The 2017 Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Awards: Daniel Garnica
The Proper Diagnosis
Category: Shop Worker
Master Technician and Shop Training Manager / Ayers Automotive Repairs / Santa Barbara, Calif.
Chips, cartridges, processor units and memory cards laid strewn about on the bedroom floor.
And along with that decimated Super Nintendo sat Daniel Garnica, absolutely puzzled.
“It had stopped working, and in my mind, I thought, ‘I’ll take it apart and fix it,’” he says of that day from over 20 years ago. “I never got the thing to work again. I didn’t understand.”
For most 6-year-old children in the early 1990s, gutting the most popular and cherished video game system on the market was a bit counterintuitive. But in this moment of bewilderment, Garnica wasn’t concerned about not being able to play his games—it was driving him nuts not being able to diagnose what exactly went wrong.
It’s a mindset he has carried with him all the way to Ayers Automotive Repairs in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“I think that started putting in my mind, ‘If I can’t figure out the problem before I take it apart, there’s no point,’” Garnica says. “That’s something I think about all the time. If I’m not confident this car needs a PCM (powertrain control module), taking that apart won’t prove anything to me. Then it’s just a bunch of circuits and I don’t know what I’m looking for.”
As a master technician, that attitude embodies Garnica’s approach to repairing vehicles; his ideas for crafting a training program for his shop; his constant communication with management; his ever-growing knowledge of advancing vehicle technology.
And, at its very core, his mission to identify the problem “before I take it apart” rests in his goal to completely reshape how the public perceives the automotive repair industry.
From almost every angle, his work ethic and commitment to the industry is nearly unparalleled, says Ayers Automotive owner Nikki Ayers, making Garnica the winner of the 2017 Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Award.
On a broader scale, he is truly motivated to fix the public’s pessimistic view of the profession that has inspired him since his childhood days when he rummaged through junkyards in his neighborhood in Mexico, fascinated with how anything and everything was put together. A huge part of that effort has been encouraging his co-workers to get out into the community and give back to the shop’s customers. Ayers says that Garnica has been a leader in organizing team projects, from food collections to vehicle rebuilds to area Independent Automotive Professionals Association events where Ayers Automotive helps raise money for area families.
“I don’t want to show up at the shop and then be gone,” he says. “I want people to know that we like what we do. People need to be more aware of the industry as a whole. Getting us involved in stuff will make people more comfortable with us touching their cars. It just seems natural to get people to know their shop and mechanics.”
That passion to change the automotive repair brand extends beyond public perception and into the actual shop, where he’s not only been a leader for his team for the past 10 years, but has also earned the title of “shop training manager.”
“Daniel freely gives of his time to help his co-workers to help them learn new skill sets and improve the quality of their workmanship,” Ayers says. “He is constantly seeking ways to improve in skill set and make a difference within our shop.”
Garnica’s thirst for education has carried well beyond the technical classes he took in college and into certifications he’s obtained for hybrid, electric and high-voltage vehicles. Because of his training, he has become the go-to diagnostics technician at the shop—a skillset he tries to replicate with his co-workers when he designs the staff’s training program for the company’s annual meeting.
“We work on a lot of VWs and Audis. As we’ve worked on more and more cars, we’ve tried to follow the trends we’ve seen on a lot of these cars,” Garnica says. “So I think it’s in my best interest and the shop’s best interest to work together to really focus on what the customers want us to do.”
Garnica’s role in shaping the shop’s training agenda slowly came to fruition after years of being an outspoken team member, being unafraid to discuss business issues, training opportunities and customer service improvements with management at weekly meetings.
“If we need to reprogram a Chrysler four times, we can’t keep borrowing a laptop,” he says, recounting one experience where he pushed for improved equipment. “We really need our own laptop in the back. We need the subscription.”
In fact, his noted leadership on these issues has caused the company to invest in his future, sending him to managerial classes at the Automotive Training Institute and Maui Mastermind. The lessons he learns from those classes are setting Garnica up to make an even bigger impact in the future than he already has.