Alternate Career: Automotive Mechanic

Choosing An Alternate Career: Becoming An Auto Mechanic

 

Just like in medicine there are specialties within the auto mechanic industry. Some will do only oil changes and brake job. Others are diagnosticians and identify problems only and hand over the work to other specialists. The proctologists of the automotive world for example is working on rear end differentials. On heavier cars such as commercial vehicles or rear wheel drive vehicles there is a gear box called the differential which requires maintenance and servicing. Then are those that specialize in imports or only specific automakers such as Jaguars. And within the automotive world there is many different areas in which you can specialize. You can rebuild engines only… you can build performance engines… you can customize cars both in appearance as well as performance. You can bolt on off-the-shelf parts or you can program the car’s computers and do other custom modifications for racing or other performance needs. There is the 4X4 world of offroading and the person who spends $60k on their truck to make it a super-duper grocery getter.

The reputable companies want you to have some training. There are certifications to be had and you can do some at private for profit colleges or community colleges. If you have the interest you certainly can learn a lot on your own especially if you already have had some experience and start as an apprentice and work your way up. Some companies hire you to just do the basics such as oil changes and brake jobs and you have the chance to move up. Other companies are so large and invest so much in their employees that they have their own ‘schools’ you can attend. You basically can increase your skill for free just by working at the company. They naturally hope to make it a career for you. Private smaller companies may hire you from word of mouth or contact the head of a community college program and ask for their best and brightest.

Pay structure varies so much. Some will make a very small hourly wage plus a percentage of each job. Some will get a salary. Those who own their own shop naturally will have an entrepreneurial angle from which they can make a little off each job while they have a shop manager and staff mechanic. That’s why I did for 2 years. I started working on my own car and got involved in some racing for fun. I made friends with a great mechanic with whom I then opened an automotive performance shop while I lived in San Diego. We were equal partners and I managed the business side while he managed the mechanical aspect and we eventually hired a shop manager to do the scheduling and customer care side. I have since sold my ex-partner and he is doing great and running the company with 2 more employees. The shop is called Current Auto Performance and it was a great way to turn a hobby into a business without losing the fun. We specialized in classic cars and cars build for performance. At some point I will write an article about how to open an automotive servicing company. There are certainly things I would do differently but I learned a lot and got some great help along the way.

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