Hi! I’m Brad. Thanks for stopping by.
My interest in cars began at age 12 when my Dad brought home a cut-up VW Bug chassis and we built a dune buggy, one of the first of the fiberglass Meyers Manx type buggies in Northern California. I learned to cut and weld metal and rebuild engines, which came in handy because the buggy broke a lot when we played too hard. During high school I bought and sold probably 20 vehicles, working my way up from the $50 1951 Volkswagen (broken engine) that my parents gave me for my 16th birthday to a fairly decent Jeep CJ5. I experienced a couple of English cars along the way, a ‘56 TR-3 and a 1963 MGB. Owning English cars can certainly make you a better mechanic!
During my final year of high school, as a result of being a bit of a brat, I was enrolled in work experience and was placed at the Chevrolet dealership in our little town. The job was in the parts department which was OK, but I always looked out the window into the shop and thought that would be the place for me. After school was over I convinced a local service station owner that I could fix cars and was hired there as a the full-time mechanic. I learned gradually on customers cars and did my best to give them good value and make my boss a profit.
I next spent a glorious summer gold mining on the Fall River in Northern California and returned in the Fall to the Chevrolet dealership as an apprentice technician when the position became available. I will never forget August 1979, as the first Chevy Citations rolled off the transport truck. Many of them would hardly run and had check engine lights on! The car’s engine was computer controlled and everyone in the shop was highly intimidated by it. Being the youngest I was chosen as the victim/candidate to learn the system and I begin to fix them. I realized quickly that it wasn’t really that difficult and it was a pretty good gig as management really left you alone from a productivity standpoint and appreciated getting headaches resolved! I continued working at the Chevy dealership and became the shop foreman, largely due to the research and technical hotline connections that I had made to resolve check engine light and engine performance issues. It was evident that to be an effective technical foreman you didn’t need to be smart, but you needed to know where to go for information! These are the tools a foreman needs to help others in the shop or be productive and keep customer satisfaction high.
Serving as a technical foreman was the beginning of my teaching experience, helping others in the shop. Later, I moved into a different home and met my neighbor across the street, an instructor at a local community college. When he learned that I was proficient at computer command control diagnosis and repair he convinced me that I should put together a class for them and I began teaching at the college in the evenings. I really had no idea what teaching was about but simply shared what I had learned at work and it was successful. Gradually I learned how to become a real teacher! About five years later a full-time position at the college arose and I was accepted to teach the Ford ASSET program. This was a very nicely crafted manufacturer program designed to produce talented young people to enter Ford dealerships. I did this for one year and then a retirement position arose in the traditional program. I was able to lateral into becoming the principal electrical and engine performance instructor. This is the area I really enjoyed most and I worked there for about 30 years. One of the most satisfying elements of teaching is when a former student stops by to take you out to lunch and tells of their career success, new family, and perhaps a home purchase! I retired in June of this past year. I am now doing some part-time teaching for two other local community colleges and staying connected with the industry.
In 1992 I was a reader of the San Jose Mercury News. There was an automotive advice column each Friday and I was not a fan of how it was done. It seemed the columnist was out of touch with current technology and didn’t really seem to answer people’s questions very clearly. I wrote a message to the editor and suggested they find someone else. To my great surprise I received a response saying that this gentleman was retiring and if I knew so darn much about it why don’t I send a couple of samples and they would consider them. One thing led to another and I’m writing columns for the Mercury News! A few years later the column moved to the “Business Wire” and began being published in other newspapers across the country. The meager compensation for writing petered out within about five years as newspapers apparently were strapped for money. I continued to write free gratis because it seemed like a nice thing to help people with their cars and teach them a little bit about them. Again, like being a foreman, it isn’t about being smart it’s about researching and consolidating pertinent information the best you can and presenting it in the clearest possible way. My children’s kindergarten teacher, Nancy, an elderly woman told me one day that she was a reader, and appreciated how I explained things clearly for the lay-person to understand. Over the years I have tried to keep that in mind imagining Nancy reading each column and attempting to keep it interesting for people of all skill levels and interest. Sometimes the writing needs to be rather technical and then I try to swing it back the following week to something a little more basic. I do screw up sometimes, a gray moment perhaps, the limitation on length doesn’t allow a thorough explanation, or unfortunate editing occurs. I learned early on to never say anything important in the final paragraph because that’s the part that a lazy editor will clip!