Nicknames For Mechanics

Can't fix your car problem on your own? Ask a live mechanic!

automobile mechanic wrenching
Automobile mechanic wrenching

There are lots of nicknames for mechanics. Maybe the best known one of all time is grease monkey. Be sure to read the funny replies to this post and leave a comment at the end of this article about your favorite nicknames for car mechanics. What got me thinking about this subject was watching a rerun of the Battle Star Galactica series.

I heard a good reference towards the mechanics that worked on the spacecraft. The mechanics are called knuckle draggers amongst themselves and the crew. The interesting thing was these futuristic fantasy sci-fi mechanics wore the nickname with pride. They were proud to be covered with dirt and work hard.

They hung out with other spacecraft mechanics and didn’t associate much with the officers, pilots or the general public because these people often misunderstood them. I found it interesting because whether you’re working on spacecraft, automobiles, heavy machinery or military vehicles mechanics pretty much have the same mindset.

Often us knuckle draggers have an analytic thought process accompanied with a  high degree of mechanical aptitude and hand eye coordination. We fix the things that other people drive and want to know what happens after the key is turned. The interesting thing about car mechanics is not only do they have nicknames provided by the outside world, they also assign nicknames for mechanics inside the business.

Mechanics Call Each Other What

It’s true that the public will have its popular nicknames for mechanics like grease monkey or motor head but there are some other good names shared between mechanics. One that comes to mind is gravy lapper. The term gravy lapper is used to describe a mechanic that is only interested in easy to perform maintenance services that pay well. This is most often when the mechanics are paid on a flat rate basis and compete for the next job. Flat rate basically translates into the employee is paid by the job instead of by the hour.

It can be a double edge sword as they make money and lose money depending on the situation. Gravy would be a term applied to jobs that have a high likelihood of being performed under the flat rate time providing a juicy profit with less physical effort. The Gravy Lapper will usually try to dodge bigger jobs such as engine replacements or prolonged complicated electrical diagnosis that might pay only straight time slowing profits down.

Often the gravy Lapper needs some support from upper management in the form of a service manager or work dispatcher. I have worked with mechanics that have painted the service manager’s house or performed free services on the dispatcher’s family vehicles to assure a steady flow of gravy. The next nickname for a mechanic would be used to describe someone for lack of a better term might be thought of as crazy or unusual. No matter what business you’re in you may find some off-the-wall people (it makes life interesting). When they are a crazy mechanic they might be referred to as a wing-nut by other wrenches.

truck mechanic
Me the truck mechanic

Well there is another nickname for mechanics. People in the auto repair business often say they have been turning wrenches for 26 years. They may also say they have spun a wrench. This is a somewhat neutral term because its meaning is determined by the words in front of or behind it. People in the business might say he is a good wrench. General Motors liked it so much they coined the phrase.

They didn’t come up with it on their own, they heard it thrown about the shop to describe good mechanics. People at General Motors dealers due to a training film put out in the good wrench line of in house training movies might refer to a careless mechanic as a slip wrench. Johnny slip wrench or Billy slip wrench whatever their first name was followed by the term slip wrench can be used in a derogatory manner.

As a mechanic that has turned a wrench for more than 25 years I have met all kinds of good people in this business. Some of my best friends still do it for a living and some have left it for greener pastures. In my opinion it takes a special person to walk up to a disassembled engine pile and not only put it together, but have it running like a clock when it’s completed.

I spent some time as a used car mechanic at an upscale lot across from some gentleman’s clubs. The business specialized in selling German cars with over 100K miles. It was my job to keep these cars alive until the end of the five year payment plan. I became known as the car Doctor. Then we started calling the cars patients and since they were German the staff started calling me Herr Doctor. I never forget the sound of that over the intercom. “Herr Doctor line 1 please”.

You can visit this next link for more stories about the auto repair business both good and bad. Or you can visit the auto repair information blog home page for more of the most recent automotive related articles and posts.

Can't fix your car problem on your own? Ask a live mechanic!

8 Replies to “Nicknames For Mechanics”

  1. Red

    It takes a lot of skill and experience to become a good mechanic. Auto repair, depending on the vehicle, is not always easy and I have a lot of respect for those that can do it.

  2. Trail Blazer

    We use to call the people in auto shop class Gear Heads. Did not see that one mentioned. I do like knuckle draggers though. We will see how my oil change mechanic likes it!

  3. Herbert J Slipwrench

    I remember those goodwrench safety films. When I wrenched we put mechanics in one of 2 categories. Parts changers or geniuses. Some other insider nicknames that come to mind! Motor Maggots (guys who liked doing engine jobs) Wire heads (guys good at electrical diagnosis).

  4. Gina

    Hey Mark I just finished reading your book and wanted to say thank you! My husband and I have a mobile auto repair business so it was great to read your book ! Re: nicknames anyone who does a bad job be it an attorney, cop ,mechanic and many other jobs makes it harder for the honest good guys ! We just call them” imposters mechanics” nothing special !

  5. richie

    Hi Mark, I have been in the trade in the uk for 25 odd years and as Grease monkey seems to be the best known, bolt and spanners are names i have heard. We used to call our painter Darth Vader when he had his black overalls mask and air pipes on.

  6. DennisB

    Hey Mark, we used to have a guy in the shop that was Bipolar. I remember him cussing up a storm while working on a car one day. His arms were up, working on a timing belt from underneath a raised car. He was saying “GD this – MF that…” and when I went over to see what the problem was, to see if I could help; He looked me in the eyes, said calmly “everything is just fine!” He was quickly dubbed the “POSTAL WORKER”. We joked that he might be the type that would come in one day and shoot the place up. Thankfully, nothing like that never happened.

    On a lighter note. “pie eater” is another term a “gravy lapper”. There was a redneck I used to work with that use to called me that when he thought I was given better jobs than him. A “hack” mechanic that I remember, became so frustrated when changing an engine because he couldn’t figure out how to disconnect an electrical connection – literally used a steak knife to cut the wires! His nickname? THE BUTCHER – You wouldn’t believe his part time job. A CLOWN.

  7. typeone66

    Hello, sir. I believe that finding a nickname to describe a mechanic isn’t easy. As you’ve mentioned, having turned a wrench or two is the usual way a mechanic would say that he’s mechanically inclined and a fair trouble shooter (which is what a good trouble shooter would think of themselves as, in all honesty, because we’ve all misdiagnosed a case). As you’ve also mentioned, the GM coined phrase “good wrench” is another. Why not just the word “wrench”? A wing nut is a wing nut. Nothing you, i, or anyone else can do about it. I’ve referred to others as an affirmation about their skills that they’ve wrenched. I’ve also used “He’s a wrench ” when I’ve described a mechanic to someone else or have thought to myself what a mechanics skill set is. May you have a great day, sir.

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