When Mark Shaver was 16 years old, he bought a car that didn’t run. His mother lent him the money to buy it and told him never to sell it. He worked on the car, and by the time he received his license, the car was drivable.
Mark has been working on cars ever since, and I spoke with him about his job as an auto mechanic.
From the time Mark was a teenager, he enjoyed working on anything mechanical. He fixed everything from lawn mowers to go-carts. He loved cars and working on cars. Before Mark attended SUNY Morrisville, he worked at High Mills Garage pumping gas. During college, Mark continued to work at the garage pumping gas and doing oil and tire changes. After two years of college, he went to work full-time at High Mills and eventually bought the business.
When asked what he likes most about his job, Mark answered, “taking something that’s not working and repairing it to be as it should.” He also enjoys communicating with customers about everything from cars to life.
The most challenging part of Mark’s job is the constant changes in new cars. To learn about new models, Mark uses online searches and attends training and week-long classes. He goes to about six classes each year.
The most common tasks Mark deals with are oil changes, rebuilding brakes and inspections, which may involve repairing drivability problems or diagnosing check engine lights. Mark says that many repairs can be prevented if cars are properly maintained. He works on domestic cars as well as popular imports, such as Hondas and Toyotas.
Mark learned how to run a business mainly by trial and error, but working at the garage for 10 years before owning it gave him useful experience. In addition to his job as a mechanic, he had also become the shop supervisor.
When asked about funny experiences, Mark shared the story of a winter tow call. A man phoned because he had slid off the road into a ditch. When Mark arrived, he inspected the car to see how he could pull it out. When the man had tried to leave the ditch, he had spun his tires so much that a tire had exploded and ripped off the rear panel. The man asked Mark to pull him out of the ditch so that he could be on his way. Mark explained what had happened and told the man that he wasn’t going anywhere.
Mark had another interesting experience while doing an oil change. When he put the car up on the lift, he discovered a squirrel hanging from the engine compartment. He jokes that he “not only does car repair, but … will fix squirrel power,” too.
After 30 years, Mark still has the 1957 Chevy that his mother told him never to sell. He is in the process of doing a frame-off restoration, which means completely rebuilding the car. Mark’s mother must be pleased.