Remember two or three decades ago when the word “Apple” just meant a fruit? In those days when cell phones were for millionaires – and when it meant something to be a millionaire? When your “PC Guy” was the person who sold you Property & Casualty insurance? When people routinely worked on their own cars? I do. Now if you want to work on your car, you practically need a computing degree to even drive one. My 2011 minivan has GPS with integrated traffic reports, a built in “cooling” box, a DVD player for the kids with “multiple inputs”, a USB port so I can plug in my iPod, a Bluetooth connection so I can wirelessly answer my phone or listen to the music that is stored on it and you know what – in the 6 months we have owned it, I have yet to open the hood and look at the engine. That used to be the first thing you did; now we check to see if it is compatible with our various portable entertainment devices. Horsepower has been replaced with computing power. My van automatically shuts off some of the cylinders when they are not needed and I have a tire-pressure monitoring system, or TPMS sensor in my tires to let me know if they are low. Frankly, I am afraid to open the hood of my car nowadays. It is kind of like pulling back the curtain on the wizard. I half expect to have a little man in there saying, “Shut that lid! You’re not qualified to look in here,” And you know what? He would be right.

I grew up when it was a common belief that if you didn’t know what was going on with your car, a mechanic would rip you off. In order to build a trusted relationship with the person that worked on your car you had to be able to speak their lingo and let them know that you knew what they did – or at least give them that impression. To be honest, I am not 100% sure I know what a TPMS system is, or how it even works, and if someone said to me that my “diolink connector” that plugs into my “servo head manifold” for my “TPMS system” was broken and had to be replaced – even if they made it up (as I just did … I’m not sure if a diolink connector even exists) – I would have to take their word for it.

So, what are you to do? I had to take out the owner’s manual just to find my spare tire … You need a good mechanic more then ever in this day and age; one that not only knows about cars, but about computers, GPS and DVD players.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Terry, the manager and lead mechanic at Sonoma Auto Tech, located at 3330 B Sonoma Blvd. in Vallejo. After working in Napa for more than 20 years, Terry came to Vallejo to help open Sonoma Auto Tech in 2008.

Sonoma Auto Tech is not a flashy place, but a solid facility. I asked Terry how things have changed in the last 25 plus years since he first started working on cars professionally and he said, “you spend more time in school.” You have to constantly get additional training on not only the cars, but the new tools you now use to fix them. There was a time when the mechanic diagnosed the problem with an ailing car and the skill of the mechanic dictated the time it took to solve that problem. Now you have to employ special sensors and diagnostic equipment that tells you what the problem is. Sounds neat until it is explained how much that equipment can cost, and if you work on all types of cars, as Terry does, you need even more equipment. Improvements in modern cars have put the proverbial “shade tree mechanic” out of business and have kept experts like Terry hitting the books.

When I asked Terry why people should use his services over his competitors he told me, “I could say a lot of things, but really, people just need to try us out, get to know us and see what kind of work we do.” I think that sums it up, good, honest work at a fair price. Go check them out.

Sonoma Auto Tech is part of a small auto group including Sonoma Auto Body and Zee’s Quality Motors, all of which are located near one another on Sonoma Blvd. in Vallejo. They work on all makes and models and do all types of repair work, from simple oil changes to whole engine changes. They also do both smog checks and repairs. So go check them out and see if you’ve found your new trusted mechanic. Maybe they can tell you how that whole TPMS system works and if there really is such thing as a diolink!


When not concerning himself with the maintenance of his vehicles, Robert Briseño loves to spend time with his three children, his lovely wife and the rest of his extended family and friends.