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Über Genius
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Many years ago, when I was 20, I was looking for a job.

I went to a used car lot, named Pat Twyman's Used Cars, after seeing a help wanted ad in the newspaper.

The manager sort of blew me off the second I walked in the door but I followed him as he was just making noise about what he was looking for. His biggest grip was he wanted a mechanic, not a parts changer.

Back then I didn't know the difference and told him I was a mechanic. He challenged me and took me to the back row of the lot.

For those that don't know, the back row was where the cars, that nobody wanted, sat before they were ultimately sent off to the wrecking yard.

He pointed at a Ford LTD and said "if you can get it to run, I'll give you the job" and a few exchanges later I was working on the car. It took almost 15 minuted for me to get it to fire but I got it to run. Just barely, but it ran.
I walked back into the office and told the manager that I got it to run and he didn't believe me and wanted to see it for himself. So, of course we went out and I started it again.

Then I told him that it wasn't going to run for long because the timing chain has skipped a tooth and it was a matter of time before it jumped a second tooth and then it probably would be dead. He asked how long to fix it and I told him a few hours, plus parts, and he said it was a write off and not worth the money. Fair enough. But then I asked about the job and he reiterated he wanted a mechanic, and not a parts changer. I reminded him of the deal and he said I start tomorrow.

For $5 per hour, I was working in a small garage. When a car was in there it was 2 feet on either side and about 4 feet in the front. It had a wood work bench that looked like it was built by a 12 year old. And ZERO tools. I had to bring my own. All I had was a hodgepodge of CHEAP sockets, a Crescent wrench and a handful of wrenches scavenged from here and there.

Every day I'd have a list of cars that needed work. Some were pretty easy and some were more difficult. The list had the car, the license plate and the "problem". I had to record what I did and how long it took so they could evaluate the profit on the car when sold.

The problems were as easy as toasted points, clogged fuel filter, spark plugs fouled, etc. Or it could be more difficult like a bad clutch or leaking power steering unit. I was averaging 4 cars a day.

So, how to fix bad points. Just toss in another set. Clogged fuel filter? Replace it. Fouled plugs, get new plugs. You know, do it right.

After two weeks the boss called me a parts changer and decided to let me go. Standing next to him was a Mexican guy that didn't speak much English but holding a tool box. Bottom line, they found someone cheaper.

Funny thing was that a relative of the owner had approached at the moment I was being let go and said to me "Hey, you know Opels, right?" and of course I replied that I did. The person asked me to look at this Opel they were looking to trade in and see what it needed. I told them I had just been fired so it wasn't up to me. The person looked at the manager with one of those "are you out of your mind?" looks and then looked back to me and asked if I'd look anyhow.

It was a Kadett with a 1.1 in it. I looked at it really quick and determined it needed the brushes in the starter replaced. The person looked at the manager and said "he's right. We already had it looked at" and the manager defended by saying that I'd just spend more money on starter brushes. He was right, I would have. They were about $3.50. I know because I had bought some for my GT about a month earlier.

But, i was still let go. Not a big deal but it still bothers me that I was called a parts changer.

Not to sound like I'm tooting my own horn but I have a weird knack for machines. Cars are just machines. My approach, having grown up VERY poor was that you FIX things. You don't replace them and you don't just toss money at them (changing parts til it finally works). You use the tools you have to diagnose the problem and find a solution to the problem.

Whenever I offer advice to people, it's the easiest and least expensive path. This is why I could never be a mechanic in a shop. Most "mechanics ARE parts changers. If the engine has a miss in it, you just start changing parts til it goes away. Why diagnose anything when the customer is paying the bill. That's not my style.

When I say I have a knack, I'm not overstating it. My van, for instance, started acting up. The symptoms were that it would run fine and then I'd step on the gas pedal and it would fall flat. If I baby'd it, I could drive. And it got progressively worse over the course of two weeks. I didn't immediately fix it because I KNEW what was wrong. Even though I'd never had this issue before I had already determined it was bad fuel delivery and with the age of the van, my fueling habits, etc, the fuel pump needed to be replaced. I drove it for the two weeks to get the gas out of the tank before I dropped it.

Sure enough, it was the fuel pump. The pump was OK but the bolts holding it together had vibrated loose. How it ran at all was a surprise.

A month or so ago my power steering quit, spontaneously. Everyone I talked to said "Power steering pump". I bought a new steering rack instead. It's WAY easier to replace the pump. I replaced the rack. Now I have power steering again.

The point is, some people can listen to symptoms or feel a vibration or whatnot and have an excellent idea of what's going on. Other people start replacing parts until the problem is resolved. And then there's the people that assume it's the same problem they had on their car and entice the car owner to pursue that path.

