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Hope you all will appreciate them after reaidng this:

From www.thecarconnection.com
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Mechanic's Tale: Pain
Ergonomics be damned — my back hurts.
by Douglas Flint (2004-11-01)

I remember about five years ago when fear of ergonomic stress injuries was all the rage. Somehow operating a computer in a clean, carpeted, dry, well-lighted 68-degree office had become the equivalent of operating a 50-caliber machine gun at a fire base in the Mekong Delta during the Tet Offensive. Evil corporate monsters were taking attractive young ladies and working them until they were physically and mentally broken and ready for the nursing home at age 22.

As I looked around at the injured, arthritic bodies that have littered auto shops since the beginning of time, I wondered why no one worried about us? I guess it was a lot easier to sympathize with cute women with sore wrists than the ugly horned brutes who fix your cars. Now with a steady stream of soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with terrible injuries that will never heal, and the awe-inspiring way they pick themselves up and keep going, both the ergonomic stress industry and my complaints seem, and indeed are, trivial. But I've got bills to pay, so here goes.

There probably aren't a lot of reliable statistics about injuries in auto repair. Since most auto repair is done thankfully in small, non-union shops, no statistics are kept. We treat our own injured and bury our dead. What statistics would you keep and for what purpose? Joe had a sore back for a week after lying under the dashboard of a Taurus for nine hours changing the heater core. Would you sue auto manufacturers to make cars more ergonomically friendly to repair? (That thought should excite the trial lawyers.)

Second degree

Cuts and burns are probably the most common source of pain in the shop. Everything about cars is awfully hot. You go to do an oil change on a 90-degree day on a car that has just been driven 45 minutes and things are going to be plenty hot. You develop a way to twist the drain bolt out and jerk your hand away in the same motion to avoid the cascade of scalding oil pouring out. Usually it misses you but sometimes it doesn't.

If the manufacturer is nice, the oil filter will be in a perfectly vertical position, accessible from underneath the car so it can be spun off and on quickly and easily, with little or no oil spilled. But usually it's in a tight spot at an absurd angle, requiring you to snake your hand and arm through a jumble of scorching-hot metal pipes with sharp pointy edges everywhere. Come to think of it, all the carmakers could save a lot of money if they didn't pay those union guys to sharpen all the sheet metal and put points an all the welds. And when you do get the filter off you will have no control over where the hot oil pours. And that's just an oil change. We do complex repairs with drills and grinders and torches in extremely tight areas where one false move will damage the car or our bodies or both. I have drilled into my hand and watched blood and muscle tissue climb up the drill bit.

Do you know the difference between touching something hot and grabbing something hot? When you touch something hot you jerk away before any real damage is done. When you grab something hot your muscles are already squeezing your hand on it before your brain can give the command to pull away. A ten-day burn at least. Last week one of my mechanics got his signals crossed and turned a car's windshield wipers on while the other guy's hand was still in them. The gouge through his finger was an inch long and a quarter-inch deep.

I once watched a pretty smart guy try to jump electricity to a power window motor with a paper clip and watched as it turned red and melted into his finger (ouch).

Even the ordinary bumps are worse than you imagine. If you bang your head on your armoire or your wall at home it will hurt, but there is quite a bit of give in both the wood of the furniture and the wall of your house. You don't receive the full blow. But if you hit your head on the arm of a hoist made of thick treated steel, bolted to a concrete floor with a 4000-pound car on it, you receive the full blow and yes, you see stars. I see them at least twice a month.

Environmental hazards

The one plus to our work is, regardless of the scope of the injury, mechanics (at least real ones) never get infections. This is because the daily chemical bath we expose our skin to of hot oil, antifreeze, carburetor cleaner, and brake cleaning fluid (which if you don't know, is the same as dry cleaning fluid), will kill any and all ordinary germs and microbes, and has been known to cause stampedes among Ebola viruses. The downside is we spend our days on concrete floors which are hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and hard on the bones all year round. And we will probably all die prematurely of some type of cancer. In spite of my best efforts, the lighting in the shop is still poor and the noise is deafening. I'd probably go on whining forever, but fortunately, at least several times a week, a soldier in uniform walks in and I realize I've got it pretty good.

