Mechanics ask for patience amid labor, parts shortages caused by pandemic

Mechanic works on car
Posted at 11:16 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 23:16:20-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Pandemic-induced parts and labor shortages are causing backups at local garages.

"The pandemic hit the automotive world a lot harder than anyone anticipated," said Dustin Sparks, a service adviser at All-Star Tire and Auto Service downtown.

Sparks has been in the industry for more than 15 years. He said the last two years have been tough, and it's not getting any better.

"It's been hard. If you don't have the trouble of finding parts and getting stuff in, you have the struggle of finding staff to do the work."

All-Star has bumped its starting pay and focused on fostering a positive work environment. This has helped the business cope with the labor shortage, but no one can escape the shortage of parts.

Sparks said before the pandemic, most parts could come in overnight. These days, it's a different story.

"Now we actually have this engine all broken down and we sent away for new heads a week and a half ago and we're still waiting for new heads," said Sparks.

But not every repair will get tied up in the shop for weeks. Mindy Cunningham has been going to All-Stars for years. She was able to get new tires the same day.

"I brought it in at 11:30 today, and now it's 4:30, 5 o'clock, so yeah, that quick," she said.

Sparks said each person's wait is luck of the draw.

"Every vehicle you're going to find some of the parts that you can't find. It really depends on the severity of it and how mass-produced the vehicle was made," he said.

Industry experts predict that the situation will start to improve in the coming months. Sparks is skeptical.

"At the dealership, I've seen cars wait six, seven, eight months on parts," he said. "A lot of the parts we're struggling to find are actually for foreign vehicles — Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, Audi. A lot of those parts have been on back-order for a long time. A lot of your Ford and Chevy, it's the computer chip stuff, electronics, Besides that, tires are becoming harder to find."

Even though the problems are different between brands, Sparks said that across the board, the newer the car is, the harder it is to find parts.

"During the pandemic, a lot of the factories were shut down, so there was no production," he said. "If you have a vehicle and you have to spend a little bit of money to keep it up and running, I would definitely look at doing that over buying a new car."

This is a piece of advice that Cunningham is taking to heart as she postpones going electric.

"I think I'm going to keep my car a little bit longer," she said. "I think I'll wait until they're in abundance, and I can choose what I want."