( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Twenty years ago the automobile was considered a fad; today it is the basis of a great industry, which furnishes employment for thousands of men. The number of automobiles in use in the United States increases every year. Although this does not necessarily mean that the number of professional drivers is bound to increase also, since many people prefer to drive their own cars, still it is evident that there will be a steady demand for men who are thoroughly familiar with motor vehicles. Such men are needed to care for and repair the machines. This is much more difficult work than that of driving; it is the kind of work which requires more technical training and mechanical experience than the average car owner possesses. For this reason the well-trained automobile mechanic and the man doing expert work of a special kind on automobiles will probably become more and more in demand, as the average owner realizes the importance of prompt and thorough attention for car troubles.
There are several classes of motor vehicles—pleasure cars, commercial automobiles, public service omnibuses, taxicabs, farm tractors—and the operation and care of these afford various types of trades. We naturally think first of the chauffeur and truck driver. Their duties include driving the car and keeping it in generally good running condition. It is most important that the chauffeur know how to give the car the proper care to keep it clean and in order, and how to make minor adjustments and repairs when these are needed. Usually he is not expected to know how to remedy serious trouble, but he should be so familiar with the construction of the car and with the functions of its various parts as to recognize a fault before it has had a chance to develop. If its correction is undertaken in time by a skilled mechanic, much time and expense will be saved.
Driving a car includes more than the actual work of starting, running and stopping it. The good driver must have a thorough knowledge of the general rules and regulations of the road, and must be familiar, too, with the local ordinances as to driving and parking the car. It is not enough for him to be able to run an automobile; he must know the speed limit, the rules as to lights, licenses, tourists' privileges and right of way. The chauffeur should not be of a nervous temperament. He must always be cool and alert, cautious and equal to a sudden emergency. He must drive carefully, taking all possible precautions for safety, and in case of unforeseen danger should be able to remain in control of himself.
The work of the chauffeur is light, but frequently his hours are long and irregular. This is especially true of the chauffeur in charge of a private car. He is frequently obliged to be at his job from morning till very late at night, but during much of this time he is idle. The truck, taxi and bus driver usually have more regular hours. The truck driver is sometimes obliged to combine other duties with that of running the machine. In case he runs a delivery truck in the city, or a rural motor truck express in the country, he frequently loads and unloads goods and makes personal delivery of them. The operator of a farm tractor is expected to know how to care for the machine, and generally requires some special training.
The chauffeur's work affords him a generally healthful open-air occupation. There is, of course, some element of danger connected with it, but a really capable and careful man need fear very little on this score. There is also some disadvantage for the man who is likely to suffer from physical exposure, but such cases also are rare. On the whole, the work is light and pleasant and pays quite well. The average chauffeur or truck driver earns from $25 to $50 a week. The taxicab driver who owns his car may, of course, receive more.
There are several ways in which to acquire sufficient knowledge to operate an automobile properly. The prospective chauffeur may take a course at a trade school or automobile school. Here he will be taught something of the mechanism of the car, and will learn, by practical experience, how to drive it. Some automobile manufacturing concerns teach one, free of charge, or for a small fee, to run their cars. Many young men working as helpers or mechanics in a garage learn there to drive and care for a car. The cost of a school course in driving is not high, seldom going above $20 or $30, and lasting a few months at the utmost.
The work of making important repairs upon an automobile is usually left to a well-trained mechanic, who is employed either in a garage or repair shop, or is himself the owner of one of these. The mechanic overhauls, repairs and adjusts all kinds of cars and their various parts. The boy who wishes to become an automobile mechanic should have had some training in a trade school. He may then work as a helper in a garage or as a repair-shop man, and when he has acquired some experience, and ability to work well and rapidly, he can qualify for a position as a mechanic at a salary of from $30 a week up. The work of the mechanic is varied and not hard, though his hours are apt to be irregular if he works in a small town.
Besides the general mechanic, there are a number of experts along different lines, who are found in service stations, garages and repair shops. The expert on electric starting and lighting service installs, cares for and repairs motors and generators and other parts connected with these. For this work, consider-able technical knowledge of electricity is required. In order to do the necessary reading to enable one to keep up with the improvements constantly being made in this field, a good general education is desirable.
The ignition expert attends to the testing and maintenance of certain electrical devices which demand much care and attention. He sees to the proper adjustment of the current supply, and should be familiar with electric wiring systems. The storage-battery repairman attends to the charging and rebuilding of batteries. He should have a practical knowledge of electricity and chemistry. The tire repairman's duties include the treatment of tires in such a way as to be productive of the greatest mileage and the least amount of trouble possible. All these men should have a general knowledge of automobiles and their parts and should be especially capable in their own particular branches: Their salaries are generally good, ranging from about $30 to $75 or $100 a week.
Many men are not content to remain employed in a sub-ordinate position, but wish to branch out for themselves as public garage or repair-shop owners. Such men should have sufficient knowledge of automobiles, and the work of putting them in condition, to be able to supervise the work of their employees Such knowledge will help them greatly on the business side too, for it will enable them to estimate correctly the time and cost of making certain repairs. Naturally a business sense is a necessity for the garage owner, as is the ability to handle men. It is impossible to say what financial returns the garage or repair-shop man may expect; these will depend upon the location of the shop, the quality of service rendered and the amount of business done.
No one should enter any of the occupations connected with automobiles unless he is a mechanically inclined person. He should understand also that indoor work on automobiles is sometimes detrimental to the health, because of the fumes and gases emitted by the machines, and the outdoor work sometimes entails danger of accidents. Otherwise the automobile vocations are desirable ones for the well-trained, capable man. The work is interesting and varied, the salaries are good, the demand for really competent people is steady.
Training for general mechanical work on automobiles may be obtained in the various public trade schools existing in every large city. Various private schools, evening high schools and public institutions also offer courses in the driving, repair and construction of automobiles. The course given at the West Side Y. M. C. A. Automobile School, in New York City, is considered a very fine one, as are Y. M. C. A. and K. of C. courses in many other centers throughout the country.
Whether the boy wishes to become a mechanic or looks to-wards owning a garage or repair shop, it is well for him to know as much as possible about automobiles. For this reason he should do all the shop work and road work possible, while studying his trade. A thorough knowledge of automobiles combined with ambition can open up to him very wide fields of remunerative work.
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