View Full Version : Mechanic or HVAC Tech


Wrench86
10-07-2010, 05:23 AM
Hey yall! I've been lurking in the forums here and have went from learning things to just getting plumb tickled at some of yalls stories. So I'm currently deployed to Afghanistan and will be ending my tour within a month. When I get home I'm looking to start a new career. I'm interested in becoming a mechanic and working up to my own shop which would be very expensive and take alot of time to get a reputation as a good mechanic. I'm also interested in becoming an HVAC Tech, and starting my own business. Not as expensive and I have a few residential construction ties that would help me in this aspect. Just wanted input and advice from the experience out there. Thanks again!

Hlidskjalf
10-07-2010, 05:37 AM
I considered both when I was starting out. There were too many cons when considering auto mechanics. I think the industry is seriously underpaid.

I went HVAC and I do not regret it. The industry is large enough to keep anyone entertained.

danski0224
10-07-2010, 06:08 AM
First, thank you for your service.

I know a few people that were union dealer mechanics and they have left the industry. Some have moved over to industrial repairs like forklifts and OTR trucks. As crappy as union dealer pay was, some get paid less per hour, but work more hours.

Same for union HVAC (getting out of the trade). I know more people here because that is my field.

I suppose it depends on your home market.

There are lots of car dealers and independent shops around here. Some look nice and professional and others do not. Probably not as easy to run an auto shop out of the garage at home. High un and underemployment for union auto mechs here.

Lots of HVAC people running around in vans of varying states of repair. Union HVAC unemployment is very high right now, and expected to get much worse in the coming month or so. Most of those people will be doing whatever it takes to pay the bills if they are not working. More competition. Lots more.

Both fields here (non-union) have many help wanted ads with low wages. You have to be a "selling tech" to make the big money, and the pressure can lead to unethical decisions.

I have a lot of opinions and thoughts on both, but a public forum is not the place to put that stuff.

If you truly intend to open your own shop, make sure that you understand the true cost of operating a profitable business. Billable time is a big deal, and there is lots of unbillable time if you roll your own.

If you work 2000 hours a year and get paid $30 an hour as an employee, that = $60,000.00.

No way you can make 2000 billable hours as a sole prop, and 1200 is generous. 60,000 / 1200 = $50 per hour, before expenses and taxes.

A lawyer bills any time the lips move... $250 an hour = $4.17 a minute.

Good luck.

Edit: "Profit" comes after you pay your taxes, expenses (including insurance), retirement savings and yourself.

Red05GT
10-07-2010, 08:11 AM
About any maintenance job that's advertised these days prefers that applicants have
HVAC experience. Also the field crosses over to walk in cooler and freezer repairs and
maintenance. The residential field is tough these days with the amount of competition,
but there always seems to be a few jobs in the classified section for HVAC people. I
second what danski0224 says about knowing the true cost of being in business for ones
self. I've been self employed for almost 30 years and it keeps getting tougher.

ZRX61
10-07-2010, 09:30 AM
If ya want to make $$$$, become a plumber.... or an industrial sparks

Cuda
10-07-2010, 09:39 AM
I'm an industrial sparky and although not wealthy I have had steady employment for many years. I have studied some in HVAC, and if I was younger would pursue it with vigor. But all around maintenance work is what I really enjoy. Jack of all trades, master of none was a phrase I used to hear a lot. I changed it to master of one. I think it's a good idea to have one trade you excell in and others you can become proficient in. HVAC and electrical work has always been in high demand in my experience.
And as was mentioned, thank you for your service.

Nutty 5.0
10-07-2010, 09:51 AM
Definately HVAC. I'm in the Pharma HVAC building automation end. Lots of oppurtunity!

gatchel
10-07-2010, 10:03 AM
Every auto mechanic I know tells aspiring mechanics to not bother.

I would say HVAC would probably the better bet. I would think it is a lot easier to get going as an HVAC guy than owning your own shop. JMHO.

Warrenator
10-07-2010, 10:59 AM
I have a buddy who is a full time pilot for an airline, used to be a HVAC tech. His old HVAC boss called him up one day, said he could not find anyone at all to work who know what they were doing, and to please please come back, name your wage. Even part time would be fine, I need you.

