Auto Service World
Feature   October 1, 2005   by CARS Magazine

Still more on backyarding and a call for a national grassroots organization

Reader John Desjardins is an experienced tech who's "seen it all" and comments on several issues in the industry:...

Reader John Desjardins is an experienced tech who’s “seen it all” and comments on several issues in the industry:

Hi Jim:

I’ve been a tech for 20 years and I feel like I’ve heard and seen it all. Still, I always get a kick out of reading your “Reader Feedback”. Now here’s my two cents worth:

Regarding “The backyard techs”: sometimes you just need a little extra cash. Fine. But if you want to keep your boss happy don’t make a career out of it or you might find yourself working full time as a backyard tech.

As far as paying techs: if they’re good at their jobs, pay them well or you risk losing them.

Apprentice shortages? Sure looks that way. For the most part, I see guys around me (myself, included) in our forties. After so many years of physical labour, twisting, turning, craning necks, no wonder guys are looking for a change. And we’re seeing only a fraction of the people taking automotive training actually finishing their courses.

It seems unfortunate that those who do finish their programs end up working in a flat-rate system.

Is there any seasoned mechanic that feels flat-rate is fair to the honest, hard-working mechanic or their customers?

One more thought: I noticed your advertisement on page 23 of the August 2005 issue, and wondered why I didn’t see a safety stand under the green Windstar? By the way, speaking of safety, are the shoes Jeffrey Taylor is wearing in the picture steel-toed?

John Desjardins via

Jim Anderton replies:

John, I believe the shot was taken at an ACDelco research lab, not a public access shop, so I don’t know what the rules are regarding the stand. I don’t use one for changing a tire, since I’m not getting under the vehicle, but the shoes are a good question. How ’bout it Jeffrey?

Ed Jagt owner of SSGM Garage of the Year Pro-Tech Tire & Auto, comments on Bob Greenwood’s recent column regarding the need for a professional umbrella group for service providers:

Hello again Jim:

Bob has hit the nail on the head; our little Barrie Area Auto Repair Association has sprouted two sister groups, one in Peterborough & one in Drumheller AB . We are now also a voting member of A.I.A. It’s time for us independents to talk to each other & work together for our survival and our integrity. We need to work in groups locally, provincially like C.I.A. & federally like the A.I.A. We need to set some standards like Be Car Care Aware. I put it to you & Bob that if you want to, between you guys, the W.D.’s, the local jobbers & us independents we could form a “Professional Society” encompassing A.I.A. C.I.A. local groups & Be Car Care Aware. I am willing to throw my towel into the ring and do some grunt work. Thanks for your time.

Ed Jagt

Pro-Tech Tire & Auto

Barrie, Ontario

Jim Anderton comments:

Ed has a track record of making things happen, notably by founding and backing the Barrie Area Auto Repair Association. With local associations popping up in Peterbourough and Drumheller, my guess is that there’s a nucleus of support out there that could be welded into a powerful association. How about it Canadian service providers?

Don Frisby, president of Ottawa-based Frisby Tire wrote about Bob Greenwood’s June Special Report on the state of the industry:

Hello Gentlemen:

I feel compelled to write and tell you that I am in full agreement with you on this issue. My main business is tires, obviously, however we in the tire business face many of the same challenges. Bob, you have been hammering this message home for years to little or no avail and it’s time that some decisive action is initiated. We must as an industry become more professional or we face ever dwindling numbers. Do you have to be a large chain to be a professionally run organization? I don’t think so.

I am one of those with a grade 12 education who was born into the business and believe me, there are times when I wish that I had had more formal education. If we are forced by our peers to meet certain standards in terms of business practices, training etc. we will be the better for it.

I am in full support of your efforts and intend to stay abreast of the situation and help out where I can.


Don Frisby, President,

Frisby Tire Co. (1974) Limited

Ottawa, Ontario

Bob Greenwood replies:

Thanks very much Don, for your comments and thoughts. I appreciate it very much. I will see what other comments I get from across the land. The real question will be “is there a “will” to make this happen in our industry?” We have too many people in our industry who sit on the sidelines and take the attitude “do it for me”.

