Meet Jose Campos: Certified Automotive Technician, Dedicated Family Man & Loyal Saab Fan

Jose Campos 3

“Any technician knows there are highs, and there are lows; every technician at some point second guesses if they really want to be in this career or not. Having the right attitude helps. Learn all you can from an older, more experienced mentor in the shop.” ~ Jose A. Campos III, In-Shop Technician, asTech. 

Flip through the Campos family photo album, and young Jose is holding a toy car in nearly every picture. If not playing with cars, he was asking his grandfather a “million questions” about them.

Like many automotive professionals and enthusiasts, Jose Campos spent his youth under the hood with an older family member. Often, Campos was beside his grandfather, a father of four who worked with his hands to support his children.

“He had a one-man shop in a small city called Edcouch Elsa, down in the valley, by the Edinburg and Weslaco areas of Texas,” Campos recalled. “My grandfather worked a full-time job, and then after work or on the weekends, he would work in his shop, trying to make ends meet.”

The Little Blue Saab

Campos was a mainstay at the local O’Reilly’s during high school, a job he still fondly remembers. Around this same time, Campos’ father said that if he applied what he learned from his grandfather and his part-time job at O’Reilly’s and could maintain his own car, he would buy him one for school.

“My dad eventually bought me an old 1989 Saab 900,” Campos recalled. “I ended up falling in love with that car, and I’ve been a Saab fan ever since.”

Campos and his high school friends, one of whom worked at O’Reilly’s with him, developed a reputation for being the “car guys” in town. Go anywhere in the valley, and there was a good chance Campos was there, zipping around in his little blue Saab. “I wouldn’t say my driving was always kind to the vehicle,” Campos joked. “But driving as much as I did back then helped me become a better mechanic.”

The car guy reputation – and his little blue Saab – most certainly preceded Campos. It wasn’t long before people came to him for advice on fixing and maintaining their vehicles. “I ended up developing my mechanical skills out of necessity,” Campos explained. “O’Reilly’s was really the only parts store in town; it was one of the few places they could go. And I think everybody just recognized my blue Saab parked there after a while.”

Jose Campos under the hood of his Saab.
Jose Campos under the hood of his Saab.

Out of The Frying Pan

After graduation, Campos and his high school sweetheart (now wife) took off for San Marcos. Campos quickly found work in an express lube, although it was an adjustment. Behind the parts counter at O’Reilly’s, he was used to air conditioning during the hot summer months, which isn’t a luxury express lube techs enjoy. 

“I went from the cool AC to working in the pit with a hot motor above me,” Campos said. “I normally worked the hood, where I had a chance to upsell and hone my customer service skills, but since I was mechanically inclined, they would toss me in the pit real quick.”

Although it varies, there are typically three positions: hoods, courtesy, and lower bay. The ones working the hood are responsible for checking all filters and fluids and adding the oil. Courtesy workers wash the windows, vacuum the vehicle, and check all tire pressures. The ones in the lower bay (i.e., “the pit”) drain the oil, change the filter (if it’s not an “up-top” filter), and perform an underbody inspection. 

Ask any lower bay tech what vehicles they hate, and it’s usually ones they routinely burn their arm on trying to get to the oil filter or have to remove heavy skid plates beforehand.  

Life in an express lube is similar to the scene in Gone in 60 Seconds where Angelina Jolie tells Nicolas Cage you have to work twice as hard when it’s honest. An express lube is far from glamorous. The fast-paced and challenging environment offers little room for error, and the daily grind can get the best of aspiring technicians. It is, as Campos described, hot in the summer. Conversely, it’s freezing during the winter. And it’s a dirty job, no matter what position you work.

In the dealership world, it’s generally lower on the scale in terms of pay and benefits. However, for those who want to build a career as a certified technician, the express lube can be one of the best places to cut your teeth. It’s also a good way to get noticed by service directors and fixed operations managers.

asTech In-Shop Technician Jose Campos reads PIDS/live data using an aftermarket scan tool.
asTech In-Shop Technician Jose Campos reads PIDS/live data using an aftermarket scan tool.

