My Five Favorite Things About Working on Cars
Faye Hadley / All Girls Garage host, technician, and owner/founder of Pistons & PixieDust
My Five Favorite Things about Working on Cars
If you’ve ever come to one of my automotive classes, watched an episode of All Girls Garage, or even just swung by my shop, you’ve seen how much I love what I do. When I’m working on cars, I’m in my element. I feel so lucky that I get to wrench for a living, especially because this career didn’t happen overnight for me. I disassembled my first engine when I was sixteen, but it took nearly a decade for me to find my way back to the automotive industry.
Dabbling in other fields before returning to cars has given me a unique perspective on my line of work. There’s so much to love about what I do. These are my top five favorite things about working on cars.
1. I can be a hero to the everyday person, every day.
When I graduated from college with a psychology degree, I immediately launched into a career as a counselor because I wanted to help people. I couldn’t wait to start making a real difference in people’s lives. I loved working with my clients, but I ended every day feeling frustrated, not fulfilled. I wanted to do more. I wanted to step into their lives and change their habits and behaviors for them. But that wasn’t my job; all I could do was point them toward a path and hope they’d take it.
When I left that chapter in my life behind, I was determined not to lose sight of my overriding goal: helping those in need. As a mechanic, I get to make real, positive change in my customers’ lives every single day. And that change is immediate. Mechanics get to step into someone’s life and fix or maintain the machine that gives them freedom of mobility, that gets them to and from work, that gets their kids to and from school.
By taking on projects for charity and doing pro bono work whenever I can, I’m able to live up to my personal mandate of using my skills to help those who need it most. There’s nothing more gratifying than that.
2. Every day surprises me.
As I’ve worked my way up in the industry, I’ve had jobs that were pretty repetitive. But there was a time and place for that type of work — we can’t master skills without repetition. Now, though, I wrench at my own independent shop, mostly working on older cars. And I never know what to expect because every day, every project, brings me something different.
Each job has its own unique challenges, whether it’s working within a customer’s specific budget, or playing detective to figure out what’s causing that weird sound. Problem-solving is always satisfying–it keeps my brain juices flowing, and it keeps every day interesting!
3. Tangible proof of a hard day’s work.
My mom is a writer, and one of her favorite things about her job is that moment when she finally gets to hold the first printed copy of a new book she’s written, hot off the press. After spending years working on a project, there’s something so satisfying about finally seeing that physical proof of what she’s created.
I have a similar feeling when I finish a job: something was broken, and I fixed it. When a car comes into my shop in need of repair, and a few hours later it drives off, good as new – well, it’s a satisfying visual. It’s tangible proof of the hard work I’ve done. It sounds so simple, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful.
4. Physical work feels good.
Elle Woods may have said it best in Legally Blonde: “Endorphins make you happy!” (What, you didn’t expect a Legally Blonde reference in a blog post about working on cars?)
5. I’m in control.
I realize this isn’t the case for all mechanics, but working for myself (and even working for others in the past, at independent shops) gives me a lot of autonomy. I get to determine the flow of my work day: I choose which projects to take on, and I decide which cars to tackle first. I have control over how I want to do the job at hand, from start to finish.
If I can find a shortcut, or if I take a little extra time cleaning up or inspecting a component, that’s up to me. I have really high standards for myself, so it’s important that I get to control how I want to perform my work and care for my customers’ cars.
I’m also in control of my own ability to earn money as a mechanic. I can pick up as many projects as I can handle, and I can stay late in the shop when I’m on a roll. I set fair prices, do good work, and earn a good living – and it’s all within the parameters that I create for myself.