We all have our methods and sometimes they clash. The important thing to remember is that we are who we are. If you are a parts changer and think you'r a mechanic then you're wrong. It's just that simple (sorry to those I've offended). If you're a "I had the same thing" person, own it. If you are a diagnostician, bite your tongue ;)

So, back to that manager at the car lot. His theory on "fixing" cars was to Mickey Mouse them enough to get them sold. Bad points, file them down. Engine leaks, tighten the bolts a little more. Power steering leaking, put some stop leak in it. That kind of guy. Not my thing. I FIX things. I don't fudge it. You see, I'm a TRUE mechanic. I figure out what is wrong and find the least expensive path to making it RIGHT. Yes, I change parts. Only after I've determined they NEED to be replaced.
 

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Registered
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Many years ago, when I was 20, I was looking for a job.

I went to a used car lot, named Pat Twyman's Used Cars, after seeing a help wanted ad in the newspaper.

The manager sort of blew me off the second I walked in the door but I followed him as he was just making noise about what he was looking for. His biggest grip was he wanted a mechanic, not a parts changer.

Back then I didn't know the difference and told him I was a mechanic. He challenged me and took me to the back row of the lot.

For those that don't know, the back row was where the cars, that nobody wanted, sat before they were ultimately sent off to the wrecking yard.

He pointed at a Ford LTD and said "if you can get it to run, I'll give you the job" and a few exchanges later I was working on the car. It took almost 15 minuted for me to get it to fire but I got it to run. Just barely, but it ran.
I walked back into the office and told the manager that I got it to run and he didn't believe me and wanted to see it for himself. So, of course we went out and I started it again.

Then I told him that it wasn't going to run for long because the timing chain has skipped a tooth and it was a matter of time before it jumped a second tooth and then it probably would be dead. He asked how long to fix it and I told him a few hours, plus parts, and he said it was a write off and not worth the money. Fair enough. But then I asked about the job and he reiterated he wanted a mechanic, and not a parts changer. I reminded him of the deal and he said I start tomorrow.

For $5 per hour, I was working in a small garage. When a car was in there it was 2 feet on either side and about 4 feet in the front. It had a wood work bench that looked like it was built by a 12 year old. And ZERO tools. I had to bring my own. All I had was a hodgepodge of CHEAP sockets, a Crescent wrench and a handful of wrenches scavenged from here and there.

Every day I'd have a list of cars that needed work. Some were pretty easy and some were more difficult. The list had the car, the license plate and the "problem". I had to record what I did and how long it took so they could evaluate the profit on the car when sold.

The problems were as easy as toasted points, clogged fuel filter, spark plugs fouled, etc. Or it could be more difficult like a bad clutch or leaking power steering unit. I was averaging 4 cars a day.

So, how to fix bad points. Just toss in another set. Clogged fuel filter? Replace it. Fouled plugs, get new plugs. You know, do it right.

After two weeks the boss called me a parts changer and decided to let me go. Standing next to him was a Mexican guy that didn't speak much English but holding a tool box. Bottom line, they found someone cheaper.

Funny thing was that a relative of the owner had approached at the moment I was being let go and said to me "Hey, you know Opels, right?" and of course I replied that I did. The person asked me to look at this Opel they were looking to trade in and see what it needed. I told them I had just been fired so it wasn't up to me. The person looked at the manager with one of those "are you out of your mind?" looks and then looked back to me and asked if I'd look anyhow.

It was a Kadett with a 1.1 in it. I looked at it really quick and determined it needed the brushes in the starter replaced. The person looked at the manager and said "he's right. We already had it looked at" and the manager defended by saying that I'd just spend more money on starter brushes. He was right, I would have. They were about $3.50. I know because I had bought some for my GT about a month earlier.

But, i was still let go. Not a big deal but it still bothers me that I was called a parts changer.

Not to sound like I'm tooting my own horn but I have a weird knack for machines. Cars are just machines. My approach, having grown up VERY poor was that you FIX things. You don't replace them and you don't just toss money at them (changing parts til it finally works). You use the tools you have to diagnose the problem and find a solution to the problem.

Whenever I offer advice to people, it's the easiest and least expensive path. This is why I could never be a mechanic in a shop. Most "mechanics ARE parts changers. If the engine has a miss in it, you just start changing parts til it goes away. Why diagnose anything when the customer is paying the bill. That's not my style.

When I say I have a knack, I'm not overstating it. My van, for instance, started acting up. The symptoms were that it would run fine and then I'd step on the gas pedal and it would fall flat. If I baby'd it, I could drive. And it got progressively worse over the course of two weeks. I didn't immediately fix it because I KNEW what was wrong. Even though I'd never had this issue before I had already determined it was bad fuel delivery and with the age of the van, my fueling habits, etc, the fuel pump needed to be replaced. I drove it for the two weeks to get the gas out of the tank before I dropped it.

