Automotive technicians are responsible for performing routine maintenance such as tire balancing and oil changes to various types of vans, cars, trucks and other vehicles. Their work includes diagnosing automobile problems, communicating with vehicle owners about the problem and repairing damaged parts. To do their work effectively, automotive technicians use a variety of equipments, such as pneumatic tools used in removing bolts, voltage meters, wrenches, hoists, jacks, pressure gauges and computer systems, among others.
Tasks of an automotive technician include, but are not limited to, accurately diagnosing source of problems; writing estimates for vehicle damage repair; securing customer approval before repairing vehicles; installing systems, components and equipments; testing vehicles before and after repairing; repairing worn mechanical components and electrical fixtures, circuits and wiring; maintaining service records; rebuilding or replacing defective tailpipes, mufflers, brakeshoes, wheelbearings, balljoint suspensions and clutch systems; adjusting defective gasoline filters and carburetor parts; converting fuel systems from gasoline to butane; inspecting new vehicles for damage; aligning wheels, frames, axles, torsion bars or steering mechanisms; as well as installing and adjusting hydraulic lift mechanisms.
When an automotive technician specializes in certain types of repairs, such as automotive air-conditioning, front-end mechanics, tune-up, transmission and brakes, his/her task will focus on that particular problem or vehicle part alone.
Education and Training Requirements
Traditionally, automotive technicians can work with a high school diploma and practical experience, but due to growing technologies in this field, employers are increasingly looking for candidates with formal training in automotive service technology from vocational or community colleges. Those with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree have an advantage in this field. It would take about 5 years of practical experience and an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification to become a fully qualified automotive technician. Complex specialties, such as engines or transmission repair, require additional training and certification. Advancement in this field is possible once technicians have passed all 8 ASE certification exams and receive Master Automobile Technician designation.
Knowledge and Skills Requirements
Important skills in this field include problem-solving and decision-making skills, technical writing skills, excellent customer service and interpersonal skills, and possess manual dexterity, flexibility and enough strength to work in uncomfortable positions for long periods.
Most automotive technicians work 40 hours a week, but may work longer hours in some occasions. Some may be assigned to work on night shifts or weekends, particularly if the shop offers 24-hour service. They work in well-lighted and well-ventilated shops, equipped with computers, heavy tools, greasy parts and a wide range of tools. Minor injuries in the workplace are common, but serious accidents are avoided by following basic safety practices.
The annual median salary of automotive technicians range between $23,000 and $44,000 per year, with the lowest 10% earning $17,000 annually and the highest 10% taking home up to $53,000 per year.