As an auto mechanic, your job may include routine servicing, replacing car parts, maintaining its performance, or giving it a complete overhaul. Postsecondary degree programs in automotive technology are strongly recommended, and certification is advantageous as it is a highly competitive field.
Auto mechanics normally inspect, maintain or repair any of a vehicle's systems, from its body to engines and electrical or computer systems. Some employers only require a high school diploma and provide on-the-job training to mechanics, while others require the completion of a formal educational program that includes coursework and hands-on practice working with vehicles. Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification is commonly required after mechanics begin working.
|Required Education||On-the-job training and/or diploma, certificate or associate's degree related to automotive service technology|
|Other Requirements||ASE certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||5% (as fast as average)|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$37,850 annually|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Duties of an Auto Mechanic
The first task for an auto mechanic professional is to provide the customer with an estimate of the work and cost required to make a vehicle safe and operational without adding unnecessary procedures or inflating costs. Auto mechanics inspect, maintain and repair automobiles, including cars, SUVs and pickups. Generally, auto mechanics limit their work to automobiles that run on gasoline; diesel vehicles and heavy equipment are handled by diesel mechanics.
Auto mechanics may work for a general mechanic shop that deals with a large variety of vehicle problems and systems. Alternatively, specializations are available in areas such as body work, alternator repair and rebuilding engines, electrical systems or brakes.
Routine inspection and maintenance includes such tasks as checking tire pressure, changing engine oil, checking and replacing spark plugs, wires and distributor caps or ensuring the reliability of the vehicle's brakes. Troubleshooting and repairs may include diagnosing and fixing problems with any part of a vehicle, such as body work, paint jobs, and the vehicle's computer or electronics.
As automobile parts and systems have become increasingly complex, auto mechanics' jobs have begun to change more and more rapidly, and their job title has often been revised to 'automotive service technician.' Professional auto mechanics diagnose problems by using on-board diagnostics in a vehicle's computer or plug-in diagnostic systems, as well as through observation of sounds, smells and the behavior of the vehicle.
Other tools available to an auto mechanic include heavy equipment, such as lifts, air tools, lathes and mill work machines that refinish valve seats, along with special equipment to mount and dismount tires. They also work with hazardous solvents and a great assortment of hand tools.
If you want to be an auto mechanic, you must be able to handle the highly physical work in addition to possessing analysis skills and great attention to detail. Because of the intense competition in this field, it would be wise to earn an associate degree and possibly a certification to increase the chances of employment.