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We Must Have Integrity

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Do you have integrity? I believe from what I have learned over the years that it means having a quality of being honest, having strong moral principles as well as being ethical. Most professional technicians and shop owners have those traits.

A recent situation caused me to think about this. A customer had a vehicle towed to our shop with no brakes; the pedal would drop to the floor and the right front wheel was falling off. He had brake work done recently at another shop—in fact, three times at the same shop within a three-month period. Upon a complete brake inspection, here were our findings:

• The right front wheel was falling off because the wheel bearings were not packed with grease and adjusted properly. Therefore, the bearings burned up and seized, causing damage to the bearings, spindle, pads and caliper.

• The right rear wheel cylinder was leaking. Only one was replaced during the prior repair.

• The rear brake shoes were heat cracked and out of adjustment.

The repairs performed to this vehicle were downright inferior, not to mention someone could have been injured or killed. After reviewing the prior repair orders from the customer regarding these repairs, we called the shop’s manager to discuss. The manager claimed that their shop only employs ASE-certified technicians and the technician that did the brake work was a “good mechanic.” He was surprised about the claim. The manager referred the repair claim to their local parts store extended warranty department for reimbursement “due to a defect in materials.”


This type of situation, unfortunately, happens much too often. Just because a technician is certified doesn’t mean he or she has integrity. And just because a shop only employs ASE-certified technicians, doesn’t mean the technicians can diagnose and repair cars. There are several qualities that need to exist for an employee to be effective:

• They must have real-world hands-on experience. Just because you can pass a test and get certified doesn’t mean you can diagnose and repair cars correctly. Nothing beats years of hands-on experience.

• They must be certified, either through ASE, a technical school or another reputable organization. Being certified shows your commitment to your profession. It tells the customer they are in safe hands and have a technician that is knowledgeable in respect to working on their car.

• They must be honest, know when they don’t understand something and not be afraid to ask for help. A professional technician does his research and will ask for help if he doesn’t understand something instead of making a possible mistake that could potentially hurt someone or cause unnecessary damage to the vehicle.

In the example of the inferior brake job, the technician may have been ASE certified, but obviously the work was that of a mechanic with no experience whatsoever. He may be working at the repair shop as a mechanic, but there should have been someone qualified to oversee the work.

Integrity must be the nucleus that bonds the shop together. There must be constant communication between the manager, service consultant and technician. Quality controls must be in place to assure proper diagnosis and repairs and that the customer receives the best service possible.

We all need money to run our businesses and make a fair profit, but never should we jeopardize someone’s safety just for the sake of it. When we hire a new technician, we have an obligation to oversee his or her work and verify competency.

Ford has a slogan that everyone in this industry should work by: “Quality is Job 1.” I think this short statement says it all, because quality requires skill, honesty, high morals and ethical standards—it’s what having integrity is all about.

B.J. Lee has worked in the automotive repair industry for more than 30 years. He is an industry consultant and trainer for and owner of Stellar Performance Inc. in 29 Palms, Calif.

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