Is Your Mechanic Being Honest With You?

Taking your car in for repairs can sometimes be likened to a visit to the dentist to have teeth pulled. You know it has to be done but are dreading the outcome. Unfortunately there are a few mechanics out there that use the situation to their advantage and the consumer is really playing into their hands as not everyone knows enough about their vehicle to know when they are being scammed.

I have seen this situation from both sides of the fence. First as a mechanic and a workshop owner and second as a consumer now relying on other people to do my work. A back injury forced me out of what I thought was a lifetime career as a mechanic and small business owner. I am glad however that I now have the opportunity to see things from both sides and offer people advice as to what to expect from their chosen auto repairer.

The first quality that you should look for in your mechanic is their willingness to communicate with you. Honest people are always willing to share information with you and if your mechanic simply brushes you off or will not explain what was done and why, then it’s time to look for another mechanic. Sometimes you will have no idea what the mechanic is talking about but that is no excuse for them not keep you informed on what is being done to your car.

So many times I heard horror stories from customers about dropping their car off for a minor service and coming back to pick it up and being presented with a huge bill. In these days of mobile phones and the like this simply isn’t good enough. A phone call is all it takes to explain why the extra work is needed and an arrangement can be made that suits your budget. If a mechanic goes ahead and does extra work without your consent then you also need to look for another mechanic.

Sticking to quoted prices, this is another grey area in auto repair. The mechanic can always say that they needed to replace more parts than they originally thought or that once they got things apart they had to repair another item. If this is the case then once again it comes down to communication. If your mechanic goes ahead and does this extra work without consulting you first be wary. If there is a possibility that the price will go over the quote ask them to consult you first and if they don’t go elsewhere next time.

As you can see communication plays a big part in keeping customers happy. I know from my experiences that if you are up-front and take the time to keep people informed that they will come back time and time again. In my opinion there is something shady about mechanics who simply take your car and keep you in the dark as to the progress of the repairs. So many times I see it happen and so many times the customer is the one that gets taken for a ride from these people. Many people don’t understand the modern motor vehicle and this fact is definitely not an excuse to take advantage of them and rip them off.

If you have found an honest mechanic, stick with them. If on the other hand you are not satisfied with the service you get from your current mechanic take the time to look around and get recommendations from family and friends. The best form of advertising is word of mouth and it works well when you are providing a good service at a fair price. Please also keep in mind that if your mechanic is reluctant to discuss the details of the repairs then you may be getting taken for a ride.

Small Engine Mechanics

Specifics of the Job

Small engine mechanics perform routine maintenance checks on equipment to reduce the number of breakdowns. During these performance checks, mechanics inspect brakes, electrical systems, spark plugs, carburetors, and fuel systems. Necessary repairs or replacements are made at this time. When malfunctioning machinery is brought into a shop, a mechanic must diagnose the problem. Larger shops utilize computerized diagnostic tools to determine the trouble spot. Adjustments or repairs are then completed.

Small engine mechanics use a variety of tools. Hand tools, such as wrenches and screwdrivers are used often. Drills, grinders, and other power tools are utilized for customized repairs. They also use hoists for lifting heavy equipment and ammeters or voltmeters for locating faulty parts.

Motorcycle mechanics repair motorcycles, mopeds, motor scooters, dirt bikes, and all-terrain vehicles. Many specialize in one kind of equipment. Others work for dealerships repairing a certain make or model of motorcycles or equipment.

Motorboat mechanics are often referred to as marine equipment mechanics. They repair and maintain inboard or outboard engines for small or large motorboats. The engines on small boats can be removed and taken to a repair shop. Larger boats with inboard-outboard engines are taken by water to a repair location. Repairs are done at the dock.

Outdoor power equipment and other small engine mechanics service lawnmowers, chainsaws, edge trimmers, go-carts, snowmobiles, or snow blowers. This kind of work is very seasonal.

Necessary Qualifications

Most employers prefer candidates with formal training experience. However, very few vocational and trade schools offer programs in small engine mechanics. Therefore, the majority of small engine mechanics are trained on-the-job. Many employers send mechanics to programs offered through motorcycle or engine manufacturers.

