Top five worst things about auto repair

An unofficial list that counts down the worst things we deal with every day.


I'm sure every industry thinks theirs is the most stressful and irritating. However, aside from maybe cooks that work every holiday and burn themselves regularly, I think we who fix cars have it the worst. Here's my list of major gripes:

5. Parts guys don't know anything.

One of my big surprises starting out in the auto repair business was how little other "professionals" in this business know. I know parts guys that have been dealing with parts for decades and they still do not know what parts are on what cars, what the parts even do and they don't recommend parts that you need on jobs which they have sold a thousand times.

Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny remembered that the correct ignition timing for a 1964 Chevy Bel Air would be four degrees before top dead center. You would think parts guys would absorb some things after a while.

I have customers accuse me of being a moron because I was sent the wrong part, or there was an unforeseen delay in getting the part, when it was zero percent my fault. If my parts guy has the memory of a goldfish, there's nothing I can do about it. I still have to use him for parts.

4. Crazy hours.

I work six days a week, on average when I'm not slammed 12 hours a day and eight hours on Saturday. So, that's about 70 hours a week when I'm not busy. 

What kind of business is it when you work 70 hours a week and you're not a millionaire? I guess that's why there is such a high divorce rate among technicians, which brought about the saying, "In auto repair, all the technicians have no lives and ex-wives."

3. Customers want everything for free.

If I spend an hour figuring out why a door window doesn't automatically rise all the way up or go all the way down, that should be free if the customer doesn't want to do the work, of course. Well, that's what the customer thinks anyway.

So, with an hour of my life that I can't get back, what else could I have been doing aside from working for free? If I added up all those hours I could probably take a year off after 15 years. I can help out in the mission field, take a few classes in guitar or just watch Maury every day and relax. But, instead, customers think that I should "take a look at stuff" for free.

I wish I could say to the customer, "Sure, I'll look with my eyes for free, but if I have to think with my brain that costs something."

2. There is NO room for mistakes and we have to be correct 100 percent of the time, or we are accused of being incompetent.

This one was almost number one. In editing, if I make a mistake writing it's called a typo. "That's why they put erasers on pencils," they say. In auto repair, we are tattoo artists... one mistake and in the mind of the customer, you just permanently ruined his life.

A car is tough to diagnose and you put in the wrong part? You're an idiot. It doesn't matter that doctors and meteorologists get stuff wrong all the time. They, for some reason, get a pass, but not us in auto repair.

If you leave something loose after remembering to correctly tighten and torque four dozen other fasteners on the same job, now in the eyes of the customer you're a deadbeat who has no brains and should be cleaning a sewer for a living. You see, if someone who is not a technician forgets something, they made a "simple mistake." "Happens to all of us," they say. A technician forgets something? His IQ and worthiness as a human being are called into question.

1. No respect.

And that brings me to the main gripe of gripes: we don't get no respect, no respect I tell ya. Rodney Dangerfield knows how we feel. We are educated and hard-working, fixing very complicated things that fancy engineers in their ivory towers could not figure out, but yet we are despised by the population at large.

Apparently, we are a bunch of inept liars and thieves who for some insane reason have been entrusted with one of the most important jobs in the country: making sure people can get from point A to point B.

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