Ulmer's Auto Care's Secret Weapon
Sept. 11, 2020—Most technicians begin their automotive education on the heels of their fathers or by tinkering in the family shop. After that they attend a technical school, get an apprenticeship and begin their careers. Noah Blair began his mechanic career in the underbelly of a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. Now at the age of 22, he is a lead calibrations technician for Ulmer’s Auto Care in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Ulmer’s Auto Care recently opened its first Advanced Driver Assistance System center dedicated entirely to the accurate and efficient calibration of hands-free driving features. Bryan Kauffeld, vice president of Ulmer’s, said he knew he wanted Blair to train in ADAS calibrations because “he is always at the cutting edge.”
At the age of 17, Blair enlisted in the United States National Guard. During his four years, he worked as a mechanic on utility helicopters. “Having been trained in [mechanics] by the army was enough to teach me what I needed to know to get started working on cars,” he says. “I didn’t have any school per se, just learning how to wrench and torque and learning how the systems work.”
Blair started at Ulmer’s when he was just 19 as a lube technician. “I was doing fluid services and air filters and windshield wipers until Bryan came to me with the ADAS center.”
He says it was an easy decision to make. He grew up working on computers and dabbling in electrical work, so the calibration center was a perfect next step.
Becoming fluent in calibrations is the opposite of a cake walk. The calibration technicians at Ulmer’s had to go through extensive online module training and follow along with in-person calibration procedures led by an Autel representative.
Green Can Be Good
Blair attributes some of his strong suits to his age.
“If I’m being honest, I think I did pick up the software and electronic equipment components a bit quicker than the other guys,” he says. “It’s probably due to me being young and growing up in the electronic age, but I’m sure there will come times when I have to walk one of them through a procedure.”
While he may be aware of his advantages in the shop, Blair says he is also quick to fall on his sword and ask for help. He says the older technicians have the experience and therefore the answers.
“I think the ability for young people to adapt and learn new things is good, but there are countless times I’ve had to ask other technicians for advice. They saved me countless times,” he assures.
His favorite part about the industry is the fact that it is ever-changing. Blair says he loves that there is constantly more to learn, but that other shops could be learning a bit quicker.
“I think it would be a good idea for people to start educating themselves on ADAS features now,” he says. “The autonomous systems we are working on now will become mandatory on all new vehicles within the next five years,” he estimates.
The 22-Year-Old’s Takeaways
Blair’s sage advice is to hire at least one younger person who can help to navigate the newer systems and even help with the newer verbiage. Etymology in the automotive industry has yet to be standardized, and as a result the industry is inundated with homemade vernacular, making repairs more difficult than they need to be.
He also suggests hiring a young person such as himself who has studied computers extensively. When it comes to ADAS calibrations, he says the steepest learning curve is tackling the electrical systems. Each OEM has its own preferred software and switching between programs can get frustrating if you don’t have experience in computers, he says.
Being a Gen-Zer, Blair says growing up surrounded by electronics was inevitable, whether he liked it or not. “But the ability for young people to adapt and learn new technologies is so good,” he says.
Image: Ulmer's Auto Care