We interview the author of the popular car manual Auto Upkeep.
Mike Gray and his wife Linda co-authored Auto Upkeep, a text that, according to Mike, is “used by over 500 secondary and post-secondary schools to teach introductory automotive technology and basic car care.”
They didn’t just sit down one day and decide to write an auto manual, though. The journey of Auto Upkeep actually mirrors the journey of Mike’s life. Raised in International Falls, Minnesota, the “icebox of the nation,” he began working at a service station at the age of twelve, starting at the cash register and working his way to the service station, where he began learning how to repair cars.
At St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, he studied industrial technology while working at an auto parts store. After earning his bachelor degree, he student taught a consumer auto class before getting a teaching job in southern Illinois where he needed to start an automotive program focusing on upkeep. “I needed good textbooks,” he says, “but, guess what? I couldn’t find any, so I created my own material for the program.”
Mike then attended graduate school at Illinois State University in 1999 and 2000 where, for his thesis, he wrote a manual that eventually served as the first draft of his automotive textbook. Then, when he moved to Maryland, he was moved to an administrative job and, during that time, he and his wife decided to publish a book on basic car upkeep.
Co-author Linda Gray adds her special touch to the auto manual
Mike didn’t write the book by himself. His wife, Linda, had learned to do many car repairs as a way to save money, experience that helped when the couple turned Mike’s thesis into a practical, usable book. Linda’s degree in engineering helped, as well. So did her experience at the University of Redlands, where she and classmates designed, built and tested a hybrid vehicle in 1995—and so did her artistic ability.
“After that, we started our own publishing company,” Mike remembers. “We only started out with 250 or 500 copies of the book, I can’t remember which. But, I soon started attending automotive teacher conferences and otherwise marketing the book. In 2007, we came out with a second edition of Auto Upkeep and, in 2008, I quit my fulltime job just to focus on our publishing.”
Third edition of Auto Upkeep
By 2013, this auto manual was being used:
- in 500 schools around the country
- by homeschoolers and their families
- by auto parts stores as refreshers for employees
- by auto shops as weekend car care seminar material
- in non-credit courses at colleges
- as the textbook for automotive introduction courses at community colleges
- as Boy Scout and Girl Scout badge reference material
Mike and his wife are now printing books in batches of 5,000 to 10,000. “We also created a workbook, a homeschool curriculum kit, instructor resource CDs and so forth, and then we package items in different ways for different audiences. This book is also a great guide for an individual car owner.”
We hope you've enjoyed the Advance Auto Parts author interview with Michael E. Gray. Be sure to keep an eye out for more author interviews coming soon as part of our new series.
Editor • DIY'er