Like humans, motor vehicles will suffer from more ailments as they get older. They may be “sick” even in the prime of life. Obviously, car doctors are the best support for their owners. TO Kin-hang, a graduate of Higher Diploma in Automotive Engineering of the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE), started off as a vehicle maintenance apprentice and learned along the way about carrying out fault diagnosis of malfunctioning vehicles. As he gained more experience, Kin-hang was promoted to a service advisor, and then an assistant service manager at a maintenance centre, being responsible for management work and overseeing the vehicle maintenance department. Amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, Kin-hang has led his team to explore preventive measures to protect the health of clients and frontline staff in addition to providing quality vehicle services.
Motivated by his love for cars and his dream of developing a career in vehicle maintenance, Kin-hang entered the auto industry with a strong sense of vocation. He explains, “I stay in the industry because I can help others when I utilise my professional knowledge in vehicle maintenance and return the repaired product to a client. I get immense satisfaction.” He saves the life of a vehicle as well as safeguards the safety of its owner.
Hooked to vehicle maintenance as “little assistant”
Kin-hang loves cars since the tender age because of his father’s passion for mechanical engineering. He recalls, “My father likes exploring machines and digging into it. Meanwhile, he is a school bus driver. In the past, I often followed him and stayed on the school bus while he was working. I would help to wash the car and serve as his “little assistant” during minor repairs. I also assisted in changing engine oil and screws, and this gradually cultivated my fascination with cars.
Upon completion of the public examination, Kin-hang followed his heart and enrolled in an IVE Diploma programme in Automotive Engineering. He was first taught automotive engineering knowledge like repairing the engines and chassis, learning about the automotive electronic systems and auto technologies. During his study at IVE, an internship at a bus operator was arranged for him, where he witnessed the entire process of assembling and dismantling a car as well as the structure of a bus engine. “Seeing in person the whole process of an engine being dismantled into innumerable parts and reassembled into a well-functioning composite after repair was truly amazing,” he said. “We are the ‘vehicle doctors’ during the maintenance process. We use different equipment and tools for diagnosing the faulty parts and subsequent rectification.” The internship made Kin-hang understand the importance of automotive engineering knowledge in the role of a “vehicle doctor”.
Going up the Progression Ladder
After graduation, Kin-hang took up the job of vehicle maintenance apprentice at a car retailer on the recommendation of his IVE teacher. There, he was given the opportunity to lay down a good foundation and learn about every work process. “An apprentice is different from an intern. The masters demand a higher standard from an apprentice,” he said. “However, it was exactly because of this that I got more chances for hands-on work, which had accelerated my learning.” During the three-year apprenticeship, Kin-hang worked in different departments, including mechanical repair, vehicle body repair, painting, parts and accessories, and new car delivery. All these have helped him achieve a complete mastery of different automotive engineering knowledge and skills.
The department that impressed him most is the “Overhaul”. This department took care of vehicles seriously damaged in traffic accidents. “The whole thing was akin to a major surgery. The entire vehicle would first be dismantled. If the main components were found to have been damaged, the main frame had to be re-formed. Stretched optimally, the frame would be welded for consolidation, to be followed by a replacement of the parts. Each process had to be executed with utmost care and without mistakes.”
Kin-hang found the apprenticeship rewarding as he kept learning new things every day, like painting, maintenance and engine repairs. “I was able to learn more about vehicle maintenance skills from different masters.” During his apprenticeship, Kin-hang enrolled in the part-time IVE programme of Higher Diploma in Automotive Engineering alongside, deepening his know-how in the field and getting equipped professionally.
Playing a Communicator Role
Upon completion of the apprenticeship, Kin-hang earned a place in the company and was officially employed as a vehicle service advisor. He was responsible for handling clients’ enquiries on vehicle maintenance and tendering maintenance advice. “My knowledge and skills in automotive engineering were drawn on when I had to address the problems that the clients faced in the functioning and operation of their vehicles.” Taking the persistent flashing of a warning light as an example, the client did not understand why. It was, in fact, due to defects in gas emission, engine ignition or the electronic system.
Kin-hang was later transferred to the customer service department, processing clients’ feedback and complaints. Within two years, he was further promoted from senior officer to assistant manager. During that period, he completed a part-time bachelor’s degree programme in mechanical engineering at a local university.
Two years ago, Kin-hang was transferred to the brand centre of his company in Hung Hom as an assistant service manager in charge of the after-sale service and repair work of the maintenance centre in the Kowloon district. He provides input on strategies and administration of the company. In face of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Kin-hang has led his team to explore preventive measures to safeguard the health of clients and frontline staff. One of them is to use electronic equipment to expedite the whole maintenance and vehicle delivery cycle. Kin-hang also arranges spraying of a protective disinfection film around the vehicles delivered to the maintenance centre by clients to ensure compartmental hygiene. The health of clients is protected in addition to the provision of quality services. He looks forward to serving the needs of every car lover through his knowledge and experience in automotive engineering.