One summer afternoon in the small town of Coulterville, Ill., a young James Hayes sat outside beside his father, James Hayes Sr., in a tree-filled portion of the family’s ranch that the Hayes’ referred to as “the park.” The pair sat atop the front of a bulldozer parked amidst the greenery, with the front engine compartment open as Hayes Sr. worked on the complex machinery within. Hayes and his brother, Ricardo Hayes, regularly helped their father with his mechanic work, handing him the tools he needed while observing all the details of whatever he brought in to work on.
“Watching my father take engines apart and put them back together again, I started to see the way everything fit and worked together as kind of a puzzle you have to solve,” Hayes says. “Looking at different vehicles and seeing what goes into them, then starting it up and having it run perfectly was always just the best feeling in the world for me.”
Hayes took his father’s lessons with him into adulthood. Hayes Sr. had served with the United States Air Force before retiring, and Hayes followed in his father’s footsteps both as a mechanic and in military service by joining the Navy Mobile Construction Battalion. Hayes served for 12 years as a “Seabee,” during which time he says he came to view his work as “being a medic for vehicles” rather than people.
When James Hayes Sr. passed away in 2005, among the items he left his son was a 2000 GMC Sierra he had always maintained on his own. Even 24 years later, the truck still operates just as smoothly as it did the day it was built, thanks to the mechanical knowledge Hayes learned from his father. In 2010, Hayes decided to further honor his father’s legacy by making the truck the centerpiece of his own independently owned business, Hayes Mobile Auto Repair.
‘Beyond Part Changing’
Hayes operates out of Jackson but services the larger metropolitan area. As a mobile auto mechanic, Hayes drives his father’s truck out to assist customers within cities and even out on freeways and more remote areas when needed. He keeps his GMC Sierra loaded up with all the tools he needs to perform diagnostics and repairs on motors, batteries, transmissions, tires, onboard computer systems and anything else that could use fixing on any vehicle.
“Out of all the mechanics and body shops you’ll likely see everywhere, I’d say only about 10% of them are likely to be truly good at what they’re doing,” Hayes says. “A lot of them, especially at major franchise outlets, mostly only know how to diagnose and change out parts. With my business, I aim to go beyond part changing. We’re not there to just give you a quote, we come out there and make sure everything works exactly as it should right there before we leave.”
In 2017 Hayes hired a good friend and fellow mechanic named Duwan, who specializes in motor and transmission repair, to help split up work when Hayes receives multiple calls from areas spread far apart. Hayes is also looking to take on a third mechanic to expand the scope of his business further.
In addition to his mobile repair work, Hayes makes efforts to share his mechanical knowledge with as many people as he can via a series of videos he creates for YouTube and TikTok. Hayes’ videos detail what viewers need to know about completing their own repairs. He also gives advice on how to perform mobile-repair work like he does, with the goal of helping people in Mississippi and beyond save or even make money without being reliant on a larger mechanic shop.
“The most important thing I’d say to anyone looking to do their own repairs is, ‘Don’t guess, test,’” Hayes says. “Don’t assume that there’s something wrong with the brake pad or the battery and just swap it out, get in there and test everything individually. That’ll save you money in the long run and is what I believe goes into making you a truly good mechanic.”
‘It Doesn’t Feel Like a Job’
Hayes’ wife of two years, Courtney Hayes, also works with him in his business. She handles invoices, estimates, appointments, money management, ordering parts, customer service and keeping the business’ signature mobile-repair truck stocked and organized with the right tools.
The couple’s 9-year-old son, Ethan, enjoys helping his father with his work like Hayes did with his own dad, passing him tools while learning about the inner working of whatever Hayes is repairing. Ethan has also made YouTube videos on repair work like his father and has said he sees what he’s learned as training for learning to be a surgeon later in life, adopting the same view Hayes had in the military of seeing a mechanic as a “doctor for cars.”
“These past 14 years have been great, watching the business grow and hearing from people watching my videos who say I’ve helped them when they were stuck with their own issues,” Hayes says. “Looking at different vehicles and learning about what goes into them to make them work is a puzzle, and a challenging one at that, but however challenging it may be I believe that when you learn to truly love what you do it doesn’t feel like a job.”
For more information on Hayes Mobile Auto Repair, call 601-862-6495.
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