Today, Jalopnik readers give thanks to the most soul-crushing jobs that make cars possible, from manufacturing, to service, to road maintenance. To everyone out there working one of these gigs, we salute you.
Welcome back to Answers of the Day — our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!
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Photo Credit: Getty Images
10.) Toll booth attendant
Suggested By: mingoesbueno
Why it's terrible: There is no way to stay sane working all day in a tiny glass box, forced to interact with thousands of people for just a few seconds. Human beings are not designed to survive in this kind of social limbo.
Photo Credit: Virginia Department of Transportation
9.) Young GM engineer
Suggested By: BtheD19
Why it's terrible: You've trained for years for this opportunity, dreamed of designing for one of the biggest carmakers in the world, and you end up making the gauge needles that goes in the instrument panel. That's your dream-killing, soul-crushing career. Just the needle.
Photo Credit: Nathan E Photography
8.) Service advisor
Suggested By: SR20
Why it's terrible: A service advisor is the person at the dealership who advises customers what service needs to be done on their car. No one wants to hear that they have to spend money to fix their car, and you become a depository for all of their rage. Even when you do your job right, you are still loathed by every person you deal with.
Photo Credit: Ben Grogan
7.) Parts counter clerk
Suggested By: Zombie Wagon
Why it's terrible: Basically, you spend all day dealing with morons who know nothing about their own cars, expect you to be able to fix everything perfectly without any information, and blame you when anything goes wrong. Our readers came up with many painful stories of working this job, like this story from Greek.
Mid- 90s Honda Civics basically have different brakes for all the different versions (Hatch, Coupe, Sedan, then trim levels EX, LX, DX, CX). Someone comes in and asks for brake pads for their Civic. I ask, "is it a sedan or a coupe?" Response: why does that matter? "Because they used different brakes on each." Oh, four-door. "Okay, EX, DX, or LX?" "I don't know! Why does it matter? Are you trying to sound smarter than me?" "No, sir, Honda used different pads depending on trim level." "Screw you, I'll go to someone that knows what they're doing!"
Photo Credit: John Lobel
6.) Gas station attendant
Suggested By: I Hate American Cars
Why it's terrible: Again, a job where you're sitting around getting paid next to nothing to do next to nothing. The only time you interact with people is when something's going wrong, like when someone drives off with the nozzle still attached, or when angry people blame you for raising gas prices, or when you're held up at finger/knife/gunpoint every so often.
Photo Credit: Sam Solomon
5.) US carmaker assembly line worker
Suggested By: ClayW
Why it's terrible: Not only are you working long hours doing repetitive and taxing manual labor surrounded by massive machinery, but you get blamed every time US carmakers struggle. Reader ClayW explains why the job deserves respect.
In 1996, I went on a field trip to an unnamed American automaker plant. Far and away, the most common (and almost only) piece of advice given from the employees on the line was, "Stay in school; you don't want to work here."
I wish that it wasn't so sad and grim, but that advice was part of the reason that I went to college and I am ever so thankful for that opportunity.
Photo Credit: AP
4.) Cleaning up car crashes/roadkill
Suggested By: Proud to drive a beater
Why it's terrible: You're already outside hauling around wreckage and cleaning up piles of wreckage, but you're dealing with the site of crashes and all of the death involved. This is depressing work.
Photo Credit: Washington State Dept of Transportation
3.) Road construction
Suggested By: KSUENGINEERING
Why it's terrible: Typically, road construction on asphalt is done in the summer, meaning it's hot and there's no shade. The asphalt itself is between 200 and 330 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the mixture, and you're in a hard hat, heavy boots, heavy protective pants, and you get minimum wage.
Photo Credit: Virginia Department of Transportation
2.) Tech help/warranty call center
Suggested By: CSRKMS
Why it's terrible: You are the lowest of the low, the first person to get yelled at and the last one to get paid. There is little work quite so depressing as call center work.
Photo Credit: BP America
1.) Interior mold worker
Suggested By: Jones Foyer
Why it's terrible: You know those textured pieces of plastic and fake leather in your car? Some of this is made by people working in windowless factories, acid dipping and molding sheets of stiff plastic by hand. It's an obscure job with little press, so to anyone who is in this line of work, we just want to say thank you.
Reader Jones Foyer has assessed the process and gave a detailed account of why this job is so awful.
I can tell you right now, I've seen the worst job. It's so obscure that many people in the industry don't know how it works or even that it exists, but it is a necessary component of any car's creation. It's so remote, I challenge you to find a good website that explains it. I looked, can't find one.
A while ago I took a tour of some of the manufacturing facilities and some of the OEM supplier facilities and had a stop in a little nondescript building in the woods outside of a major mid-western city (protecting some identities here). Here is where they texture parts. You know when you put your arm on a piece of plastic on the door and it has a simulated leather or dot pattern on it? That is the result of the most horrible job in the car industry.
First, the supplier gets the steel die from the die supplier. A steel die is valued in the hundreds of thousands even for smaller interior parts. Then the texture slave takes sheets of mylar, about 10x17 inches that have a rub-down pattern describing the texture on them. Just like when you were a kid and you had those little transfer pages you burnish on one side and lift up. Easy on paper, but we're talking about convoluted rounded surfaces. These grain textures can't have any seams showing, so as you transfer the rub-downs, sheet by sheet (one sheet won't cover an entire die, not possible- try gift wrapping a basketball with business cars and you get a good feel for this) you have to line up the edges perfectly. Now consider that the texture Mylar sheets are Mylar- stiff plastic that doesn't like to bend any more than a cheap Chinese restaurant menu.
Once the surface is covered with the rub down grain texture, it gets dipped in the acid bath that eats away where the texture is not applied, cutting into the steel at a micron level.
Did I mention that this is all being done in a windowless room with all sorts of manufacturing debris littered around, buzzing fluorescent lights and toxic acid baths nearby? Oh yeah, they have a roll up photograph of some mountains or trees that they can change for a bit of serenity for you.
OK, if you've covered the surface with the leather texture, time to do it a few more times exactly the same! Because the texture has depth that can't be accomplished with one pass. Each subsequent layer has a slightly thicker grain pattern to give it dimension. If the sheets don't all line up, the grain gets soft, blurred, or looks double.
And if you screw it up, the die is ruined. The OEM is pissed and someone has to eat the costs of making a new die and you're probably fired.
Look at some of the grains in the molded parts on a car interior, look how small and deep some of the quality leather grains are.
And you live in rural Ohio and get paid peanuts.
What's not to love?
Photo Credit: Ben Crowder