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Flat Rate/Flag Hours

Your title is Lube Tech and your employer cares about certificates as most do . First look at your health insurance if your employer has that for you . Do you have any kind of savings such as a 401K ? Also you are 19 with just a high school diploma . It might be worth your time to have a polite meeting with your supervisor since apparently you were passed over for a raise . Ask if there is anything you need to do to advance or if there are training courses you can take and if the dealer with help with expences for them.


You might consider trying a different employer if you can’t advance in your current job. Don’t change just for a pay check, although you do want more money. Look for a more advanced job. As @VOLVO_V70 suggested, you might have that same conversation with your current boss.

ASE certification will significantly increase your value especially at a new car dealership.

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ASE means nothing today.

You just need to go on the internet and answer the questions for a certain system.

Doesn’t mean you actually understand the system.


If you don’t think you’re being paid enough, and the employer won’t pay you more, the only solution to that problem is to find another job. Hopefully you’ve learned a lot at your current dealership job. If so you should be able to parlay that into a bigger paycheck elsewhere. Before taking action however, consider from your experience what method gives the best results in auto repair: method 1, diagnose first, then replace the required parts; or, method 2, replace parts repeatedly until the problem is fixed?

If method 1 is what works best for you, the key at this point is to first “diagnose” what you want to accomplish in your automobile related career. IMO , if you want to remain a mechanic, your goal should be to eventually own and manage your own independent shop. Whatever kind of shop you prefer, a general repair shop, or a specialty shop (e.g. transmission, driveshaft, radiator, auto-electric, etc.) . And there’s no reason you have to remain a mechanic; maybe a job in sales or parts is more up your line. You get the idea. First decide what you want to be doing in 5-10 years, then it will be easier to decide what changes you need to make today. Best of luck.

Wish I had some good advice (but you’ll notice how I’ll give it anyway!).
Employment for a young adult is so much different now than when I was your age. Right now, you’re doing grunt work, and that is normal. To some degree it’s sort of an apprenticeship. It’s much more common to have to switch employers for advancement nowadays, so I think you’ll be working somewhere else in the next couple of years.
Don’t burn any bridges at your current employer. Give them the traditional “two weeks notice” if you leave and don’t bad-mouth them unless you have NO intention of ever going back. If they see your value working somewhere else, they may want you back at a much higher wage.
Don’t quit your current job till you have another lined up.
Getting a little side work may be a good way to test the waters of having your own shop.
The good news is that working on cars isn’t going away any time soon and it’s not work that can be contracted to workers in another country.

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As you progress in your field, get further training. Look around and see what areas of auto repair needs specialized technicians.
Automobiles are becoming more electronic with more things being controlled by on-board processors. A technician who understands these systems and can efficiently and effectively troubleshoot problems has a great future in my opinion.

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I certainly understand where you’re coming from. Dealer politics and the always onerous flat rate system is a soul killer. Getting coerced into freebies is not uncommon at all.

I’d say getting 4 dollars pre-tax for a 500 dollar upsell is downright laughable.

For the long term I would suggest setting your sights on a decent independent shop if possible or maybe going to work for yourself. I did the latter once when the last straw was placed on the camel’s back and never regretted it.

I guess like so many things these days the ASE is slipping into history @Tester. Twenty years ago it was a real plus on an application. The tests that I took required a real working knowledge of automobile systems.

I agree that ASE certs can help on an employment application. The only problem is that some people are good test takers and may ace the test while having little practical knowledge.

I worked with a couple of guys that I would call a mechanic’s mechanic.They were both beyond sharp and way smarter than me. However, neither one could pass an ASE test to save their life and their mechanic careers was a series of failed tests.

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One of our new hires is in his 20s, and he’s an ase master and also has L1

But he has “little practical knowledge” . . . to use your words

I was asked to help him diagnose some stuff these last few weeks . . . the guy barely knows how to use a scanner. he doesn’t even know what pids are. He barely understood the concept of readiness monitors or verifying a repair

I’m not entirely sure how he passed all those certs. I suspect he probably took some community college classes which are geared towards passing ase exams. I never took any classes like that. I passed all mine without help from any instructor. To each his own, I suppose

We also hired another guy at the same time, a guy in his late 40s. He apparently let many of his ase certs lapse, but it’s clear that he’s just a solid mechanic, no ifs ands or buts. This guy doesn’t need anybody to hold his hand

certs are no guarantee that you can actually do the job . . .

