After walking away from a career in the South African Police Service, Ryno Shelvon Wehr’s parents were not too happy when he told them that he wanted to be a mechanic.
But his parents supported him nonetheless, and today, he is a qualified diesel mechanic and a foreman at ACD Carworks in the city centre.
“I was accepted into the SAPS and after matric my cousin and I went to the SAPS Academy in Bishop Lavis. I stood at the gate and I told my cousin ‘I don’t think this is for me’.
“I turned around right there and he went in. My father was quite upset. He asked me that night what I wanted to do with my life and I said I want to be a mechanic.”
Ryno, who grew up in Macassar, said when he was 12 years old, he fiddled on a car for the first time.
“I was fascinated by how the engine worked, and since then, I’ve been into cars. My parents sent me to college to study mechanics (and) I completed my course at Northlink College in Bellville.”
He then started working at Naeem’s Truck and Coach in Strand as part of his apprenticeship, and thereafter, at the Midas Group. “While working at Midas I went back to college and paid for it myself.”
ACD Carworks approached him two years ago to come and work for them, and since then he has become the foreman at the service centre.
Asked about a diesel mechanic’s work, Ryno said: “A diesel mechanic can work on any vehicle or engine, including petrol cars, trucks or even boats. A normal mechanic can work only on cars that use petrol.
“I worked on a boat engine once, it was a nightmare. The boat rocks a lot so it is difficult to concentrate. In fact, I was concentrating more on not getting sea sick,” he said.
He added that in his 11-year career he has worked on just about every kind of car. “I was offered many positions at dealerships such as, for example, Audi and Opel, but in those dealerships, you can only work on one type of car. I am fortunate enough to have experience on many types of models.”
Among the changes he has seen over the years, he said, is that many car manufacturers are moving towards computerised systems.
“The systems of cars almost make it difficult to send your car to any mechanic, so my advice for mechanics is to study diagnostics, and to keep moving and get as much experience as possible.”
ACD Carworks is one of only a few service centres in the city, and Ryno thinks the high cost of city centre rentals is the reason.
“The rent is so high because you need a large space to keep many cars. “If you have a service centre in the city, you have a goldmine. It is easier for people. They come to work and they can drop their cars and walk back to work, and fetch it later in the evening. It’s very convenient.
“Business is good in town. It’s nice to work here. You meet many people, and the people are friendly. We know who walks here every day, so there are lots of familiar faces.”
However, he said, the downside is that there are no places in the CBD which sell car parts, and traffic congestion makes it difficult for them to go out and get the parts.
Ultimately, Ryno would like to open his own service centre in the city, but with the rent being so high, it’s a big risk to take, he said.
“Another thing is that mechanics is a lot of hard labour. It’s difficult to find someone who wants to do the work and is willing to come home full of oil and dirty every day.
“And even though this is the case, I love my work.”