. Again we can leave out the part were I just finished a 6 hour job and there is no work in the bucket or that maybe my back hurts from the job I just did. Maybe I'm frustrated i lost my ass on a car or maybe i just need a moment to stop take a deep breath and think about the car I'm working on. Your only as good as your perceived. Favoritism is absolutely insane in this business.

It's also a world were when your hired your fate and career lies in the hands on they're willingness to send you to training to become a master. Receive a raise. Learn more about a product.

Your also required to pay for your own tools. Thousand of dollars have to be spent in order to do the job. Yet asking for a raise is like pulling teeth to these people. I cant remember how many times I've been told I'm over paid already. Or your not worth it. It doesn't matter I spent 30k to have the tools I need to do my job. That you've worked for the company for 4 years. Or that your required to do the same work as a master technician for nearly half the hourly rate they receive. Don't get me wrong they deserve they're rate. But At the same time your expected to make money performing a skill level A job and beat the clock as if your a master. Then questioned about it or told it's your fault you couldn't make a paycheck.

One of the saddest parts of the industry is the people who make the most money could never do my job. It takes a special kind of person to be a tech. I have the upmost respect for technicians.

This industry needs a major overhaul in the way we are paid and in the way we are treated. Until something like that happens I wouldn't recommend this job to anyone. We are the only country in the world to use the flag system. I think its time for a change for every technician out there......

If your a dealer and you wanna stop having high turn over rates and encourage a higher quality of life for your employees. You might wanna think about giving technicians the pay and respect they deserve. Institute base pays for all your technicians. Maybe make them salary. Give bonuses. Take care of them when the shop is slow. Until then put your thinking caps on and diagnose the problem while we diagnose your car.....