One of the smartest guys I ever worked with was a high school dropout. His spelling and grammar were laughably bad. But he was able to figure out complicated things that some of the college-educated guys couldn’t wrap their heads around. And his mechanical skills were superb. He never made any mistakes that I could see. He was also really fast, made everybody else look like they were standing still

I don’t have anything to offer except that amounts to a gross of less than $12 an hour. So unless advancement is a real possibility, the people are great, you get vacation, insurance, and other benefits, keep your eyes open. You don’t quit one job though without having another lined up is all.


I agree. It sounds like you are being exploited, and it’s time to take your talents elsewhere. As I told my last employer in my resignation letter, “I have made the financial business decision to resign from [company name] because the pay is woefully inadequate, and the Company is demanding a level of productivity which it simply isn’t paying for”.

I am also questioning the legality of a pay scheme in which the employee (you) are paid hourly, but what constitutes an “hour” of work is based not on clock time, but on some made-up “book time” and whether or not the employer charged the customer for the work, did it as a courtesy, or under warranty.

I am an HVAC service technician. I am paid hourly, which means from the moment I arrive at the company’s shop in the morning, until I complete my last job of the day, less a lunch break and any “dead time” if there are not enough jobs to fill the day. Whether the work is being done for a customer who pays full rate, for a customer who receives a special discount, or is no-charge to the customer, I am paid the same. I also do not receive any commissions or spiffs or kickbacks of any kind, nor would I ever work for an employer who pays those type of incentives.

I would NEVER agree to work for any employer which wants to pay an “hourly” wage, but then use some made-up definition of what constitutes an “hour” of work. If I am on company property/driving a company vehicle, and I am performing company business, then legally I am on the clock, and better be paid for that!

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Let’s put things in perspective . . .

op is 19 years old

there’s no way in ____ that he’s yet acquired the skills or experience to command a high hourly rate

It’s legal

It may not be nice, kind or moral . . . but it’s legal

you either find a way to survive or maybe even thrive under such conditions . . . or you leave. And when I say “leave” that doesn’t necessarily mean giving up. It could mean any number of things

That’s not the way the automotive business in the USA works . . . at least not for the majority of mechanics working for dealerships

Then you should never consider becoming an auto mechanic in the USA . . . no offense intended. It’s not for everybody. This business has a fairly high turnover rate, last time I looked

Years ago, my school counselors told me how brutal the business can be. I knew full well what flat rate and flagging hours meant, I knew that I had to buy my own tools, but I STILL decided to become a mechanic

And when the opportunity arose, I left the dealership and flat rate for fleet and steady pay.

When I arrived at my present job, I was ready and hit the ground running. I was no longer some young and inexperienced guy. I was a seasoned mechanic with a firm understanding of how things work, and how to get things done. Nobody had to baby sit me.

but I have no regrets about working flat-rate for many years. I paid my dues, put in my time, and I learned a lot

And as for opening your own business . . . for some guys, that’s the goal. For others, it isn’t the goal. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being content to work for somebody else, or for some fleet or government entity, for that matter. Not everybody’s brain is wired the same


The flat rate system has only one positive. It encourages the tech to work smarter and faster to accrue more hours and prevent loitering around the coffee pot half the day.
The downsides are much worse. The stress, living and dying every minute by the clock, the tendency to want to cut corners or in some cases flat not do something, and the always being coerced into doing freebies and so on. Plus the dreaded “W” word: Warranty.
The Sword of Damocles syndrome as I figured it.

When I worked for Nissan it was near heaven on Earth there because of the service manager. At some point the dealership owner came back from a dealer get-together in Denver with what was called a Team Pay Plan. The idea was to pool all flat rate hours for the month and divide by the number of techs. You can see where that is not going to work. This means a guy could slack off all month and make the same pay as the hustlers because they were taking money from the go-getters to (as they put it) “make it fair for all of the techs”.and pad the paycheck of the slackards. This went over like a ton of bricks.

I know things have changed but when I was 19 I worked on assembly earning money for school making heating and cooling equipment, Yeah $2.40 an hour but in 1968 that was pretty good. The thing is we got hourly pay plus bonus for production if we produced more than 100%. So most weeks we made 120% so that was about $2.90 an hour. We all worked together as a team of 7 and pushed those units out. I suppose we would have still worked hard without the incentive but still this was a good system. Base pay plus extra for extra effort.

I don’t know about the car repair business but sounds like the current system is due for a major revolution. These are not insurance salesman earning only commission and should at least get a base pay for hours worked. If not productive, replace them.

