Day In The Life: Of A Mechanical Repair Shop Owner

What goes on in an automotive repair shop when you're not there?


7:00 a.m.

My day at the shop always starts around 7, when I arrive and open up the gate and the office, get the lights on, fire up the heaters, open up the parts room, fire up the air compressor and turn on the radio, etc. Most every day from there is spent in my office, generally getting ready for the day before everything cuts loose.

This particular day started up like any other, but changed real quickly when I was in my office, which is not easy to find unless you know where to look. At that time, there was the sound of someone entering. It turned out to be a local sheriff who had stopped by to inform me of an upcoming meeting. He's a talker, and right there my schedule was thrown off.

In comes our first customer of the day. He's an elderly gentleman, and like so many of the older generation, he was rather early. This caused me to stop what I was doing and begin to check him in for the day. My wife, Sally, had just arrived and I found out later that she got stuck behind this customer coming in, creeping along at a snails pace, holding up traffic. About the time he was checked in and the diagnosis was performed on his 1969 Chevy PU, the other employees had arrived and pretty much completed the further opening up of the shop.

By 8:15 a crank seal had arrived that was ordered the day before. We had started on the diagnosis and tear down, but I needed to help one of my employees get the seal installed so he could finish the job. I was doing this and what seems like a hundred other things all at the same time. Just before that, I had my employees briefed on the day's scheduled activities and was in the process of driving off in our shop vehicle to give the elderly gentleman a ride home. We got to within 1/2-mile of his home and he realized that he had left the house key on the key ring dangling from a hook back at the shop. What's a shop owner to do but turn around? What a time killer!

9:00

I headed from this customer's house to another customer's house to drop off our shop vehicle and pick up his vehicle. In the mean time, other customers are arriving and Sally checks them in. During all of this, an unscheduled customer comes walking into the office with a window stuck in the down position. I get the word and head out to see if I can make some sort of quick repair.

Just as I am heading out to do that, one of my technicians grabs me and says that there is a bad fuel smell on the vehicle that I have just picked up, and that the fuel pressure regulator is leaking. I look at the clock and realize that it's well after 9, and where our shop is located, we have only three deliveries per day. Sure, there are a few parts stores in the area, but their inventory is not always what you can depend on.

In the mean time there's this customer with the window problem, waiting for me. I make a quick call to the parts store to order the fuel pressure regulator. Usually I like to look the part up and order over the internet, but under the circumstances I have to resort to using a land line.

While I have the parts store on the phone I find that the part is available and ask for it to be sent up with the understanding that I haven't actually sold the job. I also had the parts man send up a heater core for another job that had just been sold. We had diagnosed this job the week before and the customer had to discuss the situation with her son and husband to see if either of them was willing to tackle the project. Both turned this labor intensive nightmare down. I made sure I got a hold of a particular parts man who is willing to go the extra mile.

I head back to check out the window motor problem. I was unable to get the window to work and realized that with the threat of rain and the mornings being super cold, this was a repair that needed to be taken care of ASAP. The soonest I could look at the window was mid-afternoon. I told the customer that I would give it my best effort to at least get the window in the up position.

11:00

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