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Meet Julio Argueta – Mechanic at Virginia Tire & Auto of Dulles
Most of us have taken our cars into the repair shop before, and while some auto repair shops will explain what’s wrong with your car and what needs to be fixed, the overall repair process can still sometimes feel opaque.
A few weeks ago we interviewed General Manager Dan Viteri and learned a lot about the important roles in management, sales, and operations that keep things running at Virginia Tire & Auto locations. But what about the mechanics—arguably the employees at the very core of the business?
We spoke with Julio Argueta, a seasoned mechanic at our Dulles location, to learn about what it takes to become a mechanic, what a typical day is like for him, what successful mechanics tend to have in common, and more.
Working with Cars and Learning the Trade
Julio Argueta has been a mechanic at Virginia Tire & Auto since 2011, but his career in the automotive began in 2000. He started out by completing the basic tasks that don’t require a mechanic’s advanced technical skills—things like oil changes and tire changes. At Virginia Tire & Auto, this kind of role is called General Service Technician, or “GS” for short.
From there, Julio worked up to directly assisting a mechanic by replacing parts after the mechanic diagnosed the problem. Over time, through an informal apprenticeship with this mechanic, he learned to diagnose problems himself, becoming a certified mechanic in 2006.
Getting Certified and Staying Certified with the ASE
While there are some associate degree programs in auto repair, many mechanics learn the trade as apprentices. Even those with an associate’s degree still need a full year of on-the-job training before they can sit for the certification tests. Needless to say, it’s a trade where there’s no substitute for actual experience on the job.
The certification tests are written and administered by The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE. A non-profit organization founded in 1972, the ASE acts as an independent regulator of mechanic knowledge and service standards. The standardization that they provide protects consumers by giving them a standardized vetting process for selecting a mechanic, even if they don’t know anything about servicing cars.
There are more than 40 tests covering the full range all subspecialties in auto-repair, so mechanics gain certification based on specific parts of cars and types of repairs. The tests are rigorous; only two out of every three test-takers pass a test on their first try. Mechanics must retake the tests at least every 5 years to maintain certification, to keep up with the ever-changing technology in the automotive industry.
A typical day in the life of a mechanic
Julio gets to the shop around 8 a.m. and takes a look at the service tickets that have come up for the day. Julio handles around 5 – 6 tickets per day, but it’s fewer if he takes on a particularly complicated and time-consuming repair. Occasionally one case will take 6 hours. Every day is different, depending on the cars and problems that come in, so there’s always something to keep him on his toes.
Creativity and Problem-Solving are Keys to Excelling
Julio said that being able to think outside the box is a key element to succeeding and excelling as an auto mechanic. There’s usually more than one way to fix a problem, so there is always an opportunity to innovate to see if there’s a way to do a repair more efficiently without sacrificing quality. For less common problems, out-of-the-box thinking comes in handy for cracking a tricky diagnosis. Julio said that one of the best parts of his job is when he diagnoses and fixes a problem after a customer has taken their car to several other shops to no avail.
Investing in Our Mechanics
Since Julio worked as a mechanic for 5 years before he joined Virginia Tire & Auto, we asked him if there was anything about our company that set it apart from other auto repair shops where he’s worked. He said that Virginia Tire & Auto will pay for the ASE testing fees to ensure that the mechanics keep up with their certifications every five years, and also encourages mechanics to take new tests to expand their knowledge base. Especially as cars have computers and more advanced technology built-in, they are becoming more complicated to diagnose.
Making sure all of our mechanics are up-to-date with certifications and cutting-edge technology in the automotive industry are crucial to Virginia Tire & Auto providing our signature, above-standard service experience.
While Julio was a certified mechanic before joining us, sometimes our General Service Technicians move up to become mechanics. For those with the interest and drive, we’ve developed an official apprenticeship program to help them move up. Julio has even taken on an apprentice himself!