What Everyone Gets Wrong About Auto Mechanics

Posted on
October 14th, 2020
Image
Auto mechanic Jake Sorenson shows two technicians how to fix something on a car
Auto mechanic Jake Sorensen shows technicians how to fix something on a car
Jake Sorensen loves solving problems — and showing other technicians how they can, too. (Credit: Courtesy Jake Sorensen)
Next Steps

Jake Sorensen says there's a huge misconception about auto mechanics — even among people who eventually become mechanics themselves. (Hint: It's not all about the computers.) But before we go into that, learn a little more about Jake, the 32-year-old shop manager at McNeil’s Auto Care in Sandy, Utah.

What you do there and how long you’ve been doing it?

I have been with McNeil’s for 13 years. I am the shop manager and diagnostic technician. My responsibilities include: 

  • Diagnosing the more difficult vehicles
  • Repairing vehicles
  • Helping the other nine technicians at our shop with diagnostics
  • Managing our in-house apprenticeship program
  • Mentoring an apprentice
  • Assembling and conducting in-house training classes
  • Holding weekly shop meetings with all technicians
  • Interviewing new technicians 
  • Working with service advisors to find solutions to problems that arise

Why did you get into this line of work? And did you always want to do this?

I fell into this line of work. After living on my own at a very young age, I was working many hours to pay the bills. A friend called me to offer me a job as a lube technician at a repair shop. He had helped me learn to repair motorcycles and cars since I was about 12 years old. Working at this shop, I earned my ASE [Automotive Service Excellence] certifications and realized this was my career. I had given very little to no thought to what I wanted to do prior to starting in this field.

What does a typical day look like?

Every day starts with brewing a cup of coffee at my toolbox! I typically diagnose three to four vehicles a day. Most of these vehicles are difficult to diagnose. While looking at these vehicles, the other technicians in the shop will come to me with questions about vehicles they are working on. Most of the time I will stop what I am doing and go to their bay to look at the vehicle with them. This happens about once an hour on average. Usually about three to five times a week I have an interview or meeting that lasts about an hour. I try to dedicate about one hour a day at the shop and one hour a day at home to learn and perform administrative-type tasks.

What do you like most about your job? And least?

My favorite part is finding a problem or repairing a problem. It is very satisfying to see a vehicle come into your bay with a fault and leave functioning as it was designed to. I do not enjoy the mechanical parts changing side of this job. That is why I have focused on becoming a better diagnostic technician.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

Without exception every apprentice we have hired has told me, “I thought I knew what mechanics do. I had no idea.” The biggest eye-opener for them — and I am sure to most outside the industry — is how technical the testing and analysis of proper diagnosis really is. There is a misconception that we have a computer that tells us what part is bad.

What do you wish you knew about the job before you got into it?

How important continuing to learn and attending training is. I did not understand or believe this when I started in the industry. I have now learned how important this is, and I cannot get enough. I wish I could go back and attend all the training I missed.

What personality traits or qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

I came into this industry because I am good with my hands and I like to figure out why things don’t work. I have stayed and enjoyed this industry because of the constantly changing technology we get to work with and work on. Whether you are good with your hands or like working with computers, this industry offers many opportunities.

Why would you recommend that someone go into this line of work?

Every day is a challenge and different. If you enjoy constantly learning new things and problem-solving, this is the career for you. With the current technician shortage and the expectation that that shortage will grow, this is a career with security, and a great future. 

Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years?

While I don’t see myself leaving my current position, I would really like to become an advanced level instructor. I teach a class at an adult education high school as well as classes for other technicians at our shop. I really enjoy this part of my job and would like to do more as well as focus on more advanced topics.