People say the time of the mechanic has passed.
With the massive commitment to electronics in modern vehicles, very few current-day apprentices are ever going to use a timing light or bleed the injectors on a diesel engine. Some of them may never see a steering column or see the need for distilled water in a 12-volt battery.
But some things don’t change.
No matter how fast or accurate diagnostic software may be, and even if high-end vehicles can actually tell their owners what potential problems they may be facing, it’s still only a human hand that can replace a brake sensor, remove a sump plug and replace oil, slip on a new fanbelt or align a set of wheels.
Admittedly, the pressure on auto technicians of all types to work with ever-increasing speed and deliver within tighter and tighter tolerances is endless, and today the sensor, sump plug and wheels are likely to be removed in seconds using a cordless impact driver with adjustable torque settings. But still, it takes a flesh-and-blood tradesman to make the repair. That still calls for judgement and a feel for the metallurgy and build.
As in any profession or pursuit, there are some practitioners who are better than others, and some who seem truly gifted.
In the auto-service industries the gifted professionals are just as comfortable with a four-cylinder, side-valve motor from the 1950s as they are with a laptop connected to the ECU of the very latest passenger vehicle.
And chances are, if he or she is that good, and that much of a through-and-through professional, they’ll have found out how to keep track of the most up-to-date diagnostics, tools and procedures, while they’ll still enjoy reading of times when timing was advanced by rotating the baseplate on a set of points.
You can bet that genuine tradesman reads Australian Car Mechanic magazine.