Nobody loves to hate people like people love to hate auto mechanics.

If your car is broken, you need it fixed right away. But you sometimes can't get it fixed right away and it costs too much when it is fixed - if it was fixed right.And you can't really understand what that mechanic is saying anyway. Is all that gobbledygook just the cover for a rip-off?

It's all a matter of communication, according to the head of an award-winning school for auto mechanics, who says communication skills and ethics are just as important in the curriculum as gaskets and spark plugs.

"One of the most difficult things is to be able to communicate in a two-way fashion," said Richard Diklich, coordinator of the automobile technology program at Longview Community College.

"There is a basic element of distrust on both sides. I've found that customers often don't want to have their cars fixed because it is going to be an inconvenience and expensive. So they let it go and the problem gets worse and it becomes more expensive."

The Longview auto tech student spends about two-thirds of the time working on mechanics and about one-third in liberal arts classes.

"We try to work with the technical student on communication skills, consumer attitudes, work ethic and attitude as a part of what we do," Diklich said.

Students study, for example, composition and reading or speech or American history along with courses on diagnosis and repair of automotive brake systems.

Longview this year won the annual competition of the Motor Vehicle Manufacturer's Association and the American Vocational Association Industry Planning Council. The school had finished second in the prestigious competition last year.

Students enrolled at Longview have the option of following one program that is closely linked with General Motors, Ford or Toyota. They get half their training at the school and spend half their time working in the shop at a manufacturer's dealership. They later find jobs working for a dealership.