Automotive mechanics perform a variety of tasks, repairs, and routine maintenance on vehicles. Auto mechanics must have a complete knowledge of the full workings of all parts, components, and systems within a vehicle to ensure that the car or truck functions properly. Auto mechanics source and repair a variety of mechanical and electrical issues, problems and malfunctions with automobiles and light trucks. Additionally, auto mechanics must be able to understand and safely operate a number of tools, computers, and other technologies to source problems and make repairs. Automotive mechanics are required to repair and improve the overall performance of vehicles and perform a far range of functions from basic vehicle maintenance tasks like oil changes to tire rotations, as well as diagnose malfunctions of more complex systems like electrical issues, computers, engines, transmissions, brakes, fuel, or heating/air conditioning problems.
As automobile technologies have become increasingly complex, training to qualify as an automotive mechanic requires a substantial time investment, sound hand/eye coordination, and a number of technical skills to utilize manuals, computerized machines, and power tools. The work of an automobile mechanic has evolved to meet the demands of increasingly sophisticated, high level technology based vehicles in comparison to the simple mechanical repairs of the past. Most automobiles operate with integrated electronic systems and increasingly complex computer systems. As a result, automobile mechanics have increasingly difficult tasks of working with computerized repair or diagnostic equipment, digital reference materials, digital manuals, and other electronic components as well as the hand and power tools necessary to complete simple repairs. Most automotive mechanics are required to source mechanical or electrical problems based upon an owner’s explanation or reports from a repair service technician.
Auto mechanics are required to possess a diverse range of skills and possess experience to qualify for employment. Entry level auto mechanics face high competition for jobs and as a result, most employers prefer to hire candidates who have work experience and who have completed an apprenticeship or who have been formally trained within high school or vocational automotive service technology programs. Most employers seek candidates who have completed Automotive Youth Education Service programs certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Many programs require a minimum of a 6 month to one year time investment and require students to possess a minimum of a high school diploma or G.E.D. as well as their own tools. Some employers assist with the expense of purchasing the power and hand tools needed to begin entry level automotive mechanic work.
High school students interest in establishing careers as an automotive mechanic may prepare by participating in courses like: physics, chemistry, English, computers, and mathematics. Some high schools also offer students the ability to complete studies within automotive repair programs through trade or technical school programs. Most high school graduates advance to apprenticeship programs or continue studies within certificate programs, community college programs, or training programs offered by automobile manufacurers or franchised dealerships. Students who enter trade or vocational school programs generally complete studies within six months and gain required knowledge and experience through the combination of hands on practice and classroom instruction. Some community colleges offer one year certificate programs or two year associate degree programs in automotive repair. Most offer courses including: basic mathematics, English, computers, customer service, and business related course Most training programs sponsored by automobile manufactures and dealerships allow students to work full time while attending classes to gain on the job training in addition to learning classroom theories and techniques.
Apprenticeship programs offer students the ability to begin employment within entry level automotive jobs as trainee technicians, lubrication workers, or technician’s helpers. Individuals within apprenticeships generally develop skills working closely with highly trained mechanics and technicians. Individuals begin with simple repair or service duties and advance to more complex work as they develop skills. Apprenticeship programs generally require two to five years of on the job training before individuals advance to journey level, fully qualified automotive mechanic positions.
Associate degree programs in automotive technology offer students interested in careers as automotive mechanics an expanded understanding of the field as well as the technical skills required to advance to positions within various organizations. Courses include: fundamentals of public speaking, English composition, concepts in mathematics, physical science, steering and suspension systems, engine principles and design, engine performance, electrical and electronics, braking systems, manual drivetrains, climate control systems, engine performance, service shop operations, financial accounting, body repair, automotive paint fundamentals, collision damage analysis and repair, conventional frame diagnosis and correction, auto body power tools, auto body hydraulic tools, auto body circuits, auto paint lab, unibody repair lab, conventional frame and unibody structural analysis, automotive body welding, automotive painting technology, collision damage appraising, fiberglass plastic repair, unibody structural analysis, principles of alternative/renewable energies, liquid propane gas, compressed natural gas, engine repair, powertrain service, automatic transmission, small engine maintenance, diesel engine theory, alternative fuels installation and application, vehicle diagnosis and service, driveability diagnosis, racing suspension systems, composite fabrication, dynamometer testing and analysis, blueprint and CAD basics for motor sports, introduction to business, principles of management, business development, computer fundamentals for technology, principles of marketing, motorsports machining,introduction to motorsports, and biomass, biogas, micro-turbine technology.
Automotive mechanics may advance to bachelor degree programs in automotive technology management to increase knowledge and skills. Courses include: automotive electrical systems, engine theory and maintenance, contemporary power systems, fuel systems and emission control, steering and suspension systems, automotive braking systems, automotive electrical systems, computerized engine diagnostics, advanced powerplant systems, diesel technology, hydraulics and pneumatics, advanced vehicle systems, applied electricity, basic statistics, applied calculus, internship in technology, technical writing, industrial management, management of organizations, survey of accounting, principles of financial accounting, legal environment of business, marketing policy, human resource management, mobile HVAC, automotive engine overhaul, transmissions and drivelines, basic AutoCAD, fundamentals of drafting, introduction to computer aided drafting, CAD for engineering technology, industrial design, statistics, engineering material science, machine tool technology, robotics and automation, quality systems engineering, human resource management, human factors, engineering, quality control management, project management, organizational dynamics, principles of advertising, and professional sales. Individuals interested in obtaining a graduate degree must complete studies within a a related field, like automotive engineering, as higher degrees in automotive mechanics do not exist.
Automotive mechanics are required to continue education in order to remain current of changing automobile technologies. Many are required to attend manufacturing training programs to understand and perform repairs on specialized components, expand skills, and upgrade skills. Additionally, employers often prefer candidates who are certified by the Acquiring National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Candidates with a minimum of two years work experience may certify within 8 areas including: electrical systems, brake systems, suspension and steering, engine repair, and heating and air conditioning.
Individuals who demonstrate their skills, administrative abilities, and knowledge of automobiles often advance to positions as service managers or supervisors, automotive repair service estimators, or vocational school or community college level educators. Many also may also establish self owned repair shops upon securing adequate funding and gaining relevant training and experience. Many self employed automotive mechanics work long hours and most work a minimum of a 40 hour week, including some weekdays, evenings, and weekends. Many auto mechanics find their jobs physically demanding yet rewarding. Candidates who increase knowledge through training programs and work experiences often find increased employability in comparision to candidates with less training and experience.