Sure enough, it was the fuel pump. The pump was OK but the bolts holding it together had vibrated loose. How it ran at all was a surprise.

A month or so ago my power steering quit, spontaneously. Everyone I talked to said "Power steering pump". I bought a new steering rack instead. It's WAY easier to replace the pump. I replaced the rack. Now I have power steering again.

The point is, some people can listen to symptoms or feel a vibration or whatnot and have an excellent idea of what's going on. Other people start replacing parts until the problem is resolved. And then there's the people that assume it's the same problem they had on their car and entice the car owner to pursue that path.

We all have our methods and sometimes they clash. The important thing to remember is that we are who we are. If you are a parts changer and think you'r a mechanic then you're wrong. It's just that simple (sorry to those I've offended). If you're a "I had the same thing" person, own it. If you are a diagnostician, bite your tongue ;)

So, back to that manager at the car lot. His theory on "fixing" cars was to Mickey Mouse them enough to get them sold. Bad points, file them down. Engine leaks, tighten the bolts a little more. Power steering leaking, put some stop leak in it. That kind of guy. Not my thing. I FIX things. I don't fudge it. You see, I'm a TRUE mechanic. I figure out what is wrong and find the least expensive path to making it RIGHT. Yes, I change parts. Only after I've determined they NEED to be replaced.
Very well stated. I sorta started on the same path at age 16 taking "Rock Tickets". Those who don't know, tickets of weight each truck is hauling in to the job site. This was a summer job. The trucks would come in in waves of 10. So for about 20 to 30 min I stood around. At time I'd end up where the mechanics were working on equipment. The elderly Gentleman, who also went to the same church as I, got pissed at seeing me "stand around" and started hollering at me to get tools out of the service truck. Of course I did. 1 he went to my church, 2 they didn't call him "hand grenade" for nothing. After a few weeks "taking tickets" I was told to ride with him. Next, I was a permanent helper, thus starting me on my path of "pulling wrenches" Many a mile I rode with him. Some funny storys, some sad, but that's how I got my start. I later operated Wabco pans, Caterpiller 631 Pans, D-8s, D-9s, some as pushers in the "Bar pit" some as rippers. Later when I lived in Raleigh N.C. going to school,I was the Parts driver. I later became Office Manager at the ending of the relocation of State rds 751 and 1008 for The Everett B Jordan Lake. Drove through water the last time going to Pittsboro to deliver reports to the Army Corp of Engineers. The end was boring, hated reports, working off service trucks was cool. Always something different to work on. Jarrell
 

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Detritus Maximus
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Aside from working on cars, over the past 30 years or so, I have been seeing an steady increase in the number of people that want you to just give them the answer not show them how to figure things out. It doesn't seem to matter what the subject is, just give them the answer and don't bother them with details. It's not a millennial thing either, I see this with 70 year olds as well. You do the hard part, they'll take it from there.
 

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Opel Intern
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The youngest Millennial is now 22, so lets just remember that we aren't the babies anymore. The oldest Millennial is 37.

More to your point, I think the internet has driven people to desire immediate answers. If you can ask Google or Siri for an answer and its tells you, why doesn't everything in the world simply work that way?
 

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Senior Contributor
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I think we are made from the same mold. I have been fixing stuff since I was 5. Before I left NY my 1950's drill press (it was my fathers) gave up the ghost because the centrifugal switch inside it broke. A piece of 1/16" phenolic sheet, two contacts from a burned up contactor off of one of my shop cranes that I cleaned up and cut to size so they would fit inside the motor, and a few other miscellaneous parts and bearings, and it was fixed and is now bolted to my bench here in Florida. The satisfaction of making stuff work after it is broken far out weighs just buying something to replace it.
 

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I think you either have a knack for (or enjoy) fixing and building things or you don’t. I used to tear things apart and rebuild them when I was a kid just to see how they worked. There are definitely some things I enjoy better than others (looking at you, plumbing), but skills carry over between different types of projects.

Funny you mention Pat Twymans, FO. I just went by there on Powell as I was reading this thread.
 

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Detritus Maximus
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The youngest Millennial is now 22, so lets just remember that we aren't the babies anymore. The oldest Millennial is 37.

More to your point, I think the internet has driven people to desire immediate answers. If you can ask Google or Siri for an answer and its tells you, why doesn't everything in the world simply work that way?
No disparagement to the Millenials. I just wanted to make clear that the common complaint towards 'kids these days' is not limited to them. Or even the internet. While it has had it's effect, the general lack of patience or desire to 'know' or not dispose of a resource has been disappearing for several decades. Perhaps that was the inspiration for Siri in the first place...

