Dirty Jobs: Tales from a Grease Monkey
By NICK WALDEN / Rohnert Park Correspondent
When you think of the types of dirty jobs people do, typically an auto mechanic isn’t at the top of the list. Yes, most people understand that they work with cars, which involves a certain amount of grease, oil and other fluids which can be very dirty, but that is just scraping the surface.
Mechanics have to deal with quite a few unsavory things while in pursuit of doing even the simplest jobs, such as an oil change. After talking with the crew over at A.C.E. Automotive it was very apparent that certain situations they have encountered were not covered in their automotive training courses.
Owner, Brian Faulconer, asked one of his technicians to think of some of the worst things he has had to deal with while on the job. Trent Lorenz, a Rohnert Park resident and very experienced mechanic, started off with a story about working on a truck that was part of the animal recovery industry. In a nutshell it was the type of vehicle they send out to deal with dead animals on the roadside and other spots.
“I was working underneath the truck taking out the transmission. As I was loosening the bolts and removing them there were maggots just falling through the body onto my clothes and hood,” he said.
Faulconer quickly looked to top that story with one of his own. “We had this farm vehicle that would come in. It spent all day just driving around in the dirt and muck of the cow fields. Everything would just get packed and dried up under there so you would have to use a crowbar to remove enough of the cow pies just to get to the oil pan for an oil change.”
That was just the beginning of the stories as fellow grease monkey Jason Boll of Petaluma joined in with his own big fish story. “This one guy had hit a deer with his SUV. There was just a ton of blood and guts in the wheel wells and around the front. I had to clean for three hours before we could even start repairs.
Working in the automotive industry involves quite a few messy substances. Cars and trucks utilize oil, antifreeze, various types of fluid for the brakes, transmission, and steering which all need to be dealt with. There are standard practices for draining and disposing of all types of fluids along with recycling some products.
At A.C.E. Automotive they make sure to follow all of the requirements for regular disposal by using proper containers for storage and then moving them onto appropriate centers when the containers reach capacity.
Interestingly enough, those aren’t the worst substances they have to work with. “Axle grease,” said Jason Boll, “When you get it on your clothes you might as well just throw them away.”
The grease can easily ruin other clothes along with the washing machine if you simply try to launder them. That is one of the primary reasons why mechanics wear uniform pants, shirts and jackets while working along with thick latex gloves.
Trent Lorenz’s least favorite thing to work with is friction modifier in pellet form. “You get any of that stuff on you and you will smell like an outhouse. Your wife will make you undress outside of the house it’s that bad,” he said.
Along with some of the very dirty situations they have had to deal with involving automotive fluids, animals, and excrement there is also the human factor to contend with. While some people like to keep their car in pristine condition inside and out, others are less concerned with appearance.
“We had this one guy who liked to chew (tobacco). In his truck he had a spit cup in the console area, but it looked like he never bothered to pick the cup up or lean towards it. He just took aim from his seat,” said Lorenz. “The guy didn’t have very good aim.”
Of course these stories are all things none of them even considered when getting into the field of auto mechanics. They just happen to be an unfortunate by-product of some of the things that they have to deal with. For the most part all of guys stay fairly clean, with the exception of their hands.
What is the soap of choice for the busy mechanic? TKO is the preferred brand, which is a heavy duty non-solvent cleaner. “I wash my hands so many times a day,” said Faulconer, “it leaves them all dry and cracked.”
A.C.E. Automotive is a locally owned and operated family automotive shop that offers full service repair. They are located at 5687 Redwood Drive and their hours are Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information about them, visit them online at Aceautomotive.com or call them at 584-4223.