Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics Overview
New repair techniques and changing technology are important for automotive service technicians and mechanics with formal training. Postsecondary education will provide good opportunities for jobs while those without such training will compete for entry-level jobs.
Nature of the Work for Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
Automotive service technicians inspect and maintain cars and trucks that are gasoline powered, use electricity, or fuels such as ethanol. Their duties include basic care maintenance including changing tires, performing oil changes, testing and diagnosing more complex problems and performing the repairs. Repairs made on motorcycles, scooters, mopeds, and all terrain vehicles are performed by motorcycle technicians.
The automotive service technician’s job has changed from simple mechanical repairs to more complex work with new electronic systems that monitor and regulate a car’s performance while on the road. The automotive service technician and mechanic must be able to use traditional tools while also using computerized shop equipment with electronic components.
The automotive service technician first obtains a description of the problem from the owner writing an estimate. Using a diagnostic approach and testing systems helps the mechanic isolate the problem or problems in the car’s engine. The technician may require a test-drive using a variety of diagnostic equipment including gauges and computers. It is important to provide accurate and efficient diagnoses and repairs to bring back satisfied customers.
Routine inspections can help locate and isolate worn parts that require replacing before they break down. A checklist is used so that a list of all items to be checked is handled and that the troublesome items are not overlooked.
Use of various tools is important for the automotive service technicians in their work. Pneumatic wrenches might be used to remove belts, lathes and grinding machines are used to rebuild brakes, welding equipment to remove exhaust systems, and jacks to hoist up the car. Small tools such as pliers, screwdrivers and wrenches are used to work in small areas. Technicians often provide their own hand tools.
Computer printouts are used by technicians to compare the guidelines and standards recommended by the manufacturer. Service bulletins and automatic updates are provided from software packages, and the internet allowing technicians to remain updated and informed of new techniques and common problems.
The computer equipment that operates everything in the car requires high technology tools for repairs. Some luxury automobiles are equipped with global positioning systems, and accident-avoidance systems. The automotive service technician and mechanic will also need to become familiar with vehicles that are equipped with alternative fuels.
Larger shops tend to have repairmen that specialize in certain types of repairs. Transmission technicians work on gear trains, pumps, couplings and other transmission parts. Tune-up technicians adjust the car’s timing and valves and can use electronic testing devices to find the problems and make the adjustments.
The automotive air-conditioning repairer works on installing and repairing air-conditioners and their parts. These workers will get special training in Federal and State regulations on handling and disposing of refrigerants. The front-end mechanic aligns wheels steering mechanisms, brake repairers adjust brakes, linings and pads, and make other repairs on the brake system.
Forty hour workweeks are standard while about 24 percent work longer hours and overtime. Weekends and evenings are also worked by some repairmen. Working in a well lighted repair shop is common, although some standard shops are noisy and cool.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
With the growth in automotive technology, workers are looking for those having postsecondary school education. Certification by the Acquiring National Institute For Automotive Service Excellence is important for those workers looking for jobs in large urban areas.
The best possible training is the completion of a vocational training program in automotive service technology. Some high school programs participate in AYES, or Automotive Youth Education Service which partners with automotive repair programs, manufacturers, and automotive dealers. This is an excellent program which allows students who complete these programs to start in entry-level technician positions. Coursework in automotive repair along with electronics, physics, chemistry, English and computers provides a good education and background for students entering this field of work.
Postsecondary training programs provide intensive career preparation with classroom and hands-on learning. Trade and technical schools often provide a 6 month to 1 year program, while community colleges will award an associate degree or certificate. An associate degree will take 2 years and include core classes in English, math and other subjects along with automotive repair.
Automobile manufacturers and dealerships also sponsor a 2 year associate degree program at postsecondary schools all around the country. Alternating 6 to 12 week periods of attending classes and working in the dealerships allow for hand on experience while studying.
Beginning workers start as trainees, helpers, or lubrication workers and will gain experience while practicing their skills. Some beginning workers will earn a promotion and advance to earn the journey level after a few months, but usually takes 2 to 5 years of experience to become a fully qualified service technician or mechanic. Several more years of experience may be required for more complex specialties, such as transmission repairs.
Manufacturer sponsored training may be available for promising beginners or experienced technicians to upgrade or maintain their skills. Training classes may also be offered by factory representatives.
Good reasoning skills and the ability to diagnose problems are an important part of the automotive service technician and mechanic’s job. The ability to keep up with new technology and learn new service procedures is also important.
Automotive service technicians also require training in electronics because of the importance of safety in electrical components.
Certification is not mandatory for workers in automotive service though it is common and is available in 8 different areas of automotive service ranging from electrical systems to air-conditioning.
Employment and Job Outlook for Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
Automobile dealers and repair and maintenance shops employ the majority of workers and about 16 percent are self-employed. Job growth for automotive workers is expected to be slower than average with most job openings occurring from retirement. Workers with expertise in certain areas will be in demand. Consolidation within the automotive industry will limit openings for new workers. Aside from growth, many job openings will occur from retiring technicians. Those with postsecondary education and ASE certification will be in demand while entry level job openings will be available for workers without any formal training. Most job openings will be within dealerships and independent shops.
Earnings and Salary for Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
Median hourly wages of automotive service technicians and mechanics, including commission, are $17.03. The middle 50 percent earn between $12.49 and $22.71 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $9.54, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $28.81 per hour.