Hi, I'm Debbie Nol, and I married a car guy. My 14 years of working at Arie Nol Auto Center has been an incredible journey, building amazing relationships with customers and learning so much from our experienced technicians.
Now I'm launching a blog to share what I've learned about cars and some of my most memorable customer stories. Hopefully you will find my blog both helpful and entertaining!
Working in the world of auto repair changes your perspective. If you’re a car person, you may know all the working parts of the car. You may even know how to do some repairs yourself. In the past, it wasn’t unusual to have people in their garage giving their vehicle a tuneup or changing the brake pads. With the advanced technology in today’s vehicles, it is becoming more difficult to do your own work.
We’ve all heard the term ‘grease monkey’. I never thought about it until I married an automotive technician. If I hear it used now, it irritates me. Here’s why.
I know how much education, intelligence and hard work it takes to excel in this field. As with any other career, there are varying degrees of aptitude. Some people are born with the natural ability to comprehend the complex systems that run today's vehicles. Through constant education, they are able to maintain and repair essentially “computers on wheels.” They may have started out learning at their father’s side in the garage. They may have disassembled an engine because they knew through trial and error they'd be able to fix it and have it back on the road. These are the technicians that love the challenge of their job and enjoy the constantly changing technology.
I do not have this capability. I've learned a lot and understand a fair amount of how and why your vehicles run. I can identify many parts and their function. I have never taken anything apart or cared to. I read a lot about the industry, cars, etc. but don't ask me to fix your engine. We’ll both be very sad by the end of the ordeal.
The automobile industry is suffering from a severe lack of qualified technicians. I think because many times people don't see it as a viable career for a student contemplating their future. They should. If your child or someone you know likes to take everything apart or has an interest in cars and how they run, automotive technician should be an option for them. It isn't the low- paying, no skill, dirty job people picture.
Spending a day or two at several different repair facilities as a job shadow is a good idea. Checking out different educational opportunities is key. It's rare that you'll be hired without some type of education in automotive technology.
Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life!
Technology changes in vehicles; therefore, we need to upgrade our tools and training. At the same time, our software and hardware also change and need to be upgraded. Computers, phone systems, security systems, etc. need to be kept running efficiently as well as taking advantage of upgrades to increase our productivity.
Who would have imagined thirty-five years ago that not only would there be phones without cords but we would have Bluetooth? A device that sits in your ear and you can answer the phone while driving, walking, eating or perhaps even while you’re at the mall? Each of our technicians has an iPad they use to communicate with the service writers. No more paper and pen. They’re able to take photos which the service writers can then email or text to the customers. This keeps the customer aware of what is happening with their vehicle.
I’m not an IT person and have no desire to become one. We were fortunate enough to be connected with a great, local, small business owner, Kevin, who keeps our computers and other IT related systems running. He also answers lots of questions that begin with, “So, I did this and then this happened and now it isn’t working”. I know he has to, like us, constantly upgrade his skills to keep current with technology.
We connected with him through our website developer that we met at a conference on small business. Networking leads to terrific people that utilize their skills to make your business better. Small businesses have many moving parts and finding great people to work with you makes all of that a little bit easier.
We’re thankful Kevin uses his IT skills to keep us up to date and moving in the right direction. He keeps his sense of humor when training us on something, and for that, I’m very thankful!
“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my ax.” – Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln is someone that can be quoted for many different situations. I think because his words were so simple yet so true, even today.
In his day, an ax was an important tool used by people on a daily basis. It could be used for protection, acquiring fuel for your fire, and building your home. Your muscles were what powered this tool so your ability to perform a task was limited by your physical strength.
The tools that we use in our business vary from a wrench or mallet to a computer. The correct tools are required now more than ever. We’ve gotten to the point where some tools are very vehicle specific. Some are even based on the year, make and model of the vehicle. What implications does that have for today’s car owner?
One thing it does is limit your ability to work on your vehicle. As technology advances and cars become more technologically sophisticated, the average person isn’t going to invest in all of the tools to work on their one particular car. Secondly, making sure that the business working on your car has the tools and experience needed to complete the job. We’ve had more than one car towed in that someone had started working on and was not aware a specialty tool was needed.
Some tools are powered by the air compressor; others are using software, while some are still powered by the technician. Whatever the case may be, having the right tool and the knowledge to use it is imperative for any job.
We haven’t had to use an ax while repairing a vehicle. That’s probably a good thing!
Jeff and I had the opportunity to spend two days in Death Valley. We wanted to visit someplace different. It fit the bill for sure -- rattlesnakes, no water and long stretches with no sightings of other human beings.
We read up on the do’s and don’ts of hiking in Death Valley National Park. Having your vehicle well maintained and your fuel tank full was strongly recommended. Did I mention there is no cell service? GPS also doesn’t work well, if at all.
I realized how much we rely on our technology. We had planned ahead and had maps. Well, we actually took pictures of the map with our phones. We made sure our phones were charged at all times, but they were really only useful for the maps and for taking pictures. We couldn’t even Google the snake we saw and couldn’t identify! We had a rental car and were completely at the mercy of whoever maintains the vehicles. That is an unusual feeling for both of us, but also a good reminder of how dependent our customers are on our technicians’ skills in keeping THEIR vehicle in good running order.
I can’t imagine having your vehicle break down there. No trees, water, shade or people. However, there are beautiful mountains, hiking trails, total silence and canyons with unbelievable colors. And, a ghost town. It doesn’t get much better than that!
We are using a new software program in our shop. It has some really interesting capabilities which will make us more efficient and bring added value to our customers. But it’s new software, and we have to learn how to use it.
It’s not always pretty. The temptation to go back to the old ‘known’ way of doing things is strong. However, nowadays, there is rapid progression in how we do everything. It’s very evident in the automotive industry. We are very dependent on our vehicles because our lives are busy. Therefore, we need our vehicles.
If someone had told me when I was sixteen years old that I would have a small computer in my pocket that acted as a phone, game board, internet connection and a myriad other things, my first question would be, “What’s an internet?” Those portable information centers allow us to be busier and receive more information than any human in history – all without actually “speaking” to anyone. We can now send you a picture of what is malfunctioning on your vehicle or email you an estimate, and you can respond with what you want to have done, when you’d like to pick up the vehicle, and other bits of information.
The challenge is trying to stay connected to people while using this efficient technology. It’s hard to gauge an emotion via text. To prove that, all you have to do is Google ‘text fails’. So, while we appreciate technology, knowing it allow us to work efficiently with our customers and give them tools to make auto repair decisions, we’re also thankful for the many people we see and interact with daily during their time here.