A Day in the Life of an Auto Technnician
What do automotive mechanics really do?
We’re not going to lie to you, our techs are the coolest people in our building, but don’t tell the sales staff. Tech-nically speaking, their job description completely depends on their level of certification. But to sum it up, an automotive service tech or mechanic is responsible for inspecting, maintaining, and repairing cars and light trucks to their highest level of safety. They are professional problem solvers!
Specific responsibilities include:
- Identify problems, often by using computerized diagnostic equipment
- Plan work procedures, using charts, technical manuals, and experience
- Test parts and systems to ensure that they work properly
- Follow checklists to ensure that all critical parts are examined
- Perform basic care and maintenance, including changing oil, checking fluid levels, and rotating tires
- Repair or replace worn parts, such as brake pads, wheel bearings, and sensors
- Perform repairs to manufacturer and customer specifications
- Explain automotive problems and repairs to clients
Although service technicians work on traditional mechanical systems, such as engines, transmissions, and drivebelts, they must also be familiar with a growing number of electronic systems. Braking, transmission, and steering systems, for example, are controlled primarily by computers and electronic components.
In addition, technicians are responsible for knowing every vehicles integrated electronic systems, such as accident-avoidance sensors, or lane-keeping assist. As we know, technology seems to be advancing at the speed of light and automotive techs are responsible for keeping up!
What tools do they use?
You mean besides themselves? Just kidding. Service technicians use many common hand tools, such as wrenches, pliers, sockets and ratchets. Generally, techs own their own tools, some have thousands of dollars worth!
What types of service technicians are there?
We’re going to assume you don’t want to read a 20-page article, so we’ll just list a few.
Drivability technicians, also known as diagnostic technicians, use their extensive knowledge of engine management and fuel, electrical, ignition, and emissions systems to diagnose issues that prevent engines from performing efficiently. They often use the onboard diagnostic system of a car and electronic testing equipment such as scan tools and multimeters to find the malfunction.
Brake technicians diagnose brake system problems, adjust brakes, replace brake rotors and pads, and make other repairs on brake systems. Some technicians specialize in both brake and front-end work.
Front-end technicians diagnose ride, handling, and tire wear problems. To correct these problems, they frequently use special alignment equipment and wheel-balancing machines.
Transmission technicians and rebuilders work on gear trains, couplings, hydraulic pumps, and other parts of transmissions. An extensive knowledge of computer controls and the ability to diagnose electrical and hydraulic problems are needed to work on these complex components.
Wait, I wanna read a 20-page article! Be our guest.
That sounds awesome, how do I become an automotive service tech or mechanic?
Most employers require, or strongly prefer that their techs complete a program at a post-secondary institution. From there, industry certification is required once the person is employed.
High school courses in automotive repair, electronics, computers, and mathematics provide a good background for prospective service technicians. However, high school graduates need further training to become fully qualified.
Completing a vocational or other post-secondary education program in automotive service technology is considered the best preparation for entry-level positions. Programs usually last 6 months to a year and provide intensive career preparation through classroom instruction and hands-on practice. Short-term certificate programs in a particular subject, such as brake maintenance or engine performance, are also available.
Some service technicians get an associate’s degree. Courses usually include mathematics, electronics, and automotive repair. Some programs add classes in customer service and other necessary skills.
Various automobile manufacturers and dealers sponsor associate’s degree programs. Students in these programs typically spend alternating periods attending classes full time and working full time in service shops under the guidance of an experienced technician.
Service technicians who have graduated from postsecondary programs in automotive service technology generally require little on-the-job training.
Those who have not completed postsecondary education, however, generally start as trainee technicians, technicians’ helpers, or lubrication workers. They gradually acquire more knowledge and experience by working with experienced mechanics and technicians.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all technicians who buy or work with refrigerants to be certified in proper refrigerant handling. No formal test preparation is required, but many trade schools, unions, and employer associations offer training programs designed for the EPA exam.
Certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is the standard credential for service technicians. Certification demonstrates competence and usually brings higher pay. Many employers require their service technicians to become certified.
ASE certification is available in nine different automobile specialty areas: automatic transmission/transaxle, brakes, light vehicle diesel engines, electrical/electronic systems, engine performance, engine repair, heating and air-conditioning, manual drive train and axles, and suspension and steering.
To become certified, technicians must have at least 2 years of experience (or relevant schooling and 1 year of experience) and pass an exam. Technicians who achieve certification in all of the foregoing areas (light vehicle diesel engine certification is not required) may earn ASE Master Technician status.
Physical strength. Being a service technician can be fairly strenuous on the body. It’s manual labor all day that often deals with heavy items.
Detail oriented. Service technicians must be aware of small details when inspecting or repairing vehicle systems, because mechanical and electronic malfunctions are often due to misalignments or other easy-to-miss causes.
Dexterity. Service technicians perform many tasks that require steady hands and good hand–eye coordination, such as assembling or attaching components and subassemblies.
Mechanical skills. Service technicians must be familiar with engine components and systems and know how they interact with each other. They often must take apart major parts for repairs and be able to put them back together properly.
Organizational skills. Service technicians must keep workspaces clean and organized in order to maintain safety and ensure accountability of parts.
Troubleshooting skills. Service technicians use diagnostic equipment on engine systems and components in order to identify and fix problems in increasingly complicated mechanical and electronic systems. They must be familiar with electronic control systems and the appropriate tools needed to fix and maintain them.
So what do you think? Do you have what it takes to be the baddest in the business? We hope so! Check out our service job postings here!