Ever wonder what would happen if you drained motor oil out of a car and poured liquid glass into it? It completely seizes the engine. That’s what Matt Bailey was doing one day, in a deliberate attempt to blow all the motors of 418 cars that were donated to the U.S. government’s highly successful Cash for Clunkers incentive program through Boch Toyota of Norwood.
“We need to make sure they’re disposed of properly, and that means killing the motors before the cars go to the junkyard, since the clunkers aren’t allowed to be sold to anyone,” says Bailey, Boch Toyota operations manager.
Overseeing the Cash for Clunkers program, managing the 600-1,700 cars in the busy auto dealer lot, making sure the cars in the showroom are shiny and clean, writing up accident reports, checking auto inventory, and even plowing during snowstorms are all part of Bailey’s job, and he loves it.
“I like anything that has to do with cars, whether fixing or just working around them.” A former auto mechanic, Bailey grew up with a wrench in his hand, tinkering with autos, first working on Chevy and Fords, and then moving to Nissans and Hondas. “Imports can be a little more tricky than domestics, since there’s no room on the inside of the car or under the hood, but I like the challenge,” says Bailey, whose first car was a used Mercedes Benz.
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, in the U.S. there are more than 250 million cars and light trucks alone, not including motorcycles, diesel vehicles and commercial fleets, all of which need maintenance and repair. In today’s economy, consumers are keeping their cars longer, and the average age of cars in operation continues to increase.
Job growth of trained automotive technicians like Bailey remains strong, with the number of trained automotive technicians overall expected to grow 14 percent through 2016. In addition, there are ancillary fields such as service adviser and managers, shop foreman, and others, which offer opportunities for advancement, like Bailey chose for his latest career move to operations manager.
Q: What’s the best way to get training or education for this field?
A: I went to Universal Technical Institute, an automotive technician training school, but you could also complete a high school vocational program or community college program. Some mechanics start out as a oil change or lube guy, then try to move up from there.
Q: What are the most common problems that you see with cars?
A: A lot of them have check engine lights; the spark plugs might be old and need replacing, and over time, wires can get old and crack.
Q: What makes a good auto mechanic?
A: You need to be able to think outside the box. If there’s a trouble code – say it’s an evaporation leak – you need to think what else can be causing the problem, not just what the scan tool is telling you. It just comes down to common sense. And you should be able to work well with your hands.
Q: What about the tools?
A: Most of the time, you’ll need your own. Fourteen years ago, I started with a $550 Craftsmen starter set. You can start off with a basic toolbox, and then gradually add what you need. The way cars are made today, almost every factory dealer will also provide specialty tools for their vehicles.
Q: And what’s your dream car?
A: I’m a truck guy – give me a GMC Sierra 2500 or even a diesel car, because of the power and torque.
Q: Is that what you’re driving now?
A: No, it’s a Honda Accord, but only because I drive an hour and 45 minutes from New Hampshire to get to work.