The mechanics (and other fields) have been forced to become parts changers by virtue of the fact that engineering and production methods that produce parts with the least amount of labor and material as well as an increase in durability meant a decrease in rebuildability. It simply takes more time and material to make a fuel pump rebuildable than it does to make a disposable unit. It takes less time at the repair shop for many items since remove and replace is the same amount of time regardless of a new replacement or a rebuild without the time involved in diagnosis and rebuilding. Plus it eliminates the risk of failed rebuilds by low skilled 'mechanics', whether they are the vehicle owner or a less skilled mechanic. The Opel fuel pump is a good example. The old ones were rebuildable. The later ones were not but were cheaper. So, if the rebuild kit is half the price of the complete nonrebuildable unit, would you then want to also pay the hourly shop rate to have your mechanic install the rebuild kit? Not me, but then again, I'd be doing it myself anyway. I see the advantages on both sides of this, but the real benefit is being able to keep smaller amounts of spare parts (weight and volume) and being able to disassemble and repair in the middle of nowhere or the middle of the night without waking the AAA phone operator.
 

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1970 Opel Gt - Purchased July 1972 - Chartreuse - restored - 3000 miles as of 02-16, 2021 -
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Excellent story and very well written.

No doubt that I am a part changer from way back as I started changing parts on that GT. 47 years ago - I did learn a lot about my car by taking it completely apart and putting it back together with out assistance, but again that is still in the realm of a parts changer.

Started cutting grass at the age of 8 and delivering papers at 10 and I was also raised poor so I learned the value of a dollar early on and to do things myself in all areas however, I am not a mechanic I am someone that in general will fix it myself regardless of what it is or do it myself even at this point I can afford to pay someone to do it, but as I taught my children' " for every dollar you don't spend on something that is a dollar saved and can be used in the future" or most likely passed on to them. I even changed the spark plugs in my 15 year old, high mileage Lexus, took me around 10 hours but I saved at least 450.00 so that's 45 dollars an hour- not bad money when you are retired. Basically I have been financially motivated to do it myself from a young age and well I am just plain cheap too. I purchased that car new and it has never been back to the dealer and has only been to a Mechanic twice. I took it to a mechanic at 120,000 miles for a new timing belt, etc and one other time to replace a bad front wheel bearing, that is why I am still driving it - great car - everything works, 215,000 miles to date.

For we non-mechanics, part changers, diagnosing is more just plain guessing so we rely on you and other high knowledge posters to show us the light or to at least lead us in the right direction, that is provided we understand all of the lingo you use and sometimes I don't. But I am learning....I consider myself a student and I was never a very good student but I am trying, I just need a few good teachers.

The reason I responded is that I do want to thank you and all of the others that have helped me and to let you all know that I really appreciate your help and to say thank you for helping me over come my many GT issues past, present and future.
Very Best Regards,
Carl
 

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Just Some Dude in Jersey
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17,336 Posts
I feel echoes of the problem I'm currently battling in this thread. I started off with the most likely suspects and the devices that I had good reason to suspect or ones that I had recently messed with as the culprit. Bad gas replacement, faulty new fuel pump, blackened plugs/cap/rotor, an old scorched ignition module, check all the wiring, vacuum leaks, electrical system in general. One by one I went through the most likely suspects, then the only somewhat likely suspects, then the completely unlikely suspects.

Part of my problem is that I don't have much of a history with poorly running cars. When I was poor I bought $100 cars. They were beat when I got them. I managed to get 2-3 years out of each of them before they broke because of something that cost more than $100. So, I would buy another $100 car and drive that for a few years until something expensive broke.

My 18 year yellow GT never got a problem that wasn't caused by a vacuum leak. I got spoiled. 225K miles and all I had to do was tighten the manifold bolts or put some new goo on the carb gasket and it was good as new.

I simply have no experience in diagnosing a car with engine trouble that wasn't caused by a vacuum leak.

Funny thing, the only trouble I've ever had with my modern FI cars has been..........phantom engine shut offs or not starting. Sound familiar? On all of them it turned out to be a computer connection problem in one of the connectors or an electronic device that went on the fritz. Hence, one of the first things I replaced was the only engine related electronic device I have: The ignition trigger.


I started off as a bicycle mechanic as a freshman in high school and did it for all 4 years. We worked on a lot of antiques and weird bizarre bike related contraptions. I learned to be able to make parts from scratch 'cuz you couldn't get replacements. I learned to hodgepodge parts from other bikes to make weird ones work. I learned to innovate and modify at an early age.

It also helps that I like to fix things. I get a huge rush of satisfaction when I succeed where others have failed. I LOVE what I do for a living. Every day at work is basically FUN for me. I'm getting paid to have FUN! How many people can say that? I could have gone into management 30 years ago, but where's the fun in that? You can fix a busted machine, but you can't fix busted people. I'll stick with machines.

