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Techs – Is the Problem Unreliability?


In the dialogue between auto repair shop managers and workers, one frustrated complaint comes up over and over again from the management side: auto techs are too unreliable. Recently we at the Automotive Management Network posted a survey asking: “What are the most common reasons for techs to be fired at your shop?” The five most common responses so far are (in popular order):

Poor work quality/comebacks (91)

Late or no show for work (63)

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Refuses to follow shop policies/procedures (38)

Dishonest (37)

Weak diagnostic ability (30)

Let’s separate these out into two categories: ability and reliability. The most commonly cited reason for firing, by far, was poor work quality or comebacks. This is work that had to be redone because of customer complaints. In a tech the underlying reason for this could be either ability or reliability or a combination of both. It could be that the tech has inadequate training, lacks the ability to focus or remain on task, or isn’t capable of the work. Or it could be that the tech doesn’t care enough about the quality of work or rushes to get it finished and out the door. It might be a little of both. It could even be management’s fault for pushing too much work on the tech or rushing him to finish. From management’s point of view, training can be fixed, but a poor work ethic cannot.

The next three reasons cited – lateness, unwillingness to cooperate, and dishonesty – are all character issues that can’t be solved with better management, more training, better incentives, or more money. A good worker will show up at the time agreed upon, follow instructions, and be honest in his dealings. He feels compelled to do his best work as a part of the boss/worker contract. If he doesn’t feel like the job is a good fit for him or he can find better work or wages, he’ll go somewhere else, but he won’t do his job poorly just to “stick it to management” because he entered into this agreement willingly and has integrity. A good worker does the best job he can with the resources he has.

The final reason – weak diagnostic ability – could be due to either a lack of training or a lack of ability. This was cited only a third as many times as poor work. Looking at the reasons as a whole, it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that management thinks that techs could do better – many of them just choose not to. From management’s perspective, the problem is that the pool of workers they have to choose from is full of people who aren’t reliable. There aren’t enough good workers.

Many techs will argue that they are not fairly compensated for their work, that they’re being taken advantage of and shouldn’t have to work harder for less and less every year. That may be true, but even so, dishonesty, poor work quality, lateness, and a lack of cooperation aren’t problems that can be solved by throwing more money at them, so the problem is more complex than that.

If you have yet to weigh in on our survey, please do take a moment and vote today. Your opinion may help shed further light on this issue. Next time we’ll discuss this issue more from the tech’s point of view.


  1. problem is the manufactures do not want to pay for fix their mistake. I make I mistake I work for free. I try to limit the mistakes. unrealistic times to make repairs is the driving force in what’s broken. no manager is going to say you know what we know the factory is screwing us on that labor time will make the lost time up to you. what needs to be done is the dealers need to refuse to sign the franchise agreements when they are up and hold their feet to the fire. in the long run they are loosing $ too. historically low labor times from the factory reflect with “book” time too warranty time low = aftermarket time low as well!

  2. I’m a hard worker I have spent enough money on training and tools to own a yatch I’m not paid for the work I do I’m told I have to work for free being a technician in today’s market is a joke

  3. Tho ole it only took you 5 min to fix that and dont get paid for the hour it calls for non respect from managment is why i will not respect my fellow managers. The managment that can not fix cars and act like they can is reasons why i will come in late when asked to come in early…. Respect goes a long way. I also think that managment in some places has to work 60 plus hours a week and in some cases the good techs make more then them using the flate rate system and they feel envy and get mad that they have to work more and get paid less. That will sometimes give resentment towards techs. Respect is key a manager that will bend over backwords for me ill do the same

  4. Respect is earned, it is not a God given right. When I was turning wrenches respect was important but not necessary. A good paycheck was necessary and important. It was also harder to earn when I achieved Nissan Master level and competed as a finalist in the NISTECH competition. There were many days I would have traded the respect forl a better paycheck to provide for my family. The point is we all have to place a value on our quality of work and our competence in our profession. It is great when all factors merge with management requirements and expectations.

  5. I would say that a majority of techs are male and as males we feel value/purpose by Respect. and i have personally seen a lack of respect no matter what level tech you are, ive been in 3 different dealerships in 3 different states and all was treated with little to no respect. I was even offered a large compensation after giving my 2 weeks notice and still left because its not entirely about the money its about being respected. Now dont get me wrong money is a huge driving force for techs. However when there is a true saying among techs of “the more you know the less you make” meaning the more training certifications/ASE etc you have the less you make because that master tech or A level tech gets all the hard diagnosis and cant make a paycheck that way. Then that tells me there is something wrong within the industry. As the old saying goes “the fish rots from the head” and management is the head, they do not lead by example. As a tech with getting little to no respect at a job i come to everyday I wont stay there long if im not feeling valued.

  6. I don’t think it is that simple. Having worked both sides i would argue the problem lies with both the individual and management.
    The key is good communication starting from day one, setting very clear expectations and policies that is holding both sides accountable. The most critical task is accountability.
    This can be solved by people and process.

  7. It should take all of about five workdays to determine if a Tech meets (or not) the five criteria of which you speak; and most of those criteria may be discovered in the interview process (assuming there’s a solid process).

    There are also many other reasons Techs are fired (or choose to leave), topmost being their supervision, either direct or indirect, and in my view, overall compensation issues are more distant.

    A ‘good’ or ‘great’ Tech wouldn’t have any of these ability or reliability attributes in the first place. In good or great Techs, these attributes are akin to breathing…you must possess them all.

    The upshot here means that as management we should focus on management’s skills applied to recruiting, interviewing, managing, and retaining ‘good’ or ‘great’ Techs, along with a fair, reasonable, meaningful compensation program.