Budding mechanics show off their knowledge

POMONA, Calif. Each year Ford and the American Auto Association sponsor a student skills competition. Budding auto mechanics get to show off their car repair knowledge under pressure.

"These are high school auto technology students, and they're the best of the best in the state," said Rick Lalor, AAA.

To advance to the national event in Michigan and some big scholarships, the students have to figure out what's wrong with the cars quickly.

Each car has identical problems and the teams have to catch them all just as if they were working in a repair shop.

"These are the technicians of the future. Yes, technicians. These kids are incredibly talented. They have a lot of skill sets. The future is very bright for them," said Lalor.

The parts department is fully stocked. The students can get new parts to replace defective ones. Things as simple as a fuse or something more complicated like a switch. The parts are kept hidden in a box by each team's judge, so they don't know what might be broken.

The team from Ramona High School was the first to shut the hood and roll the car off for judging. It was obvious they were well rehearsed.

"We had so much wiggle room," said Brendon Mendenhall, Ramona High School student.

But being first to finish doesn't necessarily mean you win. You have to have gotten everything fixed.

As it turns out, the Ramona team did come out on top. They'll represent California in the national competition next month. But neither young man actually wants to get into the business.

"I work on cars for fun. It was something to do in high school," said Brandon Grassill, Ramona High School student. "But I'm going to work with my father. We have a family business, so that's what I'm going to do."

It looked like all the students were having fun, fun that can also become a pretty good living if they want.

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