Program offers hands on experience


Jake Manzo and Sourosh Farid looks on as Sarbjeet Singh works under the frame of a car while in class in LMC’s automotive program.

Pamela Jordan

Few community colleges offer automotive technology programs, but Los Medanos College happens to be one of that does. The classroom instruction replicates a genuine auto mechanic shop with all the necessary equipment.

LMC invites the general public to bring their automobiles in to have repairs done by students in the automotive program.

“The training is close to real life work experience,” said automotive instructor Earl Ortiz.

Students work on real cars with real problems for actual customers. As the work orders come in, students make assessments, test drive, request parts, and complete the automobile repair, all under close supervision.

“Customer satisfaction is higher from the college program than from many outside shops,” Ortiz added.

Student John Cleymaet, who wants to study on-board diagnostics, is captivated by the program, which he calls “super.” He has been enrolled in the automotive program for a semester and says he made the right decision.

“Instructors work with us to bring us up to a higher level,” Cleymaet said.

Relatively prompt diagnosis and shorter wait times are facilitated by larger enrollment.

“Since the addition of a classroom in 2000,” Ortiz said, “the automotive program has two full-time instructors working with three classes per day…morning, afternoon and evening. We instruct 35 students in each session,” Ortiz said.

Don Asher, tool room supervisor, takes care of three departments, including the automotive program. He explained that the program has four base classes: diagnosis, brakes, suspension, electrical, and a fundamental class where students learn the basics.

Students take a running engine, tear it down and put it back together in running condition.

The diagnosis class works on tune-ups, and any number of things related to the engine.

Students in the brakes class, which is offered every other semester, work on front and rear brakes, disk or drum brakes.

The suspension class handles shocks, struts, power steering, alignment, tire wear and anything related to the bottom of the car.

“The electrical class repairs window motors, seat motors, switches, things that blow fuses, anything to do with the wiring of the car,” Asher said.

When students are working on customer cars as part of their laboratory work, they bring requests for auto parts to the tool room where the parts are located, and then customer is contacted to confirm pricing.

“Classes are a one hour lecture, and three hours hands on in the shop,” Ortiz said.

With this hands on training experience, students have found gainful employment in shops and parts stores all around contra costa county and the bay area. Some have even started mobile businesses.

Alex Lubbe, who graduated from LMC with an A.S. in Automotive, opened Alex’s Mobile Automotive.

“Going through the program gave me the skills I need to fix customer’s cars,” said Lubbe, whose motto is, “Quality…Driven.”

Job placement in the automotive field from the program is estimated by Ortiz at 80 percent.

For customers, the automotive program has free diagnostics extras such as air when needed, water oil.

While customers must pay for parts, there is no charge for labor. A small service fee is charged and is fed back into the college automotive program.

For details about the Automotive Technology program at LMC, call 439-2181, ext. 3329 for Don Asher or ext. 3267 for Earl Ortiz.