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1963fairlane4dr 03-18-2013 01:12 PM

starting a shop
I am 14 years old and have been into cars for years. In a few years or as soon as possible I have wanted to start my own hot rod shop with some of my gearhead friends. I have a small plot of land but I don't know how to kick it off. I want to start off with just repairs and eventually get into hot rodding, and I know I can because I built my own 1963 fairlane. I have all my tools and equipment set up I just need to make it a business and be known. Any advice helps. 03-18-2013 01:35 PM

It will take you a few years. It's not like when most of us older guys started.

Now permits and regulations are plenty.. In Michigan, for example, working on other peoples' cars without a license or certification can earn you a super big fine and/or some gray bar hotel time.
I have been a "professional" witness on several cases.

Don't want to discourage you ,but look into all aspects of going into business and stay determined. It takes that and CASH!

1963fairlane4dr 03-18-2013 02:11 PM

thanks, and how would I get these permits and what is the minimum age? Thanks for replying

1Gary 03-18-2013 02:21 PM

I want to add,we wouldn't be in it today if it wasn't for old money and yrs of being around.I can't even imagine what it would be like to just be starting out.I suggest you start out working for someone who has a shop like you would like to have.I would give sort of a taste of what it is like.But nothing is like having to be put in that driver seat.Build up your learning curve and climb the ladder there for yourself.Also it will give you time to get to know people while some else's dime is paying you.Keep your long range goals to yourself.Take the time to do that.It's important.You'll know in your gut when it is time to start off on your own,or if it isn't what you want.

FmrStrtracer 03-18-2013 05:56 PM

I would take every business class available, along with ASE automotive classes.
You can be the best mechanic in the world, but it you cant manage your money and employees, you'll be out of business in no time.

You dont mention where youre from, but each state has its own division that manages auto repair facilities. Check with your local Secretary of State or DMV for licensing requirements and business laws governing auto repair.

Save your money, fresh company startups requre a big bank account, you have to be able to cover all your expenses(employees, benefits, utilities, insurance, licenses, building, tools, etc) for at least a year to insure time for you business to take off. Trying to earn as you go can cost you good employees and customers.

You have several years before you could legally enter into the contracts needed for such a business, so spend those working in an existing shop learning how they should and should not function, plus plent of schooling to give yourself the best shot at succeeding. Most of the cars you'll be working on will be newer stuff, so learn about fuel injection and electronic controls, theyre not going away.

Mr. P-Body 03-19-2013 07:04 AM

Fmrstrtrcr nailed it. Education, education, education... Business classes, math classes, ELECTRONICS classes... I am absolutley amazed at how many young bucks "think" they already know what they need to know to repair cars, without ever having set foot in a classroom beyond high school. If you're going to the business, you MUST be able to diagnose and repair modern cars. BTW, if I were a youngster, I would be studying electronics and how they "work" in cars. THAT'S where the money is today.

Agreed, COMPLETELY. Get a job actually DOING it, so you find out early whether or not it's "for you". Use that job to 'work" your way through school. You may find other more lucrative avenues, and "use" automotive expertise as a "hobby".

When you understand the concepts behind what makes a car "work", it's much easier to diagnose and repair. A 20-year old was in my shop a couple weekls ago, bragging about his mechical knowledge, and how he could go to work in a dealership... Right... I asked him "How does a knock sensor work"? "Oh, that's easy. It tells the computer to change "things" when it senses knocking..." My reply "No, not WHAT does it do. HOW does it do it?" Deer in the headlites... Same question regarding air flow measurement. "Ohmes!" Duh... But HOW? Deer in the headlites. And these are two small examples. Explain what headers "do" (why they "make power"). Which is capable of more sheer horsepower: Carb, EFI or mechanical injection? (when gasoline is the fuel) Which is most efficient?

These are just a few examples of what a true automotive tech needs to know these days. The days of "tuning" the 327 under the willow tree are LONG behind us...



1Gary 03-19-2013 08:57 AM

Yep.I went to University@ Buffalo and was ASE trained.The U@Ohio has a good automotive program where David Vizard holds classes as well.Some young guys find a program in the military where they are paid to train.And yes alot of that isn't recognized in public life,but it is surely one hell of a stepping stone.Actually yrs ago the roots of my involvement in mechanics came from a guy would learned it from being a World War II motor pool mechanic who owned a shop where I worked as a kid.

