Randy Tijerina has been an auto mechanic for 27 years, something his father didn’t encourage when he was young.
“He wanted me to work behind a desk,” Tijerina laughed, though he works on his father’s vehicles today.
Tijerina, a mechanic at Lang Equipment in Malta, periodically offers a workshop called Cars for Dummies, offering basic auto maintenance tips for anyone 14 and older, including checking oil levels and changing a tire. He is part of a group that has been presenting the workshops since last October. Anyone interested in attending or hosting a workshop can call him at 815-312-7254.
Tijerina talked with MidWeek reporter Doug Oleson last week about the workshop and the importance of knowing basic auto mechanics.
MidWeek: Were you always interested in mechanics?
Randy Tijerina: Actually, my dad wouldn’t let me work on anything. I decided I was going to take a class out at Kish to show my dad. I started working on cars and stayed in it. I got out of it for a little while to go into construction, but I’ve always worked on it.
MW: Did you start working on cars then?
RT: Yes. I didn’t even work on lawnmowers or anything. The only things I did was what I learned out at Kish. My dad wouldn’t let me touch anything of his. He wouldn’t let me have anything to do with cars.
MW: Now, does he?
RT: Oh, yeah.
MW: What are the basic things that people should know how to do?
RT: The very basics, what we’re teaching in these workshops, is how to jump start it, how to check the fluids in your vehicles, and how to check a spare tire. Those are the basics. That’s what we try to teach. We’re not trying to make mechanics out of anybody. We just want them to know the very basics in case of an emergency.
MW: Do you teach them how to change the oil, too?
RT: No, we just show them to check the oil so they know when to add.
MW: What are the most common mistakes people make with their vehicles, like not checking their oil enough?
RT: Not knowing how to check it. The reason I started doing this is a friend of my daughter was parked in front of our house and I saw she was dripping oil and I asked her if she had checked her oil lately. And she went, “I just add a quart every time the light comes on.” And I was like, no, that’s not what you do.
I think the biggest mistake is that they assume that the tire is good but a lot of times they are flat. And they assume they know how to use a jack. It’s not a hydraulic jack. Depending what kind of vehicle you’re in, it’s always different.
MW: Is that a basic mistake, too, not having enough air in the tires?
RT: Oh, yeah. Nobody every checks it unless they need it.
MW: Why do you think people let things go like that?
RT: Cell phones. They just call mom and dad to come do it, or call your husband, or the tow truck.
MW: How did your workshop come about?
RT: I go to Heartland (church) in Rockford. There are translation teams up there who translate the services into Spanish. The guys who are in there, they all have daughters, and I was talking to them about that girl who didn’t check her oil and we kind of came up with idea of holding a workshop here and there. We’ve done them in English, we’ve done them in Spanish. It’s never been anything real big. ...We get about 10 people at the most. I have people register so I know how much help I’ll need.
MW: How long have you been doing these workshops?
RT: The first one was last October.
MW: How often do you do them?
RT: Whenever we can get together.
MW: Where do you hold them?
RT: In a parking lot, in people’s shops. In South Beloit, we did it inside a factory. It’s wherever we can get cars in.
MW: Before the one at Crossroads (Community Church on Aug. 24), had you ever held a workshop in Kingston before?
RT: Yes, in Frank’s Shade Tree. They let me use their garage.
MW: Do people pick up the message quick?
RT: Some do. I’ve had quite a few take it again. I don’t know if they don’t take it seriously the first time or they think they already know what they’re doing. But then when they come to doing it, it’s different.
MW: Do people need special equipment now to work on their cars?
RT: Not for the basics. Even for the oil changes, you have to know how to reset the change oil light, otherwise it’s beeping at you or flashing. There is definitely a need for more mechanics, but there are still some things they can do for themselves.
MW: Are there enough mechanics?
RT: The thing is a lot of guys lose interest. They just want to work, they don’t want to learn. As far as the technology, that is the hard part. Changing parts is no big deal. You can learn how to do that. Where I work, we work on a lot of older stuff, but my boss claims he can’t find guys who know what they’re doing as far as the computerized trucks and stuff. Everything is electronic now.
MW: As a mechanic, do you have to take courses to keep up on the latest trends?
RT: Oh, yes, definitely.
MW: My dad always said the more things on a car, the more things there are to go wrong.
RT: I’m looking for a vehicle myself right now, something pre-2000 just because it doesn’t have so many extras. The parts are getting harder to find, but there’s not as much to get done either.
MW: What do you drive?
RT: Right now, I drive a Daewoo, a Korean car. They don’t make the car anymore. I think it’s like a modern Yugo.
MW: Do you show your own kids how to work on cars?
RT: Oh, yeah, I have an 11-year-old at home. He knows how to do brakes and check oil and stuff like that. That’s how you learn.
I also taught my girls when they got their permits.
MW: Do you think that high schools should be teaching kids some basics of car mechanics?
RT: I don’t know why they don’t. I don’t know if they do and the kids just don’t pick up on it. But a lot of that has to do with the parents; if they’re complaining about it, then they should be doing something about it. ...A lot of people say it’s a good idea but they don’t send their kids.
MW: Any advice for people buying a car?
RT: If you don’t know anything about cars, you either need to take it to someone or you should definitely take someone who knows with you. Lately, I’ve seen a lot of people go and buy a car and right away they have problems with it. If they would have taken somebody who even knew a little bit about cars they would have known that if it’s knocking or if the front end is shaking, there’s something wrong with it.
MW: Anything you want to add?
RT: It doesn’t have to be me doing this. ...But everyone should know the basics of auto mechanics.