Automotive mechanics or automotive service technicians source, repair, and resolve problems with cars and light trucks. Auto mechanics repair mechanical issues and work with various electronic systems, computers, and other forms of technology to fix vehicles which have broken down. As automobile technologies have grown increasingly complex, automotive mechanics must learn how all parts and systems within a vehicle work together to ensure proper function. Auto mechanics inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks which run on gasoline, electricity, or alternative fuels. Automotive mechanics use a variety of power and hand tools, manuals, and computerized machines to improve performance of cars or trucks.
Auto mechanics work a 40 hour week within an automotive service or repair shop. Most repair shops are open on weekdays, with some evening and weekend hours. Self employed automotive mechanics work long hours. All auto mechanics work with greasy, dirty parts and are usually required to lift heavy parts and tools. Though automotive mechanics are required to follow strict safety practices, they often suffer minor cuts, burns, and bruises. To reduce work related injuries, most repair shops are clean and well organized.
Auto mechanics provide basic vehicle maintenance, like oil changes and tire rotations, and also diagnose more difficult problems with brake or fuel systems, engine or transmissions, or heating/air conditioning systems. Automotive mechanics check and service critical parts of automobiles, including belts, hoses, plugs, brake systems, and fuel systems to ensure proper function. The field of auto mechanics has evolved from simple mechanical repairs to much more sophisticated, high level technology work. As today’s automobiles utilize integrated electronic systems and highly complex computers, mechanics are required to work with computerized repair and diagnostic equipment, digital manuals, digital reference materials, and electronic components – all in addition to the ability to utilize traditional hand tools. Automotive mechanics also create and execute plans to resolve difficult repairs. Auto mechanics detect mechanical or electrical problems based upon the vehicle owner’s description or from a repair service estimator or service advisor. Automotive mechanics diagnose performance issues by isolating components or systems which may be the source of the problem. Auto mechanics then determine if components and systems are functioning properly and are secure. Once the problem is detected, mechanics check for simple or complex issues by using various forms of testing equipment, like onboard and hand held diagnostic computers or compression gauges, to ascertain whether a component can be salvaged or must be replaced.
Mechanics also perform routine service inspections following checklists to examine critical parts of engine and other major systems. Mechanics often repair or replace worn parts to prevent breakdowns or damages to the automobile, paying close attention to all belts, hoses, plugs, brakes, and fuel systems. Mechanics use common hand tools, like screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches, as well as power tools, like pneumatic wrenches, lathes, grinding machines, welding equipment, engine analyzers, and flame cutting equipment. Most mechanics are required to possess their own tools. Experienced workers invest thousands of dollars in work related tools and equipment and most repair shops provide the more expensive power tools, computers, and diagnostic equipment.
Modern repair shops rely on computers for readouts from computerized diagnostic testing devices based upon manufacturer standards, to indicate deviations from acceptable levels. Mechanics then investigate and make necessary repairs based upon the readouts. Automotive mechanics also use computers to receive updated technical manuals or technical service bulletins, access manufacturer service information, learn new procedures, and search databases for common problems. As the systems and components of automobiles have grown increasingly complex, most repair shops and automobile mechanics specialize in different types of repairs, including transmissions, tune ups, brake systems, fuel systems, alignment, suspensions, heating and air conditioning systems, and other aspects of automobile systems.
Entry level auto mechanic jobs are highly competitive. Generally employers prefer candidates who have completed a vocational program in automotive service technology. Individuals interested in a career as an auto mechanic must be formally trained through a high school program, apprenticeship program, or a technical school. Given the diversity of skills learned from high school automotive repair programs, many graduates need further training to qualify for jobs as auto mechanics. Students who participate in Automotive Youth Education Service (AYES) programs certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence are preferred for entry level mechanic positions. Most automotive mechanic training programs require a 6 month to year long time investment, though community colleges offer two year programs. Auto mechanics must obtain a high school diploma or G.E.D. and must generally purchase their own tools before beginning work at a beginner or entry level job. Some employers and training programs assist with the purchase of various power and hand tools necessary for automotive mechanic work.