In my mind, a person made this machine, therefore, THIS person, me, should be able to fix it. "I WILL NOT LET A MACHINE DEFEAT ME" is my motto. I'll fail with women and with people in general and will throw in the towel early in the battle, but I won't quit when it comes to a machine. It might take me years to find the solution, but I'll find it.

Alas, I don't work with people who enjoy what they do for a living. 90% of my fellow Post Office mechanics and electronic technicians HATE what they do every day. It's just a paycheck to them and it wouldn't bother them one bit if they came in every day and sat in the locker room doing nothing all week and never touch a tool or look at a machine. They would actually consider that to be a very good week at work. That would be death with hot sauce on it to me. I would quit within a few weeks of that, no matter how much they were paying me.


Am I a mechanic or a parts replacer?

I'm a little of both.

:veryhappy
 

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Detritus Maximus
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3,720 Posts
There is this, though, when cars are just used cars, less than 12 years old, it all makes sense to diagnose. When they are 30 years old, most everything is worn out and will fail or give trouble pretty regular. I will replace a lot of stuff with new just to be certain. I suffer from the chronic malady of 'while I'm in here, I might as well ….." If I have a bad ball joint I'll replace the control arm bushings as well. once I have it apart, might as well do the lower too. And while the tools are out, lets do the other side. It seems like more work, but I plan for it. The thing I hate the most is doing one simple thing and then the thing right next to it fails a week later...do it all again.
 

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Über Genius
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10,248 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Excellent story and very well written.

No doubt that I am a part changer from way back as I started changing parts on that GT. 47 years ago - I did learn a lot about my car by taking it completely apart and putting it back together with out assistance, but again that is still in the realm of a parts changer.

Started cutting grass at the age of 8 and delivering papers at 10 and I was also raised poor so I learned the value of a dollar early on and to do things myself in all areas however, I am not a mechanic I am someone that in general will fix it myself regardless of what it is or do it myself even at this point I can afford to pay someone to do it, but as I taught my children' " for every dollar you don't spend on something that is a dollar saved and can be used in the future" or most likely passed on to them. I even changed the spark plugs in my 15 year old, high mileage Lexus, took me around 10 hours but I saved at least 450.00 so that's 45 dollars an hour- not bad money when you are retired. Basically I have been financially motivated to do it myself from a young age and well I am just plain cheap too. I purchased that car new and it has never been back to the dealer and has only been to a Mechanic twice. I took it to a mechanic at 120,000 miles for a new timing belt, etc and one other time to replace a bad front wheel bearing, that is why I am still driving it - great car - everything works, 215,000 miles to date.

For we non-mechanics, part changers, diagnosing is more just plain guessing so we rely on you and other high knowledge posters to show us the light or to at least lead us in the right direction, that is provided we understand all of the lingo you use and sometimes I don't. But I am learning....I consider myself a student and I was never a very good student but I am trying, I just need a few good teachers.

The reason I responded is that I do want to thank you and all of the others that have helped me and to let you all know that I really appreciate your help and to say thank you for helping me over come my many GT issues past, present and future.
Very Best Regards,
Carl
The part highlighted is what I'm mostly concerned with. There is a lot of guessing that goes with parts changers. If the parts changers are OK with the expense, fine. It's when they get pissed off that "changing the spark plug wires didn't work" that I get discouraged about.

I feel echoes of the problem I'm currently battling in this thread. I started off with the most likely suspects and the devices that I had good reason to suspect or ones that I had recently messed with as the culprit. Bad gas replacement, faulty new fuel pump, blackened plugs/cap/rotor, an old scorched ignition module, check all the wiring, vacuum leaks, electrical system in general. One by one I went through the most likely suspects, then the only somewhat likely suspects, then the completely unlikely suspects.

Part of my problem is that I don't have much of a history with poorly running cars. When I was poor I bought $100 cars. They were beat when I got them. I managed to get 2-3 years out of each of them before they broke because of something that cost more than $100. So, I would buy another $100 car and drive that for a few years until something expensive broke.

My 18 year yellow GT never got a problem that wasn't caused by a vacuum leak. I got spoiled. 225K miles and all I had to do was tighten the manifold bolts or put some new goo on the carb gasket and it was good as new.

I simply have no experience in diagnosing a car with engine trouble that wasn't caused by a vacuum leak.

Funny thing, the only trouble I've ever had with my modern FI cars has been..........phantom engine shut offs or not starting. Sound familiar? On all of them it turned out to be a computer connection problem in one of the connectors or an electronic device that went on the fritz. Hence, one of the first things I replaced was the only engine related electronic device I have: The ignition trigger.


