If there’s been one constant in the automotive industry over the past century it’s constant change, as the integration of new technologies help reshape the production of cars and trucks. To ensure they keep pace with innovation and maintain customers, shops like Guelph’s Auto Clinic have also had to change and adapt.
One of the most recent changes at Auto Clinic has been the addition of veteran mechanic Jim Conte, who in April, joined the team of licensed service technicians currently working there. And according to co-owner Julie Hurren, it’s been a long overdue addition.
“We’ve been looking to get Jim to come onboard for a while,” said Hurren, who along with husband Don have been operating Auto Clinic for nearly 30 years. “The timing just didn’t align for him and didn’t align for us. When we recently had some people leave, he found us on Indeed. We’re so happy to finally have him here.”
Conte arrives having earned more than 30 years experience in the automotive mechanic trade, working for companies like Brock Road Garage and Active Green and Ross. It’s been a lifelong passion that was inspired by his grandfather, who allowed Conte to practice his mechanical skills on mini-bikes and other machines. It wasn’t until he got his own car, however, that he realized he needed to further develop those repair and maintenance skills.
“My first car was a Pontiac Astre,” laughed Conte. “The old saying with that car was check the fuel and fill the oil.”
Conte acknowledges the fact that being a competent mechanic requires constant development and a commitment to learning. To facilitate that ongoing education, he has continually upgraded his skills with multiple years of aftermarket training courses and other prestigious courses through Linder Tech and Auto Aid, as well as completing courses offered through Auto Clinic’s local network of suppliers. Even with all those skill upgrades, Conte says modern mechanics need the skills of a surgeon to work on new cars given how increasingly more complicated they are to work on.
“Electronics are the toughest part,” he said. “Especially when it comes to how intricate things are getting on engines and parts becoming so small. You almost need a microscope to check things like connectors. It’s not a good trade for anyone with poor eyesight.”
The complexity of technology being integrated into new electric hybrids, self-driving, and fully computer-integrated vehicles, means future mechanics will have to have a broad range of skills according to Conte.
“The future will be hard on us independents,” he said. “The software and hardware required just to work on the vehicles will be a lot of money. Then again, things may not break as easily. It’s going to interesting to see where aftermarket independent repair markets are going to be in the wake of advancements in electronics in cars.”
In the meantime, Conte says he’s happy to be part of the family-owned Auto Clinic, especially given how close it is to his home. He would like to invite any of his former customers to drop in for service.
“If you’re still running the old girl, we’re always ready and willing to put you back on the road and keep you there,” he said.
Visit Jim at Auto Clinic, 3-775 Woodlawn Road West, Guelph. Or visit Auto Clinic online at autoclinicguelph.ca, book an appointment, or call 519-836-5680