So he puts on the green coveralls on his days off, doubles his income.

That's the kind of skill I'd like to have, nobody is exactly begging me to come to work for my special skills.

Best of luck whatever you do.

JetLinkin
10-07-2010, 12:37 PM
I can't really comment one way or the other on your specific question, but congratulations on starting your new career and thanks for your service to our country. If you are going to persue certifications in either field don't forget to use your veteran's education benefits to the max extent possible--you earned them. Many states also have benefits once your federal education benefits run out, so make sure you check into that too.

crewchief888
10-10-2010, 03:59 PM
as stated before, thanks for your service :thumbup:

seems like the automotive end of wrench pulling has hit the skids, with many dealerships closing.
ive been working on construction eq for 25+ years, and it's been a good run for me.
before i started pulling wrenches i had formal training as a tool & die maker, welder, had some working knowlege of sheet metal and mechanical drafting. seems like every job i got as a mechanic, my welding and machinist skills helped tremendously.
like my dad used to tell me, the more you know, the better off in life you'll be.
if i had to do it all over again, right now, today, i'd look into heavy truck electronics, refrigeration, and hydraulics. within the next couple years, with emissions controls tightening up, you'll see even more EFI diesels, in smaller powerplants.
the heavy eq trades are gonna be looking for "computer savvy" techs, that can not only diagnose EFI/computer problems, but can still swing a sledgehammer, weld and pull wrenches.

just my $0.02

good luck :thumbup:


:beer:

slice
10-10-2010, 05:52 PM
been hvac owner tech for 25 yrs you need lots of hands on before you own your own place,,, its not as easy as you think...................

TEXACMAN
10-10-2010, 08:50 PM
I don't know what the market is like in the area you are going to be living , depends on alot of factors. I have been a HVAC tech for 15 years and it has been a good living . In my area the winters are pretty slow , summers crazy , just gotta save some of the O.T. from the summer :thumbup:. I would recommend trying to get into the commercial HVAC and Refrigeration. I enjoy it more than residential HVAC but everyone is different.Hope this helps.

Abbott
10-10-2010, 09:11 PM
Controls, HVAC Controls is where a lot of money can be made. Get your butt to school, learn controls or Industrial instrumentation. If you like plenty of money, good working conditions, sex and travel Controls is where it's at. I look forward to a post saying that you are home safe.

robertlynk
10-10-2010, 09:13 PM
Controls, HVAC Controls is where a lot of money can be made. Get your butt to school, learn controls or Industrial instrumentation. If you like plenty of money, good working conditions, sex and travel Controls is where it's at. I look forward to a post saying that you are home safe.
I 2nd

My daughter rotated out of FOB Shank 8th FST as a medic. Hope she never had to work on any of your unit THANK YOU FOR MY FREEDOMS THAT YOU PROTECT

Fedwrench
10-10-2010, 09:15 PM
Stay in the military for 30 years to see which 15 were the best then work for the government.:thumbup:
I spent 25 years 6 months and 15 days in the Army (the only true branch, the others are transportation) Anyway, I did the auto tech job after getting out. I was an 11 series in the Army so, I really didn't have any marketable skills unless I went to work for for MPRI or Blackwater but, I digress.
In today's economy with the auto manufacturer's hurting, being a flat rate tech can be a feast or famine world starting out. Then there's the whole warranty pay issue if you work in a dealership. Also the huge numbers of dealership closings wiped out the technician shortage. It is doable but, if it was easy everyone would do it. Hvac may be better but, that may also depend on where you live. I know the HVAC guys here in AZ in the summertime often have more work than they can handle but, works slows to a creep when things cool off. Good luck in whatever field you choose. Take the confidence and self discipline you've learned and apply it to your new endeavor. Good luck,:beer:

srmofo
10-10-2010, 09:47 PM
Im a flat rate auto mastertech and I would probably point you towards HVAC. I will make somewhere around 60k this year and I work around 50 hours week. Im a fast, thorough tech, I dont half ass things and I have very few comebacks (not getting paid to fix a car the second time will kill you if it happens too often). I also am very lucky and work for a locally owned and reputable independent shop that has 27 locations around my area. Its not one of the midas type places where they have different techs every time you go in. The owner takes us fishing at lake erie several times a year and they feed us every saturday. They still have health coverage although it keeps getting more expensive as they try to push everyone into HSAs. And we also have a 401k although its only a 25% match up to 4%. Better than nothing I guess.

