Eli Allison (They/Them/He/She)
Technician / Shop Owner
2437 6th Ave South, Seattle, WA 98134
Eli, of Repair Revolution, a proudly LGBTQ-owned and operated shop, Eli has created a safe space for everyone, including marginalized folks who have historically been treated poorly. Eli has earned A1, A2, A5, A6, A8, C1 and P2 ASE Certifications.
Why did you decide to be an Auto Technician?
As a young adult one of my first careers was working in the nonprofit sector with families who were experiencing houselessness and who were low-income. It was there that I realized the important role that transportation played in helping folks get out of poverty and how expensive car repairs could really set people back and force them to choose between paying for their transportation to work or food for the week. I have always loved cars and grew up in a family that was working class. My dad often had to fix his own cars out of necessity. MY first car was a 78 Trans Am that broke down a lot and I learned to fix some things on my own because I couldn’t afford to pay someone. I got a lot of satisfaction out of the repair process and tinkering on cars was always a hobby until I decided to leave the nonprofit sector and go to school to become an ASE certified technician.
Did you take Shop in High School?
I wish my school had shop class. That program was cancelled a couple years prior to my entering high school.
Did you attend Trade School?
Eli attended technical school and got an Associates degree in Applied Automotive Science. “My training has been a healthy mix of the school of hard knock [trying to fix my own vehicles prior to formal education] attending tech school PLUS real industry experience which has been the best teacher.”
Where did you work before opening up your own repair center?
Eli worked at a dealership for five years and became a VW certified and ASE certified mechanic. Then started a mobile tech business for two years working out his truck with the toolbox stored at a storage unit. “Working outdoors in the streets and in driveways at customers’ homes in Seattle where it rains 9 months out of the year was a challenge.”
Do you still have any ASE Certifications?
My current certifications are A1, A2, A5, A6, A8, C1 and P2
Eli has many dream vehicles. One is his motorcycle which is a 1976 Honda CB360T. He would love to own a 1959 Cadillac someday and again own the car he had when he was 16, a 1978 Trans AM given by his dad.
What do you enjoy most about being an auto technician?
“What’s rewarding for me is to push a car into a bay that doesn't run and drive it out. Being able to produce a finished product that feels really complete like ‘I did that. I diagnosed that I got it running again. I also love it when a customer tells us, ‘wow I learned so much about my car from the explanations, videos and pictures you sent” This is a great feeling to be realizing our mission’.”
What challenges did/do you face working in an industry where 98% of the techs are male?
“Being a female in the industry, I had to work three times as hard to prove myself in that shop. It’s an old boys club in general, in the industry. After about five years working at the dealership, I decided to open my own shop and do it radically differently.”
What do you enjoy most about being a shop owner?
“Mentoring the next generation of technicians and advisors. Empowering customers by educating them about their cars.”
What makes your shop special?
Full inclusion is deeply rooted in Repair Revolution’s mission. “Our crew is committed to disrupting the industry by centering the customer and making sure this is the best automotive repair experience they have ever had. We spend lots of time educating our customers, so they leave here feeling informed and empowered about their vehicles. We are community-driven and give back as much as possible to our community as part of our mission.” Additionally, Repair Revolution gives back to the community through volunteerism. Every year, Repair Revolution donates a minimum of 5 percent of its profits to non-profits.
What are the top 3 challenges you face finding qualified auto technicians and running a shop?
"My top challenges are finding talent that has industry experience. I have experienced that a lot of times folks who come from the dealership world have had a lot of training and are given the answers but don't have a lot of diagnostic capabilities coming into an independent shop where we work on all platforms, all makes and models. And you have to switch your brain when you go from working on an Audi to working on a Toyota. It's a different machine in a lot of ways and in some ways it's the same. In addition to just finding skilled technicians is finding talent who wants to work in an environment that is so team oriented. And that is a little bit of a shift from your average shop. There's a lot of motivation to help each other out and work as a team. So that's a challenge sometimes when folks are in a really different mindset of how to work."
Do you feel ASE Certifications are important for your technicians to have and maintain?
To meet the diversity of cars and trucks, Eli feels compelled to maintain the highest standard of vehicle care on two levels. ASE sets the practical baseline of what customers should receive and helps set an industry best practice. He also pushes a code of ethics that centers around drivability and safety. "What I have experienced is that oftentimes folks who come from the dealership world have had a lot of training on one platform and are given the answers which can lead to weak diagnostic and troubleshooting capabilities. Working at an independent shop where we work on all makes and models forces techs to really dive deep into learning vehicle systems and honing diagnostic expertise.
This industry is so much like medicine where sometime multiple tests are required in order to accurately diagnose an issue from blood work to surgery. We always use a least invasive to more invasive approach like the medical world. For instance, sometimes we can get really good information about the engine from the oil condition and levels combined with the patient history and sometimes we might have to do exploratory surgery to completely diagnose an issue. The difference between us and the medical industry is we as an industry have done a poor job in educating our customers about what is involved in the diagnostic process and the level of expertise required of technicians. Unfortunately, this has led to automotive technicians are undervalued. When I tell folks that modern technicians have to be proficient at code reading, computer programing, understanding how different modules talk to each other and how most vehicle have a minimum of five computers that are networked and talking to each other people are astonished by the complexity of modern vehicles. AND this is only party of what technicians need to know. They also have to understand how plumbing works to service the coolant system, electrical theory and circuit diagnosis, the physics of how steering and suspension affects drivability and handling, hydraulic systems theory, and also be able to physically perform mechanical repairs with skilled dexterity. Anyone who loves to be challenged, is interested in always learning and problem solving will be successful in this field.
Does your company pay for employees to get their ASE Certifications?
“We have a big training focus here. It goes beyond just ASE certifications, where I require 40 hours a year of just continued education. ASE does count towards those 40 hours, if folks are taking courses toward getting their ASE certification, I pay for that. I pay for the certifications themselves as well. The team can also make a little bit more than the higher hourly wage based on the number of certifications they have.”
How do you see your job or this industry changing in the next 10 years?
“We are moving more and more towards electric vehicles. I see some change of what that looks like. But something has got to give right now with this crisis that we are lacking enough skilled labor and skilled trades people. Because the expertise and time and investment involved for these technicians to be good at what they do and good at their craft is significant. It is significantly more than what it takes to do some of the other things in our economy that are valued with a lot higher salary. And that is the piece that I think is really difficult. I hope that changes.”