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Ideas for displaced mechanic?

Here’s a question for auto aficionados in the San Francisco Bay area. My brother, a gifted auto mechanic and all-around tech guy, was laid off a couple of years ago by the dealership whose service department he’d led for many years. Since then, he’s worked a few temporary jobs but mostly run into dead ends. He is in his early 60s, which poses a particular challenge as employers are looking for younger (and cheaper) workers. He is not ready to retire and has tons to offer — but his job hunt is running out of steam.

Does anyone have any ideas for job hunting, networking, etc. for the well-seasoned Bay Area car whisperer?

Thanks very much.

Sorry to hear that. Was he a manager at the time he got fired, or was he still working as a mechanic? How much training has he had lately? With all the new technology, would taking some courses (community college, not a for-profit place) make sense? Would he be willing to sign on at a reduced pay rate for, say, 6 months to prove his worth?

There are two approaches to making a living:

  1. finding a job
  2. finding a way to make money.

They’re dramatically different perspectives on life.

I’ve thought many times about offering seminars on how automobiles work. My thought is to cut a 4-pot engine in half such that the crank could be driven via a 115AC motor where the strarter used to be, perhaps a distributor/rotor could be used to light LEDs for sparplugs, and the intenal parts including the chain could be seen moving. With that and a video system, a seminar on the basics could be set up.

one could offer seats for, say, $99 each, rent a venue for, say, $1000 for a day, and if the promotion is well done perhaps clear some cash. A good optimized website, such that if one were to search, say, “basic automotive education” the site would pop up, might be a good component of the promotion.

It’s just an idea. One that I’m not currently in a position to try.

Sincere best to your brother.

It’s a little late to become self-employed and start your own business, but today, that’s the only way to make any money…

Old or ex mechanics make great PARTS men.

A diy car guy really appreciates when the guy behind the parts counter knows his stuff.
ex-mechanics posses diagnostic knowledge that parts houses love.
Parts houses like the look of experience in a couterman.
As a near-retirement career shift I think auto parts ( dealers or chains ) would be a great choice.
Plus he can stay working in parts well into his 80s and beyond when the physical ability to mechanic will have declined.

And THEN,
As a mechanic too, he can create a base of customers who would want his independent work at home to install said parts.
He can have the day job behind the counter then tell joe customer to come by the house after hours to get it installed.
In fact it may not need to be on the sly side work. He could possibly arrange with that parts house that HE would be the mechanic when the cutomers asks.

I would think someone with his experience would have a lot to offer a vo-tech school. If not in a teaching role as a “lab assistant” or similar title role.

Another idea in the self employment vein.
Open his own shop.

When I spoke of auto parts chains I thought how so many customers ask the parts house ‘‘well, uh, do you know a good mechanic ?’’

He could get lined up with one or two parts house chains as being their go-to tech.
He could put their sign outside his shop.
He can assist them with diagnostics.
He can get to know their warranty system and they can get to know his work

So many indepent shops get a huge amount of their work through parts house refences.

It worked that way when I was at Auto Zone. When customers asked for shop refereneces there was just three we would always use.

Unfortunately it’s not just auto mechanics who are having this problem.

He may have to be willing to take a cut in pay to compete with the younger less experienced workers. That’s a reality many older hard working workers have faced. Then when the economy turns around he might be able to position himself into a better job.

As for working for yourself…Depends on what type of business. While the job market is down…some jobs are still doing very well. My Niece is about to graduate with a 6-year Doctorate degree in Pharmacology. She’s had offers starting at $105k/yr. Not too bad for a 23yo.

Perhaps he can start his own business, but not a full shop. Can he raise enough money to put together a “repair on site” business. Weather in SF is pretty mild so he could work most every day on cars at peoples homes, or place of business. How much he wants to handle in terms of “big” jobs he can determine as he goes. He’d need tools, a van or some other suitable work truck, a cell phone, some advertising, and a take anywhere credit card processing machine. A local bank can set up the credit card system and he must know how to handle the rest of the details. There are likely enough cars in SF area that need timing belt jobs that he could do a couple a week and make some bucks.