You wont find this at most shops and in fact its usually much worse.

Ive never like the idea of working for a dealer and I probably never will. Theres something not right about getting handed all the shit because you wont kiss the service writers ass. If I ever leave this employer I will be choosing another field. Ive really been tossing around the idea of going to school for mechanical engineering but I have a buddy that cant find a job with a ME degree. I just dont know how skilled or motivated he is tp find a job

As much as I like buying tools, it can be a burden sometimes.

jay50
10-10-2010, 09:53 PM
Whatever direction you go, you really need to master the electrical/electronics side of the business.

Once you master that area, you can write your own ticket.:thumbup:

Grumpy365
10-10-2010, 10:38 PM
Every Tom, Dick and Harry want to be a mechanic or HVAC , they spend there time looking over your shoulder and second guessing every decision. PLUS the technology is in constant change.

PLUMBER make BANK, the technology has been the same since the first indoor toilet, and no body is interested in second guessing you.

I would be a plumber.

Wrench86
10-11-2010, 07:02 AM
Thanks for all the posts and info guys, I've been looking around some more and think I'm going to shoot for something in the electrical field. I've got an inside track for construction if I decided to go as a residential electrician. But working as a lineman is really appealing. I will probably do my best to get on with an electrical company and try to go the lineman route, but if that falls through I'll shoot for residential electrician. I dont know much about commercial electrician, like working in a factory but I suppose that could be a good route as well. I'm glad I started asking around before I got into mechanic schooling and found out the hard way. I can always fancy up my own shop in the back yard to settle my "sweet tooth" lol.

toytech40
10-11-2010, 07:57 AM
Thank you for your service to us and our country!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Speaking from my experience, having worked in the auto technician field(with miner excursions into ag, heavy eq, and otr trucks, and even small engine) for 25 years as a source of primary income. There is always and will always be a need for GOOD qualified techs, but as stated earlier they are underpaid as a whole considering the amount the tech must invest in their own tools and such. In my years as a tech(changed careers 4 years ago to become a natural gas processing plant operator, and wish I would have done it years ago) I worked at a couple dealerships, and independant and ran my own shop, it was always feast or famine no matter where I was at, and when on flat rate it can be tough when it is famine. Iam not sure on the HVAC but you still have to provide your own tools but not as many(someone is in HVAC industry can correct or agree) Also said before to put lot of training in the electrical/electronic side of either of which you choose, I agree 110% as everything is getting more and more electronically controled, yes there will always be the grunt work, but the electronics will be a bigger part as time goes on.

You mentioned electrical work and going to work for an electrical company. Around here alot of guys will go to work as a lineman for an eletrical company and work their way through all the internal training and gain the experience to become a journyman, and licensed electrician then look for a job as an electrician for a contractor or plant maintinece, etc. So you may want to to consider that avenue.

Good luck at whatever you choose, and you will do well.

danski0224
10-11-2010, 12:05 PM
Iam not sure on the HVAC but you still have to provide your own tools but not as many(someone is in HVAC industry can correct or agree).

Really depends on what you want to do.

Some of the specialty stuff for air balancing is pretty expensive. Combustion analysis is another.

Enough equipment to fabricate sheet metal parts and pieces is also a big investment.

Pretty hard to make much of a run with just a set of basic gauges and amp/volt meter.

Throw about $5k at some tools, and you can do something decent. Probably not much different than an auto tech starting out.

CamarosRus
10-11-2010, 01:21 PM
Let me inform all of you guys about a niche market youre probably not aware of.

I'm a ILWU Longshoreman in Seattle unloading/loading the ships from Asia. More and more of the containers being exported/imported are refrigerated U.S. Meat, Poultry, Fruit and Vegtables. All these refer containers are tested, maintained, and plugged in on the ships by Machinists union refer mechanics.

These guys easily make over $100K a year, with benefit, vacation and pension packages you wouldnt believe. Small lucrative market that is getting bigger. Any young guy should consider transport refrigeration schooling and work toward getting on the West Coast waterfront, where the most money is paid. NOT the same as the gulf south or east coast.

srmofo
10-11-2010, 04:25 PM
Really depends on what you want to do.

