Dear Tom and Ray:
I am hopefully starting a retail job at an auto-parts store as a part-time associate/part-time driver. Could you please provide a primer on what every parts monkey should know? (I use the term "parts monkey" in all its warmth and mirth, and mean to offend no one.) I have been a fan of you two guys for nearly 20 years, and I find your radio program both informative and entertaining. — Brad
Ray: It seems to me the best parts guys are guys who have actually worked on cars before.
Tom: The reason is that when you go in the back room and you pull a set of pads for a Ford F-150, and you see that they're only two inches long, you'd know right away that those are the wrong pads and that somebody stocked them in the wrong place.
Ray: So you'd be able to correct the error before you sent the customer away to go home, jack up his car, remove the wheels and brake pads, and then realize that he's got the wrong pads.
Tom: Or before you sent the wrong parts out to a shop that's got a car on a lift, in pieces, and a customer reading a 12-year-old People magazine in the waiting room for what's going on four hours.
Ray: And, unfortunately, the only way to get that kind of experience is to work on some cars. So if you're really serious about moving up in the parts world, you'd probably be well served by volunteering or getting a lackey job at a shop one or two mornings a week. Then you'd get to know what the different parts for different cars actually look like, and you'd be able to spot obvious errors.
Tom: And when you're delivering parts, our best advice is not to dawdle. When a shop calls for a part, that often means they have a car up on a lift, taking up space, with other cars waiting to get in and owners waiting for them.
Ray: So come in, hustle the parts off your truck, get your signature and get going. That'll make a better impression than regaling the mechanics with your review of the latest episode of "Downton Abbey." Good luck, Brad.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)