RAMBLIN' MAN: Springs auto mechanics well paid - or are they?

August 20, 2013 Updated: August 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Colorado Springs is swarming with auto mechanics - 1,590 of them, according to ValuePenguin, a consumer financial website.

These are handy folks, most often with a passion for the craft of working on automobiles. If they weren't doing it for pay, they'd be at home, tinkering on an old Ford in the garage.

Usually introverts, I think.

How else can you explain a person who can spend hours with his head under the hood or laying flat on his back, his legs splayed like a frog, poking out from underneath a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.

Their language, too, is different. They speak in RPMs, liters and cubic centimeters.

When they say horses, it isn't the one you saddle. It's the power pumped out by the engine, throbbing in the car's cavity, this missile waiting for the pedal push so the turbocharger can kick in.

But do these passionate people get paid adequately for their work? According to ValuePenguin, they do. It says their median pay is $42,630 a year - well above the national figure of $35,465 as of May 2012.

"I find that hard to believe," says Darren Dodd, service manager at AutoSmith on East Pikes Peak Avenue, who will take over as owner of the repair shop Sept. 1.

Typically, he says, pay for auto mechanics in Colorado Springs is "well under the national average, like so many positions here."

On the other hand, he notes, the quality of life here is better than many places where the pay is higher.

Quality of life played a role in ValuePenguin's naming Colorado Springs as the 18th "Best City for Auto Mechanics" out of 400 cities nationwide. Criteria included salary, quality of life and the number of mechanics in the market.

The median salary ranges, depending on location, start as little as $17,670 in San German and Cabo Rojo in Puerto Rico to $53,300 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Overall, there were just over a half-million auto mechanics working in the United States as of May 2012, and the job outlook is good. The demand for auto mechanics was projected to grow 17 percent from 2010-2020.

Mechanics these days face challenges unimagined just a few decades ago.

While tools of their trade include the staples - wrenches, screwdrivers and gauges - these days, it's not enough just to be handy with a wrench. Tire pressure is old hat.

Mechanics these days have to be aware of software, computer chips and complicated electronics.

And hybrids are landing in shops in increasing numbers.

Who knows what will be next?

High-tech as we get, though, some things never change.

If you get a good auto mechanic, you never let him go.

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