Small engine mechanics should possess a basic knowledge of electronics. Mechanical aptitude is necessary. Communication skills are also needed when dealing with customers.

Earnings and Advancement

Some small engine mechanics gain enough experience and are promoted to shop supervisor or service manager. These individuals must demonstrate superior interpersonal and leadership skills.

Earnings fall between $7.00 and $21.00 an hour. Outdoor power equipment mechanics tend to earn less due to the seasonal nature of their businesses. Small engine mechanics who are employed by larger companies receive health benefits and paid vacation. Uniforms are often supplied, as well.

5 Advantages of Mechanical Investing

Mechanical investing refers to following a discrete and objective set of rules to determine what stocks to buy, and in many cases when to sell them. Most mechanical strategies use a stock screen that uses one or more statistical measures to rank stocks. For example, the Magic Formula Investing strategy, outlined in The Little Book that Beats the Market, ranks all stocks over 50 million in market cap by a combination of earnings yield and return on capital. Mechanical investors then buy stocks that are highly ranked based on these statistics. These mechanical strategies also usually provide for a set period of time at which followers then re-run the screen and re-balance their portfolios based on the new screen results.

Why is mechanical investing an attractive way to invest? Here are 5 main reasons:

Low cost (if implemented smartly) – Mechanical investing usually involves some turnover in your portfolio a few times a year, but this can be handled easily by individual investors. With commission fees very low at most online brokers, implementing these strategies is very low cost. Using a no-commission fee broker, it can be done with no fees whatsoever! Compare this to entrusting your money to an investment professional or buying a mutual fund. Advisers can take several hundred dollars a month in commissions, and mutual funds all come with some overhead, called the “expense ratio”. The money saved on these fees greatly improves long term investment returns.
Historical Performance Means Something – Most mutual fund literature touts their 1, 3, 5, and 10 year returns as marketing for potential investment. The truth is, past performance of managed mutual funds means pretty much nothing. Legg Mason Value, run by famous manager Bill Miller, outperformed the S&P 500 for 15 years up until 2005. Since then, abysmal performance has sent the fund’s 10 year return below the benchmark. Fidelity Magellan, a star mutual fund when run by manager Peter Lynch, subsequently underperformed the S&P for over 15 years after he left. However, with a mechanical investing strategy, historical performance is more meaningful. It is not based on a “hot” stock picker, but on objective measures of valuation and efficiency. They are easy to backtest with historical data. There is never any guarantee that historical results will bear out again in the future. But the likelihood of 50 years or more of market behavior continuing into the future is pretty high.
Several Mechanical Strategies Outperform the Market. – Following the above point, many mechanical strategies have been shown to vastly outperform an investment in the S&P 500 over long periods of time. Most of these are value oriented strategies such as buying low P/E stocks, buying high dividend yield stocks, low price-to-sales ratios, etc. A great book that lists long term returns of dozens of mechanical investing strategies is James O’Shaughnessy’s What Works on Wall Street.
Requires Minimal Time Investment – Most of these strategies prescribe re-balancing the portfolio just a few times a year. In many cases, once a year suffices. Because of this infrequent buying and selling, and because stocks are selected directly from a screen, the time investment required is extremely low. No time is needed digging into SEC filings, listening to conference calls, glazing over balance sheets and cash flow statements, and so on. For that matter, no time requirement to learn how to do these things either! Beating the market while barely trying is a great argument for following a mechanical investing strategy.
Removes the Emotion from Investing – This is the single greatest reason to follow a mechanical strategy. In the investing game, emotion is your worst enemy. It causes investors to buy when the market is high, and it causes them to sell when the market is low. Logically, this makes little sense, but fear and euphoria are powerful determinants of human behavior. Mechanical investing removes this from the equation. Cold, hard facts determine your investment choices. There is no risk of investing outside of your plan, hoping to catch lightening in a bottle, only to see your money disappear.

Mechanical investing has a lot of advantages. The two keys to being successful with it are to pick a good strategy and stick to it. With over 30% annual returns over a 17 year period, Joel Greenblatt’s Magic Formula is clearly a great strategy. Sticking to it through thick and thin, though difficult, should provide followers with similarly excellent returns in the future.