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Master Automobile Mechanic Masters Hi-Tech Cars

Today's cars are as much good old-fashioned people-movers as they are newfangled computers. And people who fix them are as much mechanics as they are computer whizzes.

"A new car is a sophisticated piece of equipment," says Rich Vincent, a certified senior master technician at McMahon Ford in Norwalk. A 48 year-old, lifelong Norwalk resident, Rich has worked at the dealership for around 29 years (predating the existing ownership by a few years and going back to what locals recall as Ritar Ford). "I was a prep-guy. I cleaned the shop and also helped prep the new vehicles. I did a bit of everything," he recalls. Rich had always been interested in cars, and took a car mechanic class at Brien McMahon High School . He says he's "not even sure if they offer that anymore, which is too bad."

But a high school mechanic class is kindergarten compared with the rigors of becoming one of Ford's senior master technicians, an honor bestowed on very few gear heads. There is only a handful of them in the state for a good reason, it's grueling. "It took me 10 years of schooling," says Rich. "But I can honestly say now that I know my Fords," he says with a grin. And, he says, he enjoys the challenge of fixing cars. "It's never the same job every day because even two identical cars are not exactly alike."

What's different about fixing cars today as opposed to, say, 20 years go? Rich says that "a laptop is the primary tool a mechanic uses to diagnose and to an extent fix a late-model vehicle." He adds that cars are "just plain better now." There is, he says, much less maintenance and more electronics. Whereas cars used to need an oil change at 3,000 miles, today they don't need one until they hit 7,000. And, along with better-designed engines, "Even the oil you put into it is better than it used to be," says Rich.

After a long day in and under cars, Rich winds down far from the road. "I like to spend my free time on the water. Boats are my hobby," he says. No doubt he knows how to fix them when they break down.

Would you know how to do even minor repairs on your vehicle? Or do you dare? Let me know here.

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