Keeping the masses driving: mechanics, ‘a cornerstone of society’

Jason Fair, who works at Pelham Auto, talked about the life of a mechanic for this story.Photo:

Car mechanics are a cornerstone of society, whether most people realize it or not. They affect over 1 billion people around the world and keep all of these people moving through their daily lives.

Though mechanics deal with many type of risks, they benefit from working in one of the most successful and stable fields of work.

Mechanics can work in a number of different shops. Many are small local businesses that primarily do general maintenance like oil changes, tire changes, or tire rotations.

These shops can and will offer other types of service, but depending on the skill of the mechanics, the money that the shop has available to them, and the space that they work in, other services may be limited.

Then there are shops that do general maintenance, but also offer more advanced services like engine replacements, rust repair, suspension work, and more.

Lastly, there are more performance-oriented shops that don’t do as much general maintenance, but instead install performance oriented parts for either the “daily driver” (a modified car anyone could own) or the full-on racecar that you could never get registered.

So what do mechanics do on a daily basis? I sat down with local mechanic Jason Fair, who works at Pelham Auto.

Fair graduated from Amherst High School in 1992. He was mostly self taught and then gained experience working for over two decades at his current shop.

He has been in the family business of logging and was in landscaping and the restaurant industry as other careers, but he said, “Auto mechanics was the one thing I kept coming back to. There’s nothing else I would rather be doing.”

Fair said that the most dangerous thing he has ever done at his job was removing a ball joint with heat, “because the grease in the joint can combust, causing the joint to explode and throw shrapnel everywhere.”

Fair has never gone to school specifically for auto mechanics and has learned through experience and self-teaching as well as help from others.

He is however an ASE- certified mechanic, which means he has the certification to work at any official state recognised shop.

Most of what Fair’s income is made up of involves general maintenance like breaks, oil changes, and tires.

There are times when he gets larger and longer term jobs that he works on, and those can be more far between than he would like.

I asked about how Fair creates trusting relationships with customers and give them confidence in their mechanic.

“Treat them fairly,” he said. “Give them options and educate them on how things in the car work so that they know what’s going on with the vehicle. Create the relationship by using fair practice.”

Lastly, we talked about what the general public, those not in the industry, may misunderstand about the job and what is required to be a modern car mechanic.

“Lots of people are unaware of how technical the skills you need are and how diverse the skills you need are to be able to repair modern cars,” Fair said. “There are lots of things that give the perception that it may not be the most skilled work but there is a lot more to it that makes it technically challenging. We are being called technicians now because of everything we have to know. We need to be computer technicians, and  engineers.”

In addition, Fair said mechanics have to know about every system in the car, and there are about fourteen different computer systems in most modern cars.

“The level of difficulty of fixing cars as opposed to years ago and how much tech goes into cars these days is much more than I think most people realize,” he said.