Comrade Bing out.

Piece work pay is perfectly legal, as is not paying overtime. Or did you not know that dealership mechanics working flat-rate are exempt from overtime pay?

Book time is in the interest of the customer as well. Imagine your car needs a water pump but being told the price will be between $400 and $800 depending how long the car is in the mechanic’s stall. It’s not a made up time, it’s an industry standard.

I have been in this business all my life, and have held every position from gas station attendant to master technician to shop owner. I have had every pay plan possible for a mechanic. Hourly, salary, 100% commission, hourly plus bonus, flat-rate, hourly plus commission, varying hourly scale, and as a business owner occasionally a month with no pay at all. But flat rate taught me to be a productive mechanic, more so than any other pay plan.

When I was 28 I took a job at a very well equipped, upscale shop. I was told the following: The pay was flat rate. I would work 8 to 4:30 with a 30 minute lunch. There were no breaks or personal phone calls. I would produce 9 hours or more of work every 8 hour day. I would not be paid for fixing comebacks, calling in sick, or for any time that was not listed on the repair order. The 4 years I had that job taught me more about being a successful mechanic than anything else up to that point.

When my family decided to relocate several years ago I found myself in the job market. Most positions in our new city were offering flat-rate pay. I jumped–jumped–at the chance to work flat-rate again. I’m now the service manager where I work, and am paid salary. And about half the time I think I would be better off just as a flat rate tech.

You’ve got to love this line of work to be successful in it. If your only goal is to make money choose something else.

You’re still young and have a lot of decisions to make. I admire your ambition as far as looking to the future of your career and commend you for what you’ve accomplished so far.

If you ever get a chance to talk to one of the senior heavy line guys or driveability guys at your dealership you will find that the most experienced ones absolutely crush flat rate times, even most warranty pay jobs. As you see pattern failures and gain experience you will find that you can easily beat book times on most things. I remember Ford Taurus heater cores that paid 5 hours that I did in less than 2. Chevy Tahoe fuel pumps that booked at 2.2 and I had done in 45 minutes.

My advice on getting to that point? Specialize in something, either one make of car or one kind of work. I’m a “bumper to bumper” mechanic but it’s going to be difficult to keep it up much longer. Too many systems to learn, tools to buy, etc. The shop I run now has one alignment/brake tech, one diesel tech, one heavy line, one general service/maintenance, two driveability/electrical/HVAC, and I do a little bit of everything. And it works quite well. I know of other shops that have one Euro tech, one Honda/Acura tech, one Ford, etc. That works well too.

I should also add that except for one 4 year stint I worked 6 days a week until I was 42 years old. Work a little harder and longer than the other guys, and you’ll get ahead. But that applies to any line of work.

As for the inspections your doing, that’s the dealer’s way of drumming up profitable maintenance items. It’s a pretty good deal for the guy running the flush machines. Not so good for the customer or the guy doing the free inspections.

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I am familiar with piecework-type pay arrangements. And while I would never agree to work for a company paying piecework, I understand that it’s legal to do so. Piecework pay is common in some industries, such as electronics assembly.

What I am struggling to understand is how it’s legal to expect a mechanic to perform inspections/ tire rotations/etc. for free, or to pay the mechanic an unrealistic “warranty time” for work done under the factory warranty when customer-paid pricing guides would indicate a much longer time to perform the repair. Similarly, if the service manager decides to provide a free or reduced cost repair to appease a customer, that is NOT the mechanic’s concern, nor should that affect what he gets paid to do the work.

Of course, I would not expect the mechanic to be paid for fixing his comebacks, but that’s not what we’re discussing here. (It should be noted that when I was an inexperienced technician, many years ago, I did get paid, even to fix my own mistakes, as that was accounted for in the low wages I was receiving.)

Flat rate is a means to incentivize production and quality work and for the talented and ambitious mechanics in a well run busy shop the system can work great. But it’s not for everyone. For most of my life I worked for myself at my own business or under contract on a commission basis and paid on a 1099 system. I enjoyed my earnings being determined by my results and not the ticking of a clock and the mechanics who were successful working in my shop earned a very good income as a result of their efforts and ability.

But maybe the system is breaking down especially at dealerships. For many years the mechanics were paid 40% of the ticket labor and 50 hours of flat rate/week was about average. These days the dealerships have significantly raised the flat rate charged to customers while not raising the mechanics rate. Some dealer shops pay mechanics less than 20% I understand and that’s a crock in my book.

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