Automotive mechanics are responsible for servicing and repairing motor vehicles. At various times, their work may involve inspection of problems, routine or preventive maintenance, replacement of parts, diagnostic troubleshooting, performance testing, and/or vehicle repair.
Mechanics make use of a wide variety of tools, ranging from traditional hand tools to larger power tools to the computerized shop equipment needed for interfacing with the integrated electronic systems and complex computers which regulate most of today’s vehicles. During routine service inspections, mechanics will test and if necessary, repair or replace worn parts using a checklist to ensure that they examine every critical part. To handle more intensive repair jobs, mechanics may need to replace or overhaul major systems or components of the vehicle. Troubleshooting problems on many of today’s vehicles often requires a mechanic to compare readouts from a computerized diagnostic testing device with benchmarked standards provided by the manufacturer.
Education, Certification, Licensing
Strictly speaking, there are no mandated educational requirements for becoming an automotive mechanic. Some mechanics still learn the trade by assisting and learning from experienced workers. However, successful completion of a vocational training program in automotive service technology in high school or in a postsecondary vocational school or community college is highly recommended.
Courses in math, physics, and to an increasingly important degree, electronics and computer science, will be extremely helpful. Even those who graduate from a formal automotive training program will still need a year or two of experience to become a fully qualified automotive mechanic. Complex specialties, such as air conditioning or transmission repair, normally require another year or two of training and/or experience.A standard credential for automotive mechanics is the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification. While not mandatory for automotive service work, certification is becoming increasingly common to the point where today there are about 400,000 certified professionals.
Certification can be earned in one or more of 8 different areas of automotive service (e.g., engine repair, brake systems, electrical systems, etc.) and is based on a combination of education/experience and the ability to pass a certification exam. Those who are skilled in multiple auto repair services and would like to increase their marketability as an all-around mechanic can pursue ASE certification in all eight areas, which will earn them the designation of Master Automobile Technician.