The term “parts hanger” is commonly used among automotive technicians to describe someone who has no idea how to diagnose a car, but has enough tools and knowledge to be dangerous and can certainly replace broken parts. The fact of the matter is that most of the people who make a living working on cars are parts hangers more than they are technicians.
The automotive repair industry has no standards. This is a problem from top to bottom. Anyone can open a shop, anyone can sell service, and anyone can perform the service. It would seem that the only requirement is that you have your name on your shirt. Because the bosses don’t care about standards they hire parts hangers instead of technicians. What they need and perhaps what they want are technicians, but they may not have a choice but to hire are parts hangers.
Would you go to a doctor that was not board certified to practice medicine? What if he said he had all the tools and lots of experience? What if he said he could save you lots of money, you just had to trust him? You might say that this analogy is silly because doctors deal with life or death situations. Many medical procedures are not such dire situations but we would still never trust anyone who was not a certified doctor. If someone replaces the brakes on your car improperly we are talking life or death. If your car breaks down in a blizzard on some lonely road because of an incompetent mechanic we are again talking life or death, so I think the analogy stands.
The thing that must change is that technicians need to seek more and better education both before they enter the auto repair industry, and after they are already working in a shop. Education must continue because the advancement of technology never ceases. As time goes by this technological growth is exponential, and the need for frequent training becomes even more important.
Most shops provide very little opportunity for such training because they are too busy just trying to run their businesses, and honestly most of their technicians really don’t think about it much anyway. The bosses figure that they themselves don’t need any new training, so why would their technicians? As long as this is the way things work the quality of the diagnosis and repair work the customers are paying for will continue to go down.
What is the public to do? Not much. Once the public demands better service by only going to shops with better educated technicians, then things might change. The people who are tired of settling for mediocre service and shoddy workmanship can take a stand by going somewhere else and demanding that only the best technicians work on their cars. They could at least ask whether or not the technicians get to attend any kind of professional development training to make sure they are up on all the latest and greatest technologies.
The standard must be set by the customers. Businesses that do not respond to customer demands are businesses that go away. Some people will always look for the cheapest service without regard for anything else, but these people never really spend the kind of money they should to maintain their cars, so the budget shops that only they would frequent would still go away.
The automotive world needs parts hangers. We need people who can change our oil and mount and balance tires. These are jobs that don’t require great skill and if we have unskilled people doing these things for us it does keep the cost down. Those that work in these positions will never make much money and maybe that’s just fine. Everyone needs to find employment somewhere, and those that are really sharp can start in these positions and easily work their way up.
However, when it come to diagnosing complex computer control systems that manage everything on the vehicle from fuel control to the interface between the sat nav and the ABS system, only a highly trained technician will do.