Doug Flint owns and operates Tune-Up Technology, a garage in Alexandria, Virginia.

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Oh boooo hoooooo!!!!

Maybe he should not charge $85/hr. Or recommend useless services like a fuel injection cleaning at 15,000 miles. 3000 mile oil changes?? hahahaa....

Repairing the automobile is a complex process and I believe the standard 100% parts markup and $60-$100 hr labor (on average) makes up for whatever "suffering" a mechanic endures.
 

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It isn't mechanics that charge $85/hr - it is the company the mechanic works for. Chances are extremely good - the mechanic doesn't see a third of that. I worked for a company that charged over $200 an hour for my skills - I saw 1/10th of that...

Let's talk mark up...

Why do people go into business? To make money.

100% is a bit much - I agree with you on that. Furniture is well over %100. Soda? Bottled water? I remember a stat about a particular mexican restaurant. At the time it cost 36 cents for a Jumbo margarita that was sold for $3.50.

Again - the mechanic isn't seeing the $30 it costs to replace the windshiled wipers. The don't get a percentage of the parts they replace. They get their hourly rate, collect a 40 hour paycheck every Friday and come back and do it all again.

I think a lot of the problem is uninformed customers. The general population doesn't know that a PCV valve costs $5 and 5 minutes to replace.

There are choices when it comes to auto repair. Dealership. Independant shop. Your own garage.

I have a great deal of respect for people that are doing the manual labor jobs. Plumbers. Electricians. Mechanics. These guys (and girls) are doing jobs that many people have decided they are too good to do. I think as time goes on and people learn less and less about the way cars work - mechanics should and will charge more.
 

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Interesting read...

My father in law is a retired mechanic. He can't raise his arms above his shoulders due to the long hours reaching up to work on cars, plus some muscle damage from various incidents.

For example, during an engine change, the chain holding up the engine broke. Out of reaction, he grabbed the engine. I'm not talking some aluminum blocked 4 cyl. but real Mopar Muscle. Well there's no way he could hold it, but he did slow down the fall so another guy got to keep his fingers. They had the engine land on them, and he was unable to use the hand for a few weeks, but they healed. For my father in law, it meant some permanent muscle damage in his arms as things did tear.

Just doing my own work on a couple of dozen vehicles, from complete tear downs and rebuilds to general maintenance, I've seen how easy it is to hurt yourself. I see guys on Monster Garage wearing gloves and wish I had those 30 years ago. Yet, I know that gloves take away some of your feel so it's a trade off.

Then you get the manufacturer setting repair times for certain jobs, that might be in ideal situations with all the right tools handy. Some of which perhaps the dealer doesn't have.

Or just bad design for maintenance. I do think it's insane that you have do a cooling system disconnect to change the alternator in the Murano. Oops! Designers on a coffee break there!

So I feel sorry for these guys, and appreciate when they do a good job. And when they don't, of course the dealer has the choice to look at why, or just blame them. The better ones, look at why.

Being a auto tech can be a lot of fun sometimes. But doing it for a living? I don't envy them.

Oh, and dumping on them for not fixing something, when the owner hasn't provided enough information to diagnose the problem.... That must be something they look forward to!

My random thoughts on this... But hey, it's a living. What's tough, is all in the perspective, as he points out.

Certainly thought provoking SRM!

One thing I'll say about my father in law.... He's got a handshake that will turn your hand to mush. Strong, like Bull.
 

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GMTURBO43 said:
It isn't mechanics that charge $85/hr - it is the company the mechanic works for. Chances are extremely good - the mechanic doesn't see a third of that. I worked for a company that charged over $200 an hour for my skills - I saw 1/10th of that...

