What Does an Auto Mechanic Do?
More than 90% of American households own a vehicle, so it’s no surprise that the people who keep them running are in high demand.
Auto mechanics — also known as automotive technicians and auto service technicians — inspect, maintain and repair cars and light trucks. They perform a wide variety of services including computer diagnostics, safety inspections and maintenance tasks like oil changes. They repair brakes, air conditioning, suspension, emission systems and more.
As cars and trucks evolve, automotive technicians increasingly use highly sophisticated equipment and computer software. But that doesn’t mean the computer solves the problem for you! It just means you need to be comfortable with the technology that makes working with modern cars possible. (Think of an iPhone, but on wheels.)
If you’re good at troubleshooting and have a willingness to learn, this could be a rewarding career. Keep reading to learn more.
- Perform diagnostic tests on vehicles via tablet, laptop or mobile device
- Decipher vehicle issues and determine which parts need repair
- Perform preventative maintenance and repairs
- Test drive vehicles
- Effectively communicate to customers about needed repairs
- Understand wiring diagrams and system tests
How To Become An Auto Mechanic: FAQs
What steps do I need to take?
For an entry-level or apprentice position, you’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent. Classes in high school science, math and basic reasoning will help prepare you for training. If you’ve always been interested in cars or trucks, offer to help out at a local repair shop doing detailing or other tasks that put you in the environment.
Now it’s time to get specialized training. There are several ways to do that, including trade and technical schools, community colleges, university training, employer-provided training or the military.
Community colleges and trade school offer programs that include coursework and hands-on training. Classes include mathematics, electronics and automotive repair. Programs like this take less time to complete than a four-year degree and give you a head-start on building wealth. (Check out the other reasons to choose trade school instead of college.)
Many of these programs are connected with local employers who run apprenticeship or internship programs. Some independent repair shops provide on-the-job training as the employee works toward certification, which we’ll cover shortly. Dealerships also offer in-house manufacturer training that's specific to a particular brand of vehicle.
Finally, military training can be an excellent way to prepare for this career. It provides great experience working on different types of engines and vehicles. To translate that experience to the civilian world, use the GI Bill to help pay for training and earn a degree or certificate.
No matter which path you take, you’ll need to earn certification. Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification is considered the highest standard, and most employers look for this proof of expertise. ASE entry-level certification covers eight areas, including brakes, engine repair and all the major systems.
After you pass the ASE test, you’ll become a certified professional technician.
You can earn additional certifications for specialty areas such as electronics, air conditioning, alternative fuels or diesel engines. Additional certifications translate into additional income opportunities.
Are there any other qualifications?
You’ll need a driver’s license to test-drive vehicles.
How long does it take to become an auto mechanic? And what are their hours?
It usually takes two to three years of training and work experience to become a certified automotive technician. A bachelor's degree takes four years. Continuing education is ongoing.
Most mechanics work in repair shops full-time and during normal business hours.
Is there a demand for auto mechanics?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts about 73,300 annual openings for automotive service technicians and mechanics from 2021 to 2031.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
Most auto technicians have a lot of interaction with customers. Successful auto mechanics tend to share these traits:
- Good communication skills
- Good attention to detail
- Excellent problem-solving and troubleshooting skills
- Keen sense of hearing
- An aptitude for mechanical work
- Good eye-hand coordination and dexterity