Automotive service technicians and mechanics inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks.
What they do
Automotive service technicians and mechanics typically do the following:
- 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 also must be familiar with a growing number of electronic systems. Braking, transmission, and steering systems, for example, are controlled primarily by computers and electronic components.
Other integrated electronic systems, such as accident-avoidance sensors, are becoming common as well. In addition, a growing number of technicians are required to work on vehicles that use electricity or alternative fuels, such as ethanol.
Service technicians use many different tools, including computerized diagnostic tools and power tools such as pneumatic wrenches, lathes, welding torches, and jacks and hoists. These tools usually are owned by their employers.
Service technicians also use many common hand tools, such as wrenches, pliers, and sockets and ratchets. Service technicians generally own these tools themselves. In fact, experienced workers often have thousands of dollars invested in their personal tool collection. For example, some invest in their own set of pneumatic tools—such as impact wrenches—powered by compressed air.
The following are examples of types of service technicians:
Automotive air-conditioning technicians install and repair air-conditioners and parts, such as compressors, condensers, and controls. These workers must be trained and certified in handling refrigerants.
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. (See “Front-end technicians.”)
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.
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.
Service technicians stand for most of the day, and they typically work in well-ventilated and well-lit repair shops. Although technicians often identify and fix automotive problems with computers, they commonly work with greasy parts and tools, sometimes in uncomfortable positions.
How to become an Automotive Service Technician or Mechanic
Employers prefer that automotive service technicians and mechanics complete a program at a postsecondary institution. Industry certification is usually 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 typically need further training to become fully qualified.
Completing a vocational or other postsecondary 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 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 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.
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.
The median annual wage for automotive service technicians and mechanics was $42,090 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,400, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $68,880.
Employment of automotive service technicians and mechanics is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.
The number of vehicles already in use is expected to continue to rise, and some service technicians will still be needed to perform basic maintenance and repair tasks, such as replacing brake pads and changing oil. Increasingly, however, new vehicles are being built with interconnected sensors, cameras, and instruments that allow for predictive maintenance and remote diagnosis, thus reducing maintenance workhours.
Similar Job Titles
ASE Master Mechanic (Automotive Service Excellence Master Mechanic), Automotive Drivability Technician, Automotive Mechanic (Auto Mechanic), Automotive Service Technician, Certified ASE Master Automotive Technician (Certified Automotive Service Excellence Master Automotive Technician), Master Automotive Technician, Master Technician, Mechanic, Transmission Rebuilder
Electric Motor, Power Tool and Related Repairers; Electronic Equipment Installers and Repairers, Motor Vehicles; Farm Equipment Mechanics and Service Technicians; Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics (except Engines); Motorboat Mechanics and Service Technicians
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Automotive Maintenance and Repair Association
- International Association of General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program
- National Automobile Dealers Association
- National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence
- SAE International
It may be tempting to tinker with your car on your own when it breaks down, but for most people, the only solution is to bring it in to an automotive service technician or mechanic. These technicians troubleshoot automobile problems. They inspect vehicles like a detective seeking clues… and replace old parts with the precision of a surgeon. While they use computers to diagnose some issues… inspecting parts and systems as they run through a long checklist…is typical. Mechanics also have a knack for translating car jargon for car owners who need advice on repair decisions. Service technicians work with a variety of tools and grease-covered auto parts… sometimes in uncomfortable positions. Standing all day, lifting heavy objects…. work for mechanics is physically demanding; they must take steps to prevent injuries. Mechanics work in car dealerships, auto repair shops, or may opt for self-employment. It is common for them to work on weekends, holidays, and to put in overtime. Employers prefer to hire technicians who have completed a vocational or post-secondary education program in automotive service technology, and they may also want you to earn industry certification later. It’s just the first step to a career where you can let your passion… drive you.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org