It's true going to UB@Buffalo laid a solid foundation for business management.Even through I still can't spell worth a damm...........LOL!!. 03-19-2013 09:33 AM

Agreed. I took shop/tech classes in high school. Back when they taught such things. Worked summers in the bus garage for extra graduation credits.
After high school graduation. Tech school in StLouis Mo. Working at auto shops while attending classes. Gdradated, then back to Michigan. Viet Nam and Uncle Sam wanted me for helicopters. Then extension classes at local SE Michigan colleges into the eighties.
Holley had courses back in the seventies. As did several of the engine parts suppliers. Attended everything available.
Then there is the School of Hard Knocks. :D

1Gary 03-19-2013 10:34 AM

People don't consider as being a very demanding physical job,but it is and there is a hell of a difference doing it for a living vs as a hobby.In tools too.Home use tools are fine for what they are used for,but to have tools in your hands from 8 to 12 hrs a day the pro line tools like Snap-on have subtle designs that just seem to fit your hands better and do improve production when working flat rate.Time is money for sure.Not unheard of for a "A" mechanic to have from $75,000 and up in tools and a box.Only way to move from place to place is with a tilt back flat bed truck.You do work for the payments to the Snap-On tool guys that normally stops by once a week for his payment and to try to sell you more.The design of today's cars is a endless tool purchase.The car makers do try in design to run the mom and pop shops out to support their dealerships shops and parts.So it is a must you stay current with tools.

toddalin 03-19-2013 11:18 AM

Don't even think about it until you check out insurance. :nono:

Too Many Projects 03-19-2013 11:45 AM

Good to see someone your age interested in hot rods...:D

The other guys touched on the learning aspects and age. In most states you'll need to be 21 to own a business, so you have time to follow the advise. Get auto training and business courses. Just running the paperwork is a job in itself. I've been self-unemployed in the trucking industry for 25 years and the paperwork is intimidating. Bonding, waste generator permits and liability and property insurance can be huge cash flow eaters. Like has been said, working for others while gaining age and experience will be a huge step in the right direction for your goal. Save every dime you can squirrel away too....:)

Many of us seem to be of the "older" crowd and could walk in a full service station in high school and get a job as a pump jockey. From there, hanging out in the shop usually led to minor mechanical work when the pumps where quiet and moving up the chain to full time wrench. That envirenment doesn't exist anymore and it's truely sad. Mastery of electronic controls is where it's at now and the person who can quickly and ACCURATELY diagnose issues with those systems has a good chance at success. The hot rod stuff can come after the business is established and you have a couple other people who can do the everyday work for you. Trying to exist on just hot rods is a narrow field in this world anymore...:(

AutoGear 03-19-2013 12:46 PM

Im younger than most of the guys here; and I lucked into this job. My dad was a shop teacher and something he taught me years ago, still applies. "Learning how to take something apart and reassemble it is one thing; but there will ALWAYS be someone willing to do it faster and for less money, one day you'll be too old to keep up. What you need to do is UNDERSTAND -HOW- they work and how to diagnose the problem."
Learn to weld, learn about precision measuring equipment, learn everything you can about the new stuff. Learn to read and UNDERSTAND a wiring diagram. Learn how computer programming works.

Start hanging around the old timers, ask questions. Go to school, ask questions. Yes some people are grumpy old salts; but did you notice every guy on here said the same thing "I learned under someone else when I got started" This means sweeping floors, cleaning the office, mopping the bathroom, answering phones, picking up lunch and washing cars. Don't get discouraged, don't assume you're ready to go to work, wait your turn, be polite and keep at it. If its in your soul, don't give up. I had lots of jobs before this, just be patient and stay focused.

Lots of guys right out of college want the corner office and $50,000 a year; they don't want to start at the bottom and prove themselves.

One thing I didn't see mentioned: Don't get into fights, drugs, etc. Keep your nose clean as the old timers would say. A well mannered, polite, willing-to-learn young guy who asks the right questions and stays focused...will always get a 2nd look. If you look homeless, sound ignorant, dropped out of school and have an arrest-sheet; they won't bother with you. And maybe it won't be with the guy you really want to work for; but, he has friends and so do they. You may get a call saying "my parts driver didn't come to work today, Jim says you're a good kid and can be dependable; stop by at 5 tonight" You show up at 4.30. And you go to work early in the morning and stay late and work hard. They can't seem to figure out how to teach that in college.

Mr. P-Body 03-19-2013 05:09 PM

Wow. All good stuff! We truly represent a good cross-section here. I went from "heavy line" in dealerships to "the machine shop" when my body got older and didn't like "crawling around under cars". My specialty was always engines and manual transmissions, so it was a natural move. My education started in the mid '70s, went to college in Cal, went to AAI in PHX (good school in those days, learned a lot). That environement IS gone, but it, too, is the natural evolution. As cars get more and more complex, whether it be for emmissions and drivability or just gimmickry, one NEEDS to understand them.

I DID put a motor and trans in a '65 GTO last weekend... 505 and a Muncie! (eat your hearts out... it's a beauty and it hauls booty(!), wish it was mine)

Fortunately for me, the fundementals haven't changed, only the "controls". It all makes perfect sense, though I'm not sure I could actually "do it" today.... Leave it to you young bucks! I'll build the motors.

Good luck in what ever you decide!


1Gary 03-19-2013 07:39 PM

While I agree it is very important to know aleast the basics of the new car systems,it is like a lawyer not knowing all laws on the books.It is knowing how to do the research to find some of the answers and understanding the results of the research.That isn't any small part of the diagnostics.

bigdog7373 03-19-2013 07:46 PM

You should try to get a job in a shop so you can learn how everything is run. I want to do the same as you, open my own shop, but i want to deal with aftermarket and performance only, no repairs for me lol. Where are you located?

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