• Keeping Friends

Asking a mechanic friend to work overtime

Published: February 12, 2015 | By | 18 Replies Continue Reading
A car buff wants his mechanic friend to help with a project.



My best friend and roommate is a professional mechanic. He makes about half of what I make at work but is very skilled with cars. My passion and hobbies are car-related and we have had so much fun together on this topic.

Recently I invested a lot of money in a car build. He always says he will help build the car, but when the time comes never seems willing. He will loan me a tool, but never come help physically.

I can’t tell if he is jealous, selfish or altruistic in his behavior. He was very overweight when we met, and recently has begun to change his life through diet and exercise. I am happy with where I am in that arena. He seems less and less willing to help me. Do you have any thoughts on the topic?

Signed Mark


Hi Mark,

It’s great that you live with someone who is also your best friend. I’m sure you want to keep it that way.

Although your passion and hobbies are car-related, I presume your work is not. Your friend may be reluctant to tell you that he works on cars all day and isn’t as interested as you are in working on cars after hours. It sounds like this is a major project rather than a small job he might do as a favor.

It may be that your friend is feeling as if he is being used, doing something very close to his day job without receiving compensation for his time and skills.

Since you value this friendship and your friend’s skills, why don’t you tell him you would like to pay him for his time working on the car? You could negotiate an amount of time each week and a price that would be fair to you and offer him added income. This would open a dialogue that would allow you to find out whether or not it is something he really wants to do.

You mention that your friend is making life changes to improve his life. Maybe he has also decided to be more assertive about spending his spare time the way he chooses.

Unless your friend is enthusiastic about your proposal, my sense is that you should back off. You don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the friendship or roommate relationship. Perhaps, there are some other car-related leisure activities you could share that don’t involve him feeling like he is still on the job.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Comments (18)

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  1. Lauren says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with all of the above-noted comments. Grace made a good observation about a professional mechanic’s tools costing a lot, and yet he was still kind and gracious enough to offer to lend those expensive tools.

    No one should be expected to work without being paid at least the going rate for the assignment. This is not volunteer work for a registered charity. In fact, quite the opposite as, Lottie wisely pointed out.

    Maddie and the others made a good point about not automatically expecting a friend with a valuable skill set to do work for free gratis. This puts the friend in a very awkward position, to say the least.

  2. Lottie says:

    So you have bought an expensive car build,sounds good.When complete will you sell it for £££££ or keep it?
    Out of interest what model will is it?
    What bothers me and might also concern your friend,is if his expertise is used to build this car and anything goes wrong ie engine , brakes or a multitude of mistakes you will no doubt blame him. Yes or No. It will be yes for sure.He sounds really sensible not getting invovled. Unless like others have mentioned, you offer to pay him,which would be a friendly jesture considering you earn so much.You then could work along side him picking up handy hints for when you might buy another.As regards him being selfish,he is not harming anybody by doing as he likes.The word selfish gets used so often, when the person using the word is not getting their own way. ie you. Open your wallet and enjoy the time together.Good luck. Lottie

  3. Maddie says:

    I also cannot understand why the letter writer brings up the weight issue.

    • linda says:

      I think that’s just bloody weird. Who the hell cares? Unless a friend expresses disatistifaction with their weight or health I don’t say anything about it. It’s their body and it certainly doesn’t have any bearing on how I feel about them.

  4. linda says:

    I facebook too much. I keep on looking for the “like” button!

  5. hanna says:

    I also work in a field where I am barraged with requests for free labor. I might donate some services to non-profits and people who are broke, but I don’t work for free as a rule.

    I can’t imagine asking a friend and roommate who makes half of what I make to help me with my problems without offering to pay him more than what he makes at his day job.

    • GraceW says:

      This might sound harsh but I’ve decided to stop offering free services even to nonprofits. Last year I donated both services and money to a nonprofit and was treated rather dismissively. It’s not the first time, but I think it will be the last. At this point, I’d rather spend my free time working on my own projects.

      • hanna says:

        Not harsh at all! I go back and forth on it. 3 or 4 years ago I went to a workshop for women who wanted to improve sales. One woman had this really depressing story about doing six months worth of video production work for a friend’s non-profit. The non-profit won a huge grant as a result of her work – so her friend asked her to do more work for free! The presenter made us all promise not to work for free anymore.

        For the past couple of years, I only did volunteer work that had nothing to do with my profession. I am going to break the rule for one organization because I think it will be easy, make a big difference, and simply be welcomed rather than nitpicked… but we’ll see 🙂

        I’ve found that the more someone pays you to do something, the less aggravating they are.

  6. Maddie says:

    I practice medicine. When I am not at work I don’t want to speak of anything medical, period. I always change the subject.

    Fix your car and leave your friend out of it, unless he initiates it. And don’t be passive aggressive and guilt him in any way.

    I never ask my attorney friend for advise or my therapist friend for therapy or my hair cutting friend for a free cut.

  7. GraceW says:

    I have friends in various fields and industries where people often expect them to give away their expertise for free. People stop my tattoo artist friend at parties and want her to advise them on (and sometimes even draw up) tattoo designs; people ask my lawyer friend for legal advice; and I’ve been asked to do free editing and provide feedback for writing projects when people find out I have a master’s degree in writing. The tattoo artist, lawyer, and I all love our work, but we don’t want to do it for free. We’ve all endured a ton of training to do what we do.

    Know what I do when I want a tattoo or need legal advice? I pay my friends for their services, just as I would any other professional in those fields.

    • linda says:

      100% agreed. It’s simply not fair to expect anyone to provide free services in their spare time. We have all worked long and hard in our respective fields. When we have downtime, we want to spend it in the company of people who appreciate us and doing things that have nothing to do with work. I don’t need to have any more work thank you very much. I’ve got enough on my plate without a “friend” adding to my burden.

    • GraceW says:

      For that matter, a professional mechanic’s tools can be quite expensive. He’s taking a risk just loaning tools to you, an inexperienced person who may damage them.

  8. Laura says:

    I picked up an air of superiority too. You’ve already made your interests known, so I would leave him alone and find someone else to hire to help with the car. I hope you’re happy for your friend that he’s making positive changes to his life and you’ve let him know this!

  9. linda says:

    This sounds so similar to a situation I was in six months ago. Where I was in his shoes and feeling totally used. Frankly, with the comments about money and his weight you don’t sound like much of a friend at all. I have many, many friends who are much more successful that I. They certainly don’t go on about it, never belittle me and there’s so much mutual respect and love there that we celebrate each others successes instead of turning it into a lame competition.

  10. Amy F says:

    I wondered, when rthe adding your letter, if you might feel like you’re “better than” your roommate. You talked about making more money, spending a lot of money on the car build, he’s overweight and you aren’t. You didn’t mention whether he was a great guy, someone you respect or that you even values his workmanship.
    I agree with Irene about offering to pay for his valuable time, but more than the money, I’d also think about showing him how you value and respect him as a friend, not just for what he can do for you and your passions, but for who he is as a human being.

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