Again - the mechanic isn't seeing the $30 it costs to replace the windshiled wipers. The don't get a percentage of the parts they replace. They get their hourly rate, collect a 40 hour paycheck every Friday and come back and do it all again.
As a former worker and then shop owner I agree 100%. There are two types of contracts:
1- Stricktly hourly wages - in most dealerships
2- Low hourly wage and a percent of parts and total charges - in most independents
You can tell which type of contract the mechanic has by the way he (or she) pushes for extra work and/or parts replacement. In general, they do not make nearly as much as we think they do, up to as much as 20% of the hourly rate dealers charge. Then they are exposed to all sorts of hazards and their work environment is always either too cold or too hot.
The trick is to find a mechanic who loves what he or she does which usually translates into a job well done. Few and far in between, but if you come accross one, hang on to him/her as they are worth their weight in gold!
 

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zebelkhan said:

The trick is to find a mechanic who loves what he or she does which usually translates into a job well done. Few and far in between, but if you come accross one, hang on to him/her as they are worth their weight in gold!
This statement hits home - literally. My dad was a GM mechanic for years as I'm sure I have said before. He did more side jobs for a case of beer or a "give me a hand with my next project." There were nights he spent in the garage helping me and my friends out. Teaching us the right way to do stuff. In turn - it created less work for him - as we were more prepared to do our own work.

He's one of those people who knows the size of bolts that holds parts on. He looks at the bolt - walks to the tool box - grabs what he needs...I make 6 trips back and forth - eventually say screw it and just take the whole damn tool kit under the car with me.

As a side note - my dad's tool box and tools probably could have put me through college - a few times.

I do cringe when I hear of friends getting paying huge amounts of money for auto repairs. But if you look at the prices we pay for other services - it isn't so bad. The last time I called the plumber - his hourly rate was $95. If he was there for 9 minutes or 59 minutes - the charge was $95.

Lawyers?
Computer technicians?
Hairstylist/Barber? The last time my wife had her hair colored it was $80 or something crazy...
Doctors?

But, if you want professional results - you're gonna pay professional prices. If you pay professional prices and don't get professional results - you better speak up.
 

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Working on your own vehicle when you feel like it is fun and rewarding; working on other people's cars 8 hrs a day 5days a week is a tough job....
 

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Having read the posts above, perhaps I jumped the gun. I apologize if my post sounded insensitive to people who have mechanics as relatives - I completely respect the skills involved and love working on my own car myself (it is fun to see how it all goes together).

Some of us might have been jilted by the Nissan dealer being unable to diagnose a problem time after time - and having it be a waste of time to take the car to the dealership to fix the rattles which come back 5 minutes after you pick up the car after its been repaired. In those situations, I do feel rather jilted about the high labor charge (even though its free under warranty).

However, that said, I developed the ability to work on my own car today as a result of inspiration from an independent mechanic. When I lived in San Francisco, my family used to take our Toyotas to this gentleman who had a small shop south of Mission (Tak's Auto Service for those who live in the SF Bay Area) - I will never meet a more honest and competent mechanic. He never performed unnecessary repairs and always gave me a great price, as well as carefully explaining exactly what he did and why he did it. He even showed me all the old parts and explained why they were worn. The best part was that he actually scolded me one time for changing my spark plugs too early (45k instead of 60k) - said it was a waste of money - now how many mechanics can you find who do not want to make opportunistic money like that.

As a result, I was no longer afraid of working on cars and have been doing my own maintenance ever since I bought a Maxima in 1997. With an honest mechanic, customers are usually willing to pay whatever high rate is required because they know it is repaired correctly the first time.

So to all out there, once our warranties expire, good luck finding a good independent shop. And for the garage wrenchers, take it slow, and don't get hurt trying to loosen 150ft/lb bolts with a 9" socket wrench! :p
 

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Just wanna help
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Discussion Starter #9
Eric L, that is one sincere word you have there...

And that is the kind of response i expect from this great forum before i posted the article in the first place.

A side from how much money dealer charged when servicing our cars, or how incompetent some diagnostics were performed or how some repair shops tried to cheat a customer out of the parts/bills; a car mechanic is a profession that worthy of an appreciation.
 
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