Automotive mechanics or automotive service technicians source, repair, and resolve problems with cars and light trucks. Auto mechanics repair mechanical issues and work with various electronic systems, computers, and other forms of technology to fix vehicles which have broken down. As automobile technologies have grown increasingly complex, automotive mechanics must learn how all parts and systems within a vehicle work together to ensure proper function. Auto mechanics inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks which run on gasoline, electricity, or alternative fuels. Automotive mechanics use a variety of power and hand tools, manuals, and computerized machines to improve performance of cars or trucks.
Auto mechanics work a 40 hour week within an automotive service or repair shop. Most repair shops are open on weekdays, with some evening and weekend hours. Self employed automotive mechanics work long hours. All auto mechanics work with greasy, dirty parts and are usually required to lift heavy parts and tools. Though automotive mechanics are required to follow strict safety practices, they often suffer minor cuts, burns, and bruises. To reduce work related injuries, most repair shops are clean and well organized.
Auto mechanics provide basic vehicle maintenance, like oil changes and tire rotations, and also diagnose more difficult problems with brake or fuel systems, engine or transmissions, or heating/air conditioning systems. Automotive mechanics check and service critical parts of automobiles, including belts, hoses, plugs, brake systems, and fuel systems to ensure proper function. The field of auto mechanics has evolved from simple mechanical repairs to much more sophisticated, high level technology work. As today’s automobiles utilize integrated electronic systems and highly complex computers, mechanics are required to work with computerized repair and diagnostic equipment, digital manuals, digital reference materials, and electronic components – all in addition to the ability to utilize traditional hand tools. Automotive mechanics also create and execute plans to resolve difficult repairs. Auto mechanics detect mechanical or electrical problems based upon the vehicle owner’s description or from a repair service estimator or service advisor. Automotive mechanics diagnose performance issues by isolating components or systems which may be the source of the problem. Auto mechanics then determine if components and systems are functioning properly and are secure. Once the problem is detected, mechanics check for simple or complex issues by using various forms of testing equipment, like onboard and hand held diagnostic computers or compression gauges, to ascertain whether a component can be salvaged or must be replaced.
Mechanics also perform routine service inspections following checklists to examine critical parts of engine and other major systems. Mechanics often repair or replace worn parts to prevent breakdowns or damages to the automobile, paying close attention to all belts, hoses, plugs, brakes, and fuel systems. Mechanics use common hand tools, like screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches, as well as power tools, like pneumatic wrenches, lathes, grinding machines, welding equipment, engine analyzers, and flame cutting equipment. Most mechanics are required to possess their own tools. Experienced workers invest thousands of dollars in work related tools and equipment and most repair shops provide the more expensive power tools, computers, and diagnostic equipment.
Modern repair shops rely on computers for readouts from computerized diagnostic testing devices based upon manufacturer standards, to indicate deviations from acceptable levels. Mechanics then investigate and make necessary repairs based upon the readouts. Automotive mechanics also use computers to receive updated technical manuals or technical service bulletins, access manufacturer service information, learn new procedures, and search databases for common problems. As the systems and components of automobiles have grown increasingly complex, most repair shops and automobile mechanics specialize in different types of repairs, including transmissions, tune ups, brake systems, fuel systems, alignment, suspensions, heating and air conditioning systems, and other aspects of automobile systems.
Entry level auto mechanic jobs are highly competitive. Generally employers prefer candidates who have completed a vocational program in automotive service technology. Individuals interested in a career as an auto mechanic must be formally trained through a high school program, apprenticeship program, or a technical school. Given the diversity of skills learned from high school automotive repair programs, many graduates need further training to qualify for jobs as auto mechanics. Students who participate in Automotive Youth Education Service (AYES) programs certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence are preferred for entry level mechanic positions. Most automotive mechanic training programs require a 6 month to year long time investment, though community colleges offer two year programs. Auto mechanics must obtain a high school diploma or G.E.D. and must generally purchase their own tools before beginning work at a beginner or entry level job. Some employers and training programs assist with the purchase of various power and hand tools necessary for automotive mechanic work.
Most auto mechanic training programs require a 6 month to year long time investment, though community colleges offer two year programs. Automotive mechanics must obtain a high school diploma or G.E.D. and must generally purchase their own tools before beginning work at a beginner or entry level job. Some employers and training programs assist with the purchase of various power and hand tools necessary for auto mechanic work. Training programs consist of a combination of classroom instruction and hands on practice. High school students who complete courses in automotive repair, electronics, physics, chemistry, English, computers, and mathematics often advance to entry level mechanic positions or go on to obtain further training. Trade and technical programs offer students 6 month to year long training certificate programs including classroom instruction and hands on practice based upon technology and equipment. Community colleges offer one year certificate programs or two year associate degree programs including courses in English, basic mathematics, computers, automotive repair, customer service, on the job training, and often even stress management or other business related courses. Additionally, automobile manufacturers and franchised dealerships sponsor training for students enrolled in associate’s degree programs. The programs offer 6 to 12 week programs allowing students to attend classes and work full time within dealerships or service departments to gain hands on instruction and on the job training.
Candidates who begin careers in entry level automotive jobs start as trainee technicians, technicians’ helpers, or lubrication workers. These individuals gain gradual skills and training by working with highly trained, more experienced mechanics and technicians. Beginners usually perform routine service techniques and perform simple repairs after just a few months of training and advance to the journey level, or fully qualified automotive mechanic position, after two to five years of on the job training, with an additional one to four years of training to learn more complex repairs. Comparatively, graduates from a postsecondary automotive training program is granted the promotion to the journey level after only a few months.
Auto mechanics are required to attend additional training to keep up with advances in technology and automobiles. Many employers require mechanics to attend manufacturer training programs to learn how to repair specialized components, like electronic fuel injection. Many factory representatives, vehicle dealers, or automotive service providers select mechanics to attend manufacturer sponsored training programs to expand, maintain, or upgrade employee skills. In addition to a solid educational background, many employers seek candidates with certification offered by the Acquiring National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Certification is available in 8 areas of automotive service, including electrical systems, engine repair, brake systems, suspension and steering, and heating and air conditioning. Requirements for certification include at least two years of job experience and successful completion of certification examinations. To be recognized as a Mater Automobile Technician, mechanics must pass each of the eight examinations offered by ASE.
In addition to possessing educational, training, and mechanical skills necessary to work as an auto mechanic, individuals must have good math skills, be literate, and have the ability to operate computers. Auto mechanics must be able to diagnose and solve problems efficiently and accurately. Automotive mechanics must have good reasoning skills and a complete knowledge of automobiles. Individuals who demonstrate their abilities as auto mechanics and display administrative abilities, may be promoted to shop supervisor or service manager or go on to open their own automotive repair shops. Many mechanics also advance to become automotive repair service estimators or work as educators.
Employment as an auto mechanic is expected to grow slower than most other occupations though many job opportunities open as experienced technicians retire. Individuals with previous experience or educational training may be preferred over candidates competing for entry level jobs who lack formal training.