Some of the specialty stuff for air balancing is pretty expensive. Combustion analysis is another.

Enough equipment to fabricate sheet metal parts and pieces is also a big investment.

Pretty hard to make much of a run with just a set of basic gauges and amp/volt meter.

Throw about $5k at some tools, and you can do something decent. Probably not much different than an auto tech starting out.

5K will get you started as a auto tech, but that's about it. I have close to 60k and growing. It adds up quick when you have to buy all your diagnostic tools/updates. This year will be the cheapest I've had in a long time.

rsanter
10-11-2010, 04:29 PM
HVAC is a really good path. I think a more finacially stable path than a mechanic

bob

danski0224
10-11-2010, 05:47 PM
5K will get you started as a auto tech, but that's about it. I have close to 60k and growing. It adds up quick when you have to buy all your diagnostic tools/updates. This year will be the cheapest I've had in a long time.

Note that I said start. :)

Been adding to the pile here, too.

babzog
10-13-2010, 06:04 PM
No way you can make 2000 billable hours as a sole prop, and 1200 is generous. 60,000 / 1200 = $50 per hour, before expenses and taxes

You only bill $50/hr? Around here, guys charge closer to $100. Plumbers (the good ones) are making in excess of $100 an hour.

ironfist
01-15-2011, 09:40 AM
Every Tom, Dick and Harry want to be a mechanic or HVAC , they spend there time looking over your shoulder and second guessing every decision. PLUS the technology is in constant change.

PLUMBER make BANK, the technology has been the same since the first indoor toilet, and no body is interested in second guessing you.

I would be a plumber.



+ 1 . I wish I had became a plumber . That was my second pick when I got out of high school. I just wish that i took a co op in plumbing . I tried to get into it after quit tool and die but no one at the time would hire a green helper in my area .

rickairmedic
01-15-2011, 11:25 AM
Thanks for all the posts and info guys, I've been looking around some more and think I'm going to shoot for something in the electrical field. I've got an inside track for construction if I decided to go as a residential electrician. But working as a lineman is really appealing. I will probably do my best to get on with an electrical company and try to go the lineman route, but if that falls through I'll shoot for residential electrician. I dont know much about commercial electrician, like working in a factory but I suppose that could be a good route as well. I'm glad I started asking around before I got into mechanic schooling and found out the hard way. I can always fancy up my own shop in the back yard to settle my "sweet tooth" lol.


Thank you for your service . I own an HVAC company and will tell you you made the right decision going Sparky . I know plumbers who are not geting nearly enough hours . I have my good months and bad ones . I dont know any Sparky's ( even the bad ones ) who are not working full time and making killer money. We opened our shop 4-5 years ago and I am still doing 90% of the work myself . My neighbor got his master electricians license a little over 2 years ago and after I talked him into opening his own shop he now has 2 crews out making him money pretty much full time while he has lots of free time to sit in his basement playing X box . The only major differance here is it takes at least 4 years here to qualify to take your master HVAC test and 8 years for your Master electricians test . Electricians are not seasonal HVAC is and always will be even in Miami :D.


Rick

WVBrady
01-15-2011, 11:50 AM
Wrench86 : I am a retired electrical engineer from the power industry. I would like to emphasize safety in whatever you do. I used to teach basic electricity to linemen and used the calculations we did to emphasize safety. I remember many years ago, one of my professors telling us that more electricians are killed by electricity than any other group. One reason, of course, is increased exposure. The other is that they get complacent and careless. Good luck!

AdamsAutoAdvice
01-15-2011, 03:40 PM
As others have said being an Auto Mechanic can be tough. Difficult bosses, difficult customers, buying tools, etc. You can make a good living but you need to work efficiently. I've seen some guys do 30 billable hour days, which is how you really pull in good money or get into working on high-end cars.

I know a guy who was planning on becoming an Auto Body Tech, but couldn't find a job. Most shops are struggling. He's now going to school for HVAC, but I don't now if he likes it. He'd rather be in the Auto Body field.

So.... Do what you like to do! Not what you think will be better for you in the long run. It's never a bad idea to have different skills you can always use.