The automotive car mechanic
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What You Need To Know When Finding A Mechanic For Your Toyota Prius

While I will absolutely tout the Toyota Prius as being a top choice for buying new and used, it is not invincible. What most Prius owners think is that they need to find a "mechanic" who can "fix" the car for "cheap" when things do happen. If you think a good mechanic is expensive, try hiring a bad one. Here is what you need to know when looking for the right person to fix your vehicle.
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When it comes to automotive repairs, there are thousands of shops, YouTube videos, and self proclaimed "mechanics" that can "fix er' for ya". While I am not offering my personal expertise to help you directly, I will do my best to guide you to a person or place that can best help you, especially when it comes to hybrids like your Toyota Prius.

I ran into a really awesome poem the other day that I think typifies what it is like to be a automotive repair technician.

'The Mechanic's Lament'

I'm just a motor mechanic
In an automotive shop.
I'm supposed to know the answers
From the bottom to the top.

I should diagnose the problem
With just a single look.
And if I fail to fix it
You think that I'm a crook.

When I charge you for my labor
You scream and whine and moan,
And even call and threaten me
Upon the telephone.

But technology in the automotive game
Is advancing every year.
And for the systems I must know
I simply have no peer.

Electronics now have made the scene
And more are coming yet.
Some models now will far exceed
Your home computer & TV set.

 small block V8 car engine

In hydraulics I have more to learn
Than a specialist in pumps.
There's brakes and shock absorbers
To help absorb the bumps.

Torque converters and transmission
With servos, valves, and gears.
With models by the hundreds
Introduced in recent years.

Fuel systems of a hundred kinds
I must adjust and meter.
Each far more complicated
Than your water heater.

I'm in welding, I'm in plumbing
For water, oil and fuel.
Compared to me, a plumber
Is a kid in grammar school.

There's alignment and there's balancing
And God alone knows what.
If I fix it, that's expected
If I don't I'm on the spot.

There's models, makes and systems
Some seven hundred strong.
And new ones coming up each year
To help the scheme along.
Now compare me to a doctor
Whose prices make mine meager.
Yet folks revere his expertise
Ever more impressed and eager.

The human body hasn't changed
In six thousand years.
And every model works just the same
From the ankles to the ears.

There's new equipment and techniques
And medicines for sure.
But this is true in my field too
As much or even more.

There's lots of books he has to read
His procedures to define.
But for every page in his field
There's twenty five in mine.

There's no comebacks and no warranty
You pay for what you get.
And then come back and pay again
If he hasn't fixed it yet.

His mistakes are often buried
While mine come back for free.
And he plays golf on Wednesday
While my customers yell at me.

Toyota Prius Circuitboard

We spend millions of tax dollars
Sending kids to medical school,
But if you ask for some in my field
You're treated like a fool.

Everybody has one body,
No one has more.
But when it comes to cars,
You may have three or four.

But you'll go right on complaining
Of the way I run my show,
With no appreciation
For the things I have to know.

And you'll take your high school dropouts
And shove them off on us,
And expect them to be experts
While you rant and rave and fuss.

And when your car cannot be serviced
I'll not hang my head in shame.
So you'd best wake up Society
And find out who's to blame.

Credit - Unknown

What Most Do Not Know

As an automotive repair tech and instructor, I have seen the gambit of problems surrounding our industry. When cars first started coming with fuel injection, there were a lot of guys that began to retire rather than take on a new and ever evolving technology. It became more and more difficult to stay up with how rapidly cars were changing.

When Toyota Prius began hitting the streets, we saw the same thing happen again. With new technology came more complex problems that literally took an engineer to figure out. Over time, most guys and some gals, either left or they stayed and learned how to work on them.

Cars have become something that the average person does not know much about anymore because of how complex they are. This has only meant that a "general" repair shop has had to fight even harder to learn about anything and everything that comes in through their doors. It is not just a basic distributor and carburetor type of place anymore.

The problem with this is that as technology advances, the people who drive them do not understand this. Due to that alone, it has made the automotive industry look like a bunch of crooks and thieves. Labor rates have had to double and even triple now for multiple reasons, and customers are letting us know about it.

Reason one.

Labor rates have skyrocketed because of the complexity of the cars. This means that what used to be a simple fix now could take several hours of diagnosis to come up with an answer. Then from there it may take a few more to repair the problem. This means that what may seem to be a small issue could end up costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars that many consumers just do not have available to them.

Reason two.

There is a massive shortage of good automotive technicians. Our society has been breeding this for decades now and it is catching up at an alarming rate. Society sees "mechanics" as dirty, unskilled "grease monkeys" that fix cars. While the dirty part can be true, these good techs are highly skilled and have a ton of talent. We need them, but due to an ever growing stigma, that you cannot ever be wealthy by being an auto tech, or you will just be a "blue collar worker" we now have a giant problem on our hands.

Reason three.

The industry is changing. We have already seen what the Toyota Prius has done for us and now we are seeing what electric cars are doing. These changes are shifting the industry in a way that is neat but also very scary. We are widening the gap between technology and technicians. Just like it has happened in the past, we are doing it again and expecting that more techs will just jump on board with it. We will probably see a massive loss in the repair world again due to these changes.

What You Need To Know

When looking for a qualified repair facility for your vehicle, know that it is hard. Give these people a break they have been working tirelessly just to try and keep up.

Things to look out for though that can help you feel comfortable are certifications. ASE certifications (which stand for Automotive Service Excellence) are there to help provide industry standards to the people fixing your cars. They go through a battery of tests that help them stay up to date on repair procedures and know how to be able to fix a wide range of cars too. Hybrids have their very own certification as well. So when finding a repair place do not hesitate to ask if the technicians are L3 ASE Certified to be able to work on your Toyota Prius.

Conclusion

I hope that you take into consideration that it is not just a plug an play world out there. Places like YouTube can be great for small things, but most of the time they do not allow for actual learning unless you can understand at a deeper level, which most people do not have that skill. We need to place a greater emphasis on getting more people into the industry, training them up right, and breaking the stigma of the job.

WIth cars like the Prius we need the same level of people who can work on them, or we will only keep digging ourselves deeper into a hole that we will not be able to get out of.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about the Mechanics Lament. Check out my other story Why the first generation Prius is better than either generation Nissan Leaf.

See you in the next story where I am discussing why the Toyota Prius AWD-e is the best one yet.

Also Watch New tech means more MPG from your Toyota Prius and Click to Subscribe to Torque News Youtube Channel for Daily Toyota Prius and Automotive News.

Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He is an automotive technology instructor at Columbia Basin College. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and at Certified Consulting


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Comments

I'm looking to buy a used Prius. I've narrowed it down to two in my area: 1) a 2009 silver Prius (2nd gen) with ~146k miles for $5,000 2) a 2013 blue Prius (3rd gen) with ~134k miles for $8500 Both are being sold via two small car dealerships and I've test-ridden both. They're both nice but I haven't had either inspected yet (will do that prior to buying). Which one is the better buy? Obviously I'll get a Pre Purchase Inspection for whichever car I decide on. Toyotas are notoriously long-lasting cars so I'm not terribly concerned with buying the 2009 (a ten year old car), but wanted your opinion. Most of the depreciation has occurred on the 2013 and it is 4 years newer than the 2009, but they're only ~10,000 miles apart. What are your thoughts? Which one to go for?
Also, thank you Peter for your informative blog. Really enjoy learning from all your knowledge!