Russ Evans is a car lover, professional mechanic, and host of the Under the Hood radio show, which can be found on a station near you or your favorite podcast site.
1. Tell us about how you came to be a mechanic. Is that what you always wanted to be?
I grew up around mechanics and engineers and spent a lot of my time watching them and learning about what they did. Neighbors often gave me old lawnmowers and mopeds to work on — which eventually turned into cars and trucks — and I would fix them and move on to the next project, learning along the way. My first engine project was a lawnmower at the age of five, followed shortly by a Ford Model T truck that my dad had purchased for a father/son project at the age of six.
2. Tell us about your education, credentials, and experience. How did you become an expert?
My career has been filled with jobs around the mechanical and electrical world. Early in life, I started working at a car dealership and have been in professional auto service since then — for a total of over thirty years. I am an ASE Master Certified Technician with Advanced Engine Performance endorsement and have been trained by both BMW and Ford Lincoln Mercury.
3. How has the business of being a mechanic changed since you started fixing up cars?
The most noticeable changes have actually been in mechanics and shops themselves. The shops used to be filled with older mechanics, mainly men, and I remember a lot of them smoking while working. The knowledge to repair cars was passed down by your mentor and an old book with greasy pages, and every day, it seemed like another aspiring mechanic was applying for a job.
These days, there’s been a lot of positive improvements. The shops are cleaner, smoking is gone, information is easily accessible on a computer, and more women have the opportunity to be in the business. However, the number of mechanics available has also dwindled as well. It is a skilled career now instead of something you just did if you were mechanically inclined.
4. And how have the cars changed?
In the beginning, cars were different — not necessarily simple, just different. For example, cars have become more complex, but the tools and onboard diagnostics have given us more vision into how the systems are working or not working.
5. What is the biggest bioethanol myth you have to dispel regularly?
By far, it’s that when you let gasoline sit for an extended period, it’s the bioethanol that goes bad and leaves behind a mess in a fuel tank or carburetor. We simply ask people if they have ever seen a bottle of alcohol on the shelf go bad. Then we ask, “What about a can of non-ethanol gasoline?” We spend a lot of time explaining to people that it’s the gasoline that goes bad while the bioethanol lasts and stays good. In fact, it keeps engines running cleaner!
6. Do you have a favorite car?
I do, a 1968 Shelby Mustang. A 1968 Pontiac Firebird is a close runner-up.