In the past, car wash mechanics learned their jobs as they went. They figured out how to coax and tweak one-of-a-kind machinery through troubleshooting.
In today's age of technology, though, car wash machinery has changed. The equipment relies much more heavily on computer technology. And that is creating a need for skilled car wash mechanics.
Hugh Oldham is a car wash equipment specialist and former car wash operator with over 30 years of experience. "The new equipment's higher level of sophistication requires a new skill set for the car wash mechanic," he says.
"Far from being just a 'grease monkey,' [they] must understand much more than their predecessors."
The new generation of car wash technicians will need to learn computerized systems. This change in equipment, Oldham believes, has caused a shortage of skilled car wash mechanics. "Quality maintenance personnel are in short supply."
Brent Lindblom of Mesa, Arizona, agrees. "The biggest change has to do with more investors getting into the car wash market that do not have a mechanical background. Hence, they depend on service people for maintenance and repairs."
John "Mac" McCarthy is president of Technology at Work in Cape Coral, Florida. He says there may be anywhere between 2,000 and 10,000 jobs open nationally.
Murray Ewing is president of Transchem, Inc. He believes that jobs for car wash mechanics will continue to grow as more and more car washes are built.
"Someday it will be illegal to wash your car in your driveway!" Ewing says. (That's because environmental regulations may begin to restrict home car washing.)
Greg Pack of Alabama claims that "a good mechanic makes at least $30,000 per year. I've heard of mechanics making over $60,000 per year with overtime."
Opportunities for self-employment as a car wash mechanic do exist. But technicians warn that it is a difficult field to get into. McCarthy says many end up working longer hours for less pay.
Others, however, feel that a good technician should have plenty of work. They say that car wash equipment distributors, car wash manufacturers and independent service companies are often in need of skilled car wash mechanics.
Owners of single car washes often cannot afford a full-time mechanic. But multi-site owners are always looking for maintenance personnel, according to Lindblom.
But there are those in the industry who do not agree that the career represents a growing opportunity.
Randy Nix is a car wash owner in Tacoma, Washington. "There isn't much of a demand for car wash mechanics," he says. "In the Seattle-Tacoma area, there are less than six car wash mechanics, and one has gone out of business for lack of work."
There is no formal training available. You have to seek out your own training opportunities. Try working for equipment dealers where you can learn all about the profession. Equipment companies and manufacturers may also offer clinics or training on their particular line.
But the best training is on-the-job training. Get your hands dirty and learn from your mistakes.
"Expert knowledge in most areas is not required. Someone with good electrical theory knowledge and common sense would make a good prospect," says Pack.
"Learn as many basic skills as possible. Don't try to be a specific career person, such as 'car wash mechanic,' but learn the skills which will make you a hot commodity to many industries," says McCarthy.
"People with a good understanding of electricity, electronics, plumbing, hydraulics, fluid flow and pneumatics, plus a good hands-on ability with tools will do really well."
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