Day In The Life: Of A Mechanical Repair Shop Owner

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


We get a call from a good customer that is concerned about a fluid leak, and would like to drop off the vehicle for us to look at. We are really busy by this time, but make room for her. It turns out that she is also in need of another service and asks for that to be squeezed in. Of course, we do. It turns out that the fluid leak is just condensation.

We are an oil collection center and this day appears to be National Oil Collection Day, due to the fact that just about every five minutes a person drops off their used oil. This requires one of our employees to stop what they are doing, test the oil and drain it, along with paperwork.

11:30

The power steering hose for the old 1969 Chevy PU has arrived. It turns out to be a sort of universal design, requiring all sorts of finagling to get it to fit. We struggle with it until we contort ourselves just so and hold out our tongues just right. Finally, everything comes together and the project is finished.

It's now noon time and the first employee heads off to lunch. This is the time that, if everything works out just right, Sally and I grab a bit to eat. We laugh about the fact that we have a "standing offer" each day to have lunch together. We literally stand at the counter in the office and have a very quick bit to eat. After that, it's back to the salt mines.

1:00

The crew is finishing up their lunches, which are staggered to have some coverage during all business hours. The fuel pressure regular has arrived and been installed. A flush is performed and the vehicle is washed and vacuumed.

Sally tries to run her errands in the mid-afternoon. Just as Murphy's Law would have it, a customer comes in for her 2 PM appointment at 1:30. At this point I had to stop what I was doing and check the new customer in. As is almost always the case when Sally leaves to run errands, the phone will begin to ring, salesmen will arrive, UPS and FED-EX will drop off packages, and parts people from different dealerships will arrive. Today was no exception. I somehow got through it and was able to get a look at the A/C problem that our good customer was having.

I diagnosed the problem, got the authorization from the customer and called in for parts. This was a challenge due to the fact that we weren't sure if the vehicle had original R134a refrigerant, or if it had been retrofitted. It was all solved in time, but there was a lot more time spent then there should have been! Keep in mind that we had to work up an estimate, compare parts prices, have Sally contact the customer and then order the part. This also doesn't include all the paper work involved.

3:00

It's 3 and the customer with the window repair has arrived. It takes about an hour-and-a-half to tear into the panel, look up the wiring diagram, further test the system and diagnose the repair. The window was able to be raised and the customer could drive the vehicle with the door panel missing until the parts were ordered and replaced. During this time, Sally picks up the customer with the 1969 PU. In the late afternoon one of my employees begins the extremely labor intensive heater core job.

5:00

I drive the customer's car that had the leaking fuel pressure regular back to their place, and pick up the shop vehicle. The employees are wrapping things up and closing down the shop. I have a bunch of undone work, due to the fact that I got beaten up by a number of jobs that took a lot more time than first thought.

Even though we officially close at 5, it's more like 5:45 by now. Sally has a woman's jewelry exchange at our church tonight, and I have lots of shop work still to do, so we decide to have her pick up some sandwiches. She brings them back and this time we sit down in the office and enjoy the meal, as well as a moment of rest. Sally goes off to her gathering and I stay late at the shop. Time slips away and before I know it, Sally is calling to say she had a great time, but is wondering if I have fallen off the face of the earth.

9:30 p.m.

I gather my things and head home. You may be reading this and saying "he's crazy". I've been in this business for 28 years. There are times when I would like to get in my vehicle and just drive away, but most of the time I enjoy what I'm doing. It's like anything else, there are good and bad days and good and bad times. What I like most is that no two days are alike.

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