Over The Wall

Near the end of my time as an express lube manager (Luxury Auto Mall of Sioux Falls) in 2013, I had the privilege of helping a lube tech go “over the wall,” which was our dealership lingo.

“Over the wall” basically meant we sponsored someone for OEM factory training (BMW Step in this case). After completing the training, we would hire them as a full-time technician. The phrase “over the wall” referred to the wood and glass divider wall inside our dealership that separated the express lube from the service drive. Campos received his opportunity to go over the wall. It happened out of the blue, but he was ready.

“One day, the service manager came over to our side and asked if any one of us was mechanically inclined beyond what was required for the express lube,” Campos recalled, “I raised my hand, grabbed my 100-piece tool kit, and kind of started my career from there. Luckily, I was soon put under a good mentor who opened up the world of automotive electronics to me.”

With the new opportunity, Campos pushed himself to earn as many certifications as possible. Currently, he has completed 80 I-CAR courses, passed 26 ASE tests, and currently holds 26 ASE certifications. “It was the combination of my parent’s advice that motivated me,” Campos explained.“My father always told me to learn something every day, and my mom always said, no matter what job you are doing, strive to be the best at it.”

“My father always told me to learn something every day no matter how little or how big, and my mom always said, no matter what job you are doing, strive to be the best at it.” ~ Jose A. Campos III, In-Shop Technician, asTech.
“My father always told me to learn something every day, and my mom always said, no matter what job you are doing, strive to be the best at it.” ~ Jose A. Campos III, In-Shop Technician, asTech. 

Career With asTech

Today, Campos is gainfully employed by asTech, a collision diagnostic services company specializing in automotive diagnostic, vehicle electronics repair, and calibration services. The company uses proprietary technology that allows for bidirectional communication between OEM factory scan tools and ASE-certified or dealer-trained technicians, ensuring the safe and proper repair of complex electronic systems.

Currently, asTech offers three different methods of delivery: remote, in-shop, and mobile. The asTech device allows shop technicians to connect remotely to an OEM tool and ASE-certified or dealer-trained technicians over the air to perform vehicle health checks, reprogramming, and calibrations.

“Every vehicle that comes in and goes out, we do a pre-scan and a post-repair scan,” Campos explained. “The asTech patented device links to the OEM software. I use the actual manufacturer’s software with every car I scan. And from there, I will write a report on the codes.”

Currently, Campos is training his replacement in anticipation of a well-deserved promotion. Once he is settled into his new role, Campos plans to continue his training and education. “asTech actually has a partnership with I-CAR, so they provide employees with that training, which is fantastic,” he said. “It’s my biggest goal right now to earn as many of those I-CAR certifications as I can.”

Jose Campos, asTech In-Shop Technician, at his computer.
Campos is known as a dedicated problem solver at work. “If there are codes that weren’t there before the pre-scan, I will go into the wiring diagrams,” he explained. “I will look up the information based on the codes and based on where the vehicle was hit. I want to give them a better view of where to look for something disconnected or broken.”

Duty Calls

When not working in the shop and writing reports, Campos enjoys spending time with his wife and four-year-old son. Like many automotive professionals and enthusiasts, Campos has a lengthy to-do list with his project cars, all Saabs in his case. “My son is quite the little gearhead, so he will be out there helping me,” Campos said. “I really just try and enjoy those moments with him.”

The phone rings just as soon as Campos gets inside from working on his Saabs. He has a second job as the official family mechanic. There are two service calls this time: one for his uncle’s truck that can wait until this weekend and another more urgent one.

“Mom’s car broke down yesterday, so we’re doing a variable valve solenoid and probably a fuel pump,” Campos said. “I can’t believe it, but that thing has like a hundred million miles on it.”

Carl Anthony is the Managing Editor of Automoblog and the host of AutoVision News Radio and AutoSens Insights. As a respected automotive industry thought leader, Carl has appeared on numerous podcasts and radio shows, including Wrench Nation, Cars Yeah, The Car Doctor, and Brains Byte Back, in addition to appearing as a regular contributor on MotorMouth Radio on WHPC 90.3 FM. His work can also be seen and heard 24/7 on the Automoblog YouTube channel.