I started off as a bicycle mechanic as a freshman in high school and did it for all 4 years. We worked on a lot of antiques and weird bizarre bike related contraptions. I learned to be able to make parts from scratch 'cuz you couldn't get replacements. I learned to hodgepodge parts from other bikes to make weird ones work. I learned to innovate and modify at an early age.

It also helps that I like to fix things. I get a huge rush of satisfaction when I succeed where others have failed. I LOVE what I do for a living. Every day at work is basically FUN for me. I'm getting paid to have FUN! How many people can say that? I could have gone into management 30 years ago, but where's the fun in that? You can fix a busted machine, but you can't fix busted people. I'll stick with machines.

In my mind, a person made this machine, therefore, THIS person, me, should be able to fix it. "I WILL NOT LET A MACHINE DEFEAT ME" is my motto. I'll fail with women and with people in general and will throw in the towel early in the battle, but I won't quit when it comes to a machine. It might take me years to find the solution, but I'll find it.

Alas, I don't work with people who enjoy what they do for a living. 90% of my fellow Post Office mechanics and electronic technicians HATE what they do every day. It's just a paycheck to them and it wouldn't bother them one bit if they came in every day at sat in the locker room doing nothing all week and never touch a tool or look at a machine. They would actually consider that to be a very good week at work. That would be death with hot sauce on it to me. I would quit within a few weeks of that, no matter how much they were paying me.


Am I a mechanic or a parts replacer?

I'm a little of both.

:veryhappy
I've been meaning to write something like this original post for a while. Your situation was a catalyst for the timing, to be sure. But you aren't the "reason" for writing it.

As I said, I don't have a problem with parts changers. Just accept that (the collective) you are just changing parts and hoping for the best. Sort of like a crapshoot or playing the lottery. You might just get lucky. LOL

When someone goes to the doctor, they get a good doctor or an acceptable one (or a bad one). A good doctor listens to your heart, listens to your lungs, probes your body parts and fondles your balls while you cough. He (or she) runs bloodwork and orders the appropriate tests to find out what's wrong with you.
An OK doctor orders blood work and sends you for an Xray.
A bad doctor tells you the most common thing he can think of. Issues you a prescription and hopes he doesn't get sued. He might even prescribe the cheapest medicine his connected hospital can give you. It might not work but it looks like they are doing "A" job so most don't know the difference. The other kind of bad doctor is like the ones you see on TV. They order all kinds of tests that cost a bazillion dollars (hey, it's not their money they are spending) and at the end of the day, after an MRI, CT scan, colonoscopy, explorative surgery, several expert consults, EKG, EEG, etc, they tell you that a single shot will fix you.

Working on cars is a lot like that. There are symptoms. The symptoms can add items into question and rule out others. You don't want to remove someone's transplant a liver for a tummy ache. Of course cars are less likely to die from replacing a part. The point is there are symptoms. Those symptoms tell a story.

BTW, I totally hear you about fixing machines vs fixing people. I used to be a machine fixer. Nowadays (for only abut a year), I'm a manager. I don't fix stuff. I have to fix people. It's easier to get a solenoid valve to work with a pressure regulator. It's much harder to get a hoarding aggressive person to work with one that feels entitlement.

There is this, though, when cars are just used cars, less than 12 years old, it all makes sense to diagnose. When they are 30 years old, most everything is worn out and will fail or give trouble pretty regular. I will replace a lot of stuff with new just to be certain. I suffer from the chronic malady of 'while I'm in here, I might as well ….." If I have a bad ball joint I'll replace the control arm bushings as well. once I have it apart, might as well do the lower too. And while the tools are out, lets do the other side. It seems like more work, but I plan for it. The thing I hate the most is doing one simple thing and then the thing right next to it fails a week later...do it all again.
I never take issue with someone replacing MORE than they need to when fixing something that went wrong. If your fuel pump goes out, go ahead and replace the filters, fuel line, clamps and stuff. It's all going to go bad someday.
I only take issue when someone replaces the entire electrical system without finding out that the problem was mechanical or fuel related (or any combination thereof). And even then I wouldn't take issue until the parts changer got frustrated that "replacing the muffler bearings didn't work" stuff happens. If replacing a part is part of the diagnostic process then, fine. But if someone rolls the dice and it comes up craps, they shouldn't get upset.

Personally, I enjoy the diagnostic process. I don't use a lot of fancy doohickeys. I'm really good at seeing, what seems to be to me, the obvious.

Another fun story from my 20's.

I saw a small car broke down on the side of the road. I used to stop almost every time back then to offer help.
It was being driven by an attractive woman a couple years older than me while she was scoping out possible career choices. She had gone to college to be an efficiency expert. (she was annoyed that I was able to describe her entire chosen career in less than 5 minutes).