I am trying to get people throughout our industry at every level to start thinking and acting in a pro-active manner on issues (get off your duff and make things happen — get it done!!) instead of always taking a reactive position, (its too late by this time and so they create the smoke and mirrors show trying to create a perception of action) which has been the tradition of our sector of the industry. Some understand proactive but many do not.

I have always appreciated your support and your feedback!

Take Care!

Bob Greenwood

President & C.E.O.

E.K. Williams and Associates

Reader Kevin Pausche was one of many who responded via about the article “Plan C” from the July issue of SSGM

Dear Sirs:

In regards to the advocacy of charging R-12 systems with hydrocarbons in your July issue, I believe some questions should be asked. Most importantly who is intended to be legally liable when this so-called “repair” results in an explosive fireball. I was hoping this article was a joke, and frankly, expected a little more from a publication such as SSGM. It is unbelievable that an instructor at a respected institution would knowingly charge a confirmed leaky evaporator core with what is little more than propane. Furthermore, the usage of sealant not only renders the vehicle’s system unserviceable but the fact that no attempt to label or use proprietary fittings was made. Anyone who then attempted to actually fix this vehicle properly would contaminate their equipment with this garbage. This is how MVAC apprentices are now being taught how to service AC systems? Does SSGM really advocate profiting at any price — even when our customer’s safety is at risk? A professional article would have demonstrated the ravages of using AC sealers. It would have addressed the risks to our investments in equipment. The dangers of using hydrocarbon blends must be made well known, as plain as they are in the manufacturers’ own MSDS sheets. Perhaps this piece should be directed to backyard mechanics as they may find value in such foolishness. True professionals would never consider going past “Plan B.” The practices that your publication condones are equivalent to snipping squealer tabs on brake pads so that owners may drive for “just a few months more.” These are the things we just cannot do.

Kevin Pausche


Jim Anderton replies:

Kevin, you’re right in your assertion that many professional mechanics wouldn’t go past “Plan B” which would involve reman components and an R-134a retrofit. From a safety perspective, however, there just isn’t evidence that HC in automotive A/C service is a safety hazard. From a litigation perspective, if a trained tech installs a legal product, then liability isn’t an issue. Insurance companies appear to have no problem with hydrocarbons, and they’re used extensively around the world. In Europe, home refrigerators and freezers use it extensively. Am I willing to drive with HC’s in my car? The Caravan Tom B
rown used for the test is my own, and I drive it daily. Proprietary fittings aren’t used because there’s no standardized system yet for automotive HC’s. As far as tagging the system, the vehicle won’t see another A/C service, so future contamination from this vehicle is not an issue. Sealers do clog equipment, but they’re everywhere, so learning to use them properly just makes sense. “Backyard” mechanics aren’t qualified to use any A/C product, and will do considerable damage if allowed to purchase these products. Tom Brown’s credentials are beyond reproach, and the techniques were demonstrated during an apprentice technician’s class at a Toronto college. HC’s and sealers are out there, and whether we like them or not, we will encounter systems with them.

I titled the piece “Plan C” for a reason…No one is suggesting that this type of service will ever replace O.E.-level repairs for “best practices” shops. Shops that inject sealants into moisture-containing systems will destroy them, and the customers that are burned by the shoddy repair may then go to reputable shops, only to find out the extent of the damage. In this case, the service is targeted at vehicles too old and with not enough residual value to justify the proper repair. “Plan A” or “Plan B” isn’t an alternative for this consumer; they’ll roll down their windows. If your customer base has the disposable income to do it right, all the better! We’ll still demonstrate the correct use of any legal service product or tool when it’s handled by someone like Tom Brown. We’re also open to debate on the subject, which is why your letter is in this issue. In any case, keep writing about issues like this and keep the discussion open!