Of all the ideas I like Ken’s parts man with a side of mechanic idea. This lets the mechanic work grow, maybe to become the main job. Starting out cold as an independent mechanic would have more risk and cost.

And I agree, Mike, a degree in pharmacy is a pretty sure-fire ticket to a good paying job, two in the (extended) family.

The start up cost for a shop in rural Mississippi is prohibitive so I must imagine that such a proposition would have an astronomical price tag in the Bay area. Most McParts stores would be interested in someone knowledgeable in automobile diagnosis and repair but the pay is likely weak and the stores all seem to have their own computer system that must be mastered to function behind the counter.Advance seems to have the friendliest system.Could moving to a more rural setting where life is slower and cheaper make it possible to live on McPart’s wages? Your brother might consider a quieter setting down highway 1. And at 63 the compressor that I replaced yesterday has left a lingering pain to remind me how glad I am to be retired from turning wrenches.

How about a parts man at a dealership?

@JeanAnn321 - What do you think? More importantly, what does your brother think about these ideas?

Wow . . . thank you all so much for your insights and suggestions. I think there are some very good ones here! Will pass them on to my bro.

Jean…add this one to the list of suggestions. I was looking for a job as a parts man because I wanted to slow down a little. I was buying a part for my motorhome and jokingly asked the guy at the counter if he had any openings. He hired me on the spot because he wanted to get back to his RV sales job. RV’s have a lot in common with all vehicles and it does not take long to learn the differences. RV dealerships are usually large and they sell a lot of parts. They also hire a lot of parts people especially in the spring.

The parts man is an excellent suggestion and I wholeheartedly agree with it. Another possibility could be working a parts counter at a farm implement dealer as they usually stay busy.

There are 2 reasons why it’s a tough sell for your brother in a mechanic job.
One is the obvious age issue, although I personally don’t consider early 60s to be old at all.

Two is the proliferation of technical schools, many of which you see on TV. (UTI, Wyotech, Lincoln, MMI, etc,)
Other than their being near scams, they produce a lot of naive and gung-ho newbies who are not being trained so much as they are being indoctrinated. Car makers are in on this too. They want malleable young minds with no independent streak.
The vast majority who leave these programs won’t be in the field long, will have little or no diagnostic ability, and will be left owing a huge amount in student loans. It doesn’t matter; they’re expendable and will be replaced by someone from the next class.

On the parts counter man idea, just a heads-up. From experience I know it does require some “people skills”. You will get people who know absolutely zero about cars and want to attempt difficult repairs, and you will get pros who do it for a living and don’t care what advice you have to offer. Sometimes it takes walking a tight wire to keep 'em both happy. It can definitely challenge your patience and if you haven’t had to deal with people, but just cars that can’t talk back, it can burn you out in a hurry.

Dealing with the public can be trying. The old locally owned parts house had a counter crew that could handle whatever came in the door and the owner backed them up. More than once I heard him say “you can take or you can leave it but you are leaving right now.” That was when the parts sheet had 5 prices and walk ins paid full retail. The McParts stores have put all but one out of business in the area.

Sometimes you can make a go of lawn mowing. If I could move like I used to, I would try it. I made a couple wooden weed wackers so be careful with my advice. Club and golf cart attendant was a good low paying job for me but most people want to make money at work.

At least as a parts man he could walk in on Monday morning and know what his paycheck would be on Friday. He would also know that a chunk of it won’t be going to the tool vendors on a weekly basis and his knuckles won’t be bleeding over on the paycheck. :slight_smile:

One thing I would NOT recommend is that he become a parts man at what Rod Knox refers to as the McParts stores. Working the counter at AutoZone and dealing with some of their clientele would drive a man to drink; assuming that habit is not already in place. :slight_smile:

JeanAnn321–I was laid off from a Volvo dealership at 57 years old in 2008. I just kept looking and almost 2 years later got hired where I now work. The manager wanted to hire an older person, he later confided in me. No slam on younger people. There are compassionate people out there. You say the job hunt is running out of steam, but the economy is slowly getting better. Tell your brother to keep on plugging & good luck.