ELDORADO – Outside, it's cold yet sunny on this early February Thursday, but inside Mark Cantrell's shop, conditions couldn't be more different than when he first learned how to work on cars.
When he was a boy, his family moved to Eldorado from McLeansboro, he said.
"Dad worked in the oil fields around McLeansboro, and then he got on at Sahara," Cantrell said, chuckling "He worked third shift for years, and those guys would drag race going home. They were pretty well burning up the road."
His father and co-workers would spend quite a bit of time working on their cars to make them run just a little faster, which meant a young Mark got to lend a helping hand.
"This time of year, Dad would have a motor pulled, hanging in a tree, and I'd be shaking from the cold, holding the trouble light so he could see to work," Cantrell said.
Those are memories he wouldn't trade.
"I used to sit on a fender with him, holding a drop cord. That's how I learned how to work on cars," Cantrell said.
Now, a cold day isn't noticeable in his heated shop – Mark's Auto Repair and Detailing, located at 120 State Route 142 South in Eldorado. It's a quite a change from those early days.
Changes are something that continue in the automotive industry, he said, but to him those changes mean a little bit of an identity loss for vehicle brands.
"I used to be a diehard Ford person, but anymore, there's not a nickel's worth of difference between all of them," Cantrell said.
While older cars had relatively simple electrical systems, modern electronics in cars are more complex. Sometimes that makes car troubles easier to diagnose, but sometimes it doesn't make much of a difference, he said.
One dramatic improvement, though, is how long an engine can last.
"I remember Dad pulling a motor at about 70,000, maybe 80,000 miles," Cantrell said. "You'd have a rod bearing start knocking. Now, you can get 300,000 out of a motor, if you properly maintain it."
That maintenance includes oil changes, which he said he does frequently for clients.
"I don't make much money on an oil change," he said. "It's really almost a courtesy."
That's because the cost of motor oil – especially synthetic oils usually recommended by manufacturers for newer cars – has increased quite a bit, he said.
Today, Cantrell says despite those changes in cars and trucks over time, those lessons he learned from his father carry through his work today.
"I've done this all of my life," he said, then adding an impromptu slogan – "I can change your oil or change your engine."
To contact Mark's Auto Repar and Detailing, call (618) 841-2800.