Anyhow, her car sputtered and died. It was about 5 years old and a smaller import (under a big name). I told her I was pretty good with cars and could see if I could get it running again. Well, 5 minutes into the diagnostic I knew her timing belt has stripped. I couldn't see it but it had all the telltale signs. Her distributor wouldn't hold true to the engine rotation. It kept changing whenever I reset it.
I told her but she was skeptical. I spent a few minutes removing the top timing cover and showed her the missing teeth.

My friend and I, then, went looking for a new timing belt for her car but it was Sunday night in nowhere Oregon so nothing to be found.

We eventually ended up towing her car 200 miles, with my second Opel GT, back to Portland. The next day she had her warranty plan replace the timing belt and she was on her way.

It's that kind of stuff that makes me happy. My diagnostic skills work in just that way. When something breaks I can rule out just about everything very quickly. On most GT's I can nail a diagnosis in less than 5 minutes. First is to see if there's spark, then fuel. Then look at the mechanical (timing). It doesn't get easier than that. Intermittent problems are MUCH harder. And when someone puts whackadoodle components on their engine, MUCH MUCH harder.

But, having said that, the most you learn is when you try. Even failing is learning.
 

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Good thread. Reminds me of when I was an electro/mechanical tech for a manufacturing company.
A new 100 ton press came in from Germany after we hooked it up, it would work but not build up high pressure. The "engineers" took over and proceeded to change settings on relays and the timing of the cycles. All the documentation was in German and no one could translate the manuals. Faxes back and forth to Germany, more changes to the timing, etc. and it still didn't work. A month or so later, I asked my boss if I could look at it. I looked through the manual and noticed a hydraulic diagram. That diagram showed a pressure relief valve in the high pressure section of the ram. I dragged a ladder over to the press, unbolted to top plate and reached into the hydraulic fluid and felt around for the valve. The relief valve's spring was broken so it would open before the press hit its high pressure cycle. It took a couple of weeks to undo all the "fixes" that were tried. That was where I learned to read German wiring diagrams.

I had a VW shop for a couple of years and would always try to fix rather than replace parts. Like the time a guy came in with a bad generator and I replaced the brushes and cleaned the commutator instead of replacing it with a new one and charging accordingly. Not always the best business decision. When I saw the air cooled VW's going the way of the slide rule and felt I was too honest to make a lot of money doing that, I got out and went for a steady paycheck and bennies.
 

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I thought I was a shade-tree mechanic. I even worked at a Lincoln-Mercury Dealership for a year back in the 80s when computers first starting coming out. Having come from the electronics industry where trouble-shooting was the order of business, I soon was disheartened by the parts changers working there. Nobody could diagnose the new systems so I left that industry. I still feel I figure out what is broken and only replace the bad part. I'm not always right, but not bad. Then I bought my Manta and I just don't know anymore.
 

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When I was very young my dad owned a garage. He worked on everything with a motor, cars, semis, tractors, etc and had lots and lots of tools and diagnostic equipment. He had terrible allergies and one day the doctor told him that if he didn't move to Arizona the allergies would kill him. So we packed up and moved and he sold the garage for a fire sale price but kept most of the tools and some equipment. I was so young I never remembered that move.

Anyway, after the move he worked as a machinist for Air Research. To make ends meet he would repair cars at home. From early on I was always out there with him, handing him tools before I could help. He taught me a lot about auto repair. In those days you repaired stuff. He taught me how to rebuild carburetors (before he owned the garage he had worked for Carter Carburetor for a few years). I learned how to use an armature growler, torque wrench, distributor machine, dwell meter, timing light, valve grinder and lapper, balance tires, do alignments, brakes, front ends, gearboxes, etc.

In high school I had two full years of vocational auto mechanics and pretty much rebuilt my dad's 52 chevy bumper to bumper. What a great time that was. Too bad the trades are rarely taught in high school anymore.

Anyway, he taught me how to diagnose problems and repair components and I am grateful for the skills he taught me. I sure miss my dad.
 

