20 Year Anniversary and Mechanic Memories

imported_John Whelan - March 2, 2016
I thought now would be a good time to celebrate my 20th year as a school bus fleet mechanic. I first thought is "how times have changed" it's a familiar statement but so true from my perspective. 20 years ago I was working on hard wired diesel engines and buses without any high tech troubleshooting equipment. Now it's game on with laptops, onboard computers and emission standards that Clessie Cummins himself would have a heart attack over just thinking about the challenges diesel engine manufacturers have to meet the stringent EPA expectations.

In mining as an apprentice in 1977 I worked on the fuel truck on afternoon shift fueling up equipment and checking oil levels. All of the fleet was new and under warranty but sometimes an apprentice got the privilege of working with the Cummins mechanic when one of the KTA 2300 engines in our haul trucks needed repair. Besides that it was all maintenance and basic repairs. That was a concern thinking if I stay here working in the mine through out my 4 year apprenticeship it would be extremely difficult to branch out into other areas of the trade.

Leaving the mine was the right decision... at the same time appreciating getting my mechanical career started there.  Moving up north and finishing my apprenticeship in a truck shop was exciting and stressful since it was a customer based business. Everything from diesel engines, electrical and drive trains were a daily occurrence. The experience was priceless as a young 20 something heavy duty mechanic. Back then there was no designated commercial transport mechanic so heavy duty covered everything soup to nuts.

Leaving the great white and cold north was only a matter of time after I reached red seal status. it was great to bounce around with different jobs to get some experience on other vehicles and powertrains. Thirty eight years in this trade flew by and it's amazing how much I'm still learning. Every day there is something new that rolls into the bus garage that has never happened before. Staying humble is easy to do approaching a different problem using the history of the vehicle, proper tools, common sense and experience to troubleshoot and repair the issue.

That's what keeps you going in this trade is the unknown. What is going to fail today? They say the more you use your brain the less chance of getting diseases like alzheimers. I think mechanics have a good chance of bypassing this affliction due to the mechanical brain teasers they have to solve every day. If I work until I'm 65 that will bring the duration of my career up to 45 years. I hope to keep blogging about my experiences to pass on to fellow mechanics looking for answers that they may find here in one of my posts. That makes all of this worth while.

Apprentice Mechanic
School Bus