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I guess I'm part shade tree mechanic, as some things like Combines, Tractors, tend to break in the most inappropriate places and have to be fixed where they stop, so the middle of the field at night on a Combine is not out of the norm. Some things can be fixed where they stop, others have to be dragged up to "The pad" where I have a roof overhead. Some times are very inappropriate, such as 20 miles away from home with a fuel injection pump fail and rain moving in the next day. So you hit the road, praying you won't spin a main crank bearing from all the fuel in the oil pan, get home to "the pad" put up tarps, aim the space heater at you and start to tear fuel pump down. All this happened a day before Thanksgiving one year. Quit at 10 pm, call your parts guy at home, wake him up, and since you have a parts book, give him the part nos. Leave the next morning at 5 Am to drive to his place of business 2 hrs away, where he has put the parts outside for you, drive home, and get to work. By this time it is raining and cold. Finish up putting parts on on Thanksgiving morn, clean up eat dinner. The only reason you do this is because you have to provide for your family, and get the crop in. You do what You have to Do. Now things like a Power steering rack rebuild on a Durango, you farm out to other mechanics, since they have shop that's heated and the proper tools to do this job. I have 2 toolboxes, 1 metric,1 American. I can do small jobs such as my Gt, because I want to. I want to learn, how to do this job. Other things such as the Durango, I can do, I don't want to, because I can pay someone to do it for me. I want to learn some things, others not, other things as my Combine, I Have to do it, no one else will, nor has the knowledge, that I do. It is a conscience desision on anyones part about doing the job, or letting someone else do it. That is why I enjoy this forum. Everyone here has made the decision to work on their cars and enjoy the satisfaction that come along with it, or the heartache of not being able to even make a show. Keep on pulling wrenchs people. Jarrell
 

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Like the time a guy came in with a bad generator and I replaced the brushes and cleaned the commutator instead of replacing it with a new one
Just did this to my Ghia about 6 months ago when the generator light would not go out at low RPM..........works now.:veryhappy
 

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The problem with mechanics is the human element. It takes a human with knowledge and skills to diagnose. It takes much less human capital and therefore risk, to replace parts. In a business context, I can pay a parts changer less than the mechanic and that is where I’ll eventually wind up ahead in cost. The skilled mechanics are master ASE certified and have 10+ yrs under their belt.

Then you get into manufacturing costs and as pointed out, it’s cheap to make it non-rebuildable. Future collectible cars will be a PITA to keep running. For many reasons, we’re getting to a point where you’re just better off replacing the car every 10 years.

Our Society is less of a DIY type and more of a just make the problem go away type. That leads to replacing parts instead of fixing them.
 

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These arguments can be taken to the extreme either way.

Many times just replacing the part makes sense. When I owned my auto repair shop, we saw a LOT of GM alternators that quit charging. 9 times our of ten it was the same part that failed. It was called a diode trio or a diode tree. Very easy to test, but you had to disassemble the alt to test it. We kept a box full of them that we bought in bulk. Routinely, if it were a fairly low mileage car, we would disassemble the alternator, test the diodes, and if bad, replace, and then reinstall the alternator. We could charge the customer much less than just replacing the alternator with a remanufactured unit. However, if the car was high mileage, there was no point in replacing that one part, because soon something else would fail Front bearing; rear bearing; brushes, etc. I did not want to take a chance of a displeased customer when the allternator I repaired went south. They will seldom understand that it wasn't the part i replaced that went bad. They just know I worked on the alternator.

Another example: about 25 years ago (after I was out of the car busniess and had started practicing law) my ex father in law came over to pick up two of my kids for an outing. He was a great guy, and we stayed friends even after his daughter and i divorced. The front brakes on his Lincoln locked up right in my driveway. I knew immediately what the issue was. Ford, in its infinite wisdome used a phenolic composite material for the caliper pistons. They would swell over time (not a question of IF, just a question of WHEN..... 100% fail rate). So, i jack the car up and pull the calipers right there in the driveway. We head down to Autozone. I could have bought two steel replacement pistons along with two rebuild kits ("O" rings and boots) for about $37. Or we could buy two remanufactured calipers with STEEL pistons for $24 (that's right $12 a piece). Guess what we did? Does that make me a parts replacer?

Today, there are many good quality reman parts available. You have to be careful of some of the Chinese crap. But still, WAAAAAAAY more cost effective to replace a water pump than rebuild it in most cases. Just because you CAN rebuild it, doens't mean it is cost effective. On my GT, I bought new wheel cylinders for the rear, but rebuilt my calipers on the front. Just a matter of convenience. On my 49 Studebaker farm truck (1.5 ton dump truck) NO ONE makes a replacement cylinder for the front brakes. They were too pitted to hone and rebuild. So, I sent them off to White Post Restorations to be sleeved with brass sleeves. Then replaced them. Does that make me a parts replacer?

Another side of the story is how much time I have vs how much money. When I was a single dad with three kids going to law school, I repaired the supplemental (electric) cooling fan on my old BMW by purchasing a bronze bushing at Ace Hardware, and filing it to fit. Cost of repair: about an hour of my time and $1.50 for the bushing vs. a couple hundred bucks for the fan assembly. That car had about 150,000 miles on it at the time, and the fan was still working when I donated it with 280,000 miles on it. Today, I am able to bill decent bucks in my practice, and it would be very close call on whether it would be more cost effective to just buy the fan. I probably should just pay someone else to work on my cas, but I LIKE working on them. It is my respite from the pracitce of law. There are so may a - hole lawyers out there. I do my best to avoid them, but not always possible.
 
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