For those who have an affinity for cars, trucks, or motorcycles, becoming an auto mechanic may be the right choice for you. Auto mechanics help customers identify problems, create work plans, test parts and systems, and perform various repair and maintenance activities to ensure safe and efficient operation of the vehicle being examined.
The work involves a variety of hands-on, mechanical skills along with the ability to work with various computerized diagnostic systems and inventory tracking systems. Certain technicians choose to specialize in certain areas, such as brake systems or transmissions, or work in a more general capacity.
In the state of Florida, there are certification requirements in order to perform the work of a mechanic, but many shops prefer, if not require, their employees to have a minimum standard of education, certification, or experience in order to be considered qualified.
Most educational options for auto mechanics will be available at technical schools or community colleges and may be offered under the program name of Automotive Technology. These programs are designed to give you an opportunity to learn a variety of skills that may apply to different portions of the automotive repair industry.
Many programs offer the chance to specialize based on your vehicle preferences. For example, passenger cars and trucks may have different requirements from those of larger vehicles, such as heavy trucks and buses. For example, individual classes may be offered for gas and diesel engines as there are different requirements for working on each.
Automotive technology programs will cover most major areas in regard to automotive maintenance and repair. For example, you will likely learn the skills required to rebuild and engine, repair drive train components such as the transmission, and repair heating and cooling systems. Additional electrical skills will help you troubleshoot on-board computing systems as well as other electronic systems such as the operation of power doors, windows, and locks. Basic maintenance including oil changes and tune ups is included, as well as more specialty maintenance such as brake line flushing, and issues regarding the alignment and suspension.
The length of time required to complete the program will vary depending on the institution selected as well as the chosen program. Certain certificate programs can be completed relatively quickly, but may not provide the same level of in-depth knowledge of those that result in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Certain shops may offer on the job training to aspiring mechanics or those who are looking to expand their knowledge and skill sets. In circumstances where a person comes in with no specific experience, the starting tasks that may be assigned will likely be simpler in nature, as well as more routine. This can include basics like completing oil changes, replacing certain fluids, and rotating tires.
Certifications and Specialties
Outside from any certificates or degrees you may receive through formal education, there is a vast array of professional certifications available. One of the most desirable sources of general skills certifications are issued by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). The ASE certifications are often designed to build upon on another, with master status being available for completing all of the required certifications within a series. Certifications, even those within the same series, do not have to be completed in one session. Depending on the length of the examination, it may be appropriate to only take one during a specific test date. Additionally, since recertification will require an additional examination, some may prefer to spread out certifications in order to spread out the subsequent examinations.
Auto Maintenance and Light Repair
The auto maintenance and light repair certification asserts that you can perform the more common automobile maintenance activities along with light repairs. The test will cover topics including light engine repair, transmission and transaxle repair, and issues relating to the brakes, electrical, heating and air conditioning, steering, and suspension.
Automobile and Light Truck
The automobile and light truck certification tests are referred to as the A series, and are ordered as follows; engine repair, automatic transmission/transaxle, manual drive train and axles, suspension and steering, brakes, electrical/electronic systems, heating and air conditioning, engine performance, and light vehicle diesel engines. Each section results in an individual certification. If the first eight sections (A1 – A8) are completed, you can be awarded a master status certification.
Collision Repair and Refinish
The B series for collision repair and refinish reviews the knowledge and skills necessary to perform repairs on collision damage including applying the correct paint finish. The topics covered are painting and refinishing, non-structural analysis and damage repair, structural analysis and damage repair, and mechanical and electrical components. If all four sections are completed, you can be awarded master status
Damage Analysis and Estimating
This special subsection of the B series focuses on the proper assessment and estimation of automotive damage after a collision. It only contains one examination and is intended only for those who may be required to provide estimation services during the course of business. This test does require a minimum of two years of experience working in the areas of damage analysis and estimating repairs.
Automobile Service Consultant
The automobile service consultant certification consists of a single examination desired combines the knowledge of an auto mechanic with the customer-based skills necessary to provide consultation services. As with the damage analysis and estimating certification, two years of on-the-job experience is required in the area of service writing.
The truck equipment certifications are contained in the E series, and focuses on the installation, maintenance, and repair skills needed to work on various truck equipment systems. The tests offered include truck equipment installation and repair, electrical/electronic systems installation and repair, and auxiliary power systems installation and repair. A master certification can be obtained by those who successfully complete all three sections.
The alternate fuels certification relates solely to the repair and maintenance of compressed natural gas vehicles. This covers the skills and techniques required to diagnose and repair leaking systems, proper inspection, cylinder safety, emissions, and other areas of maintenance.
The H series applies solely to performing work on transit buses. It is divided into eight sections; compressed natural gas engines, diesel engines, drive train, brakes, suspension and steering, electrical/electronic systems, heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), and preventative maintenance and inspection. In order to be considered a master, either test H1 or H2 must be completed, along with all of the tests from H3 to H8.
Advanced Engine Performance Specialist
Designed to test for the knowledge needed to troubleshoot and repair more advanced engine issues, the advanced engine performance specialist examination reviews information regarding issues of drive-ability and emissions. This includes questions about computerize power train controls, emission controls, ignition systems, and other power train issues. Prior to being eligible for the examination, the successful completion of the automobile engine performance test (A8) is required.
Electronic Diesel Engine Diagnosis Specialist
The electronic diesel engine diagnosis specialist certification focuses solely on the knowledge and skills required to work on diesel engines. This includes a variety of diagnostic techniques as well as maintenance and repair on the fuel and exhaust systems, engine air induction, and engine controls specific to the operation of diesel engines. In order to be eligible for this certification, you must complete one of four other diesel engine certifications and one of four other electrical/electronic systems certifications.
Light Duty Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Specialist
The light duty hybrid/electrical vehicle specialist certification specializes on the maintenance and repair of hybrid/electric vehicles as well as diagnostic skills. This includes the aspects related to the battery system as well as internal combustion engine components. The prerequisites for this examination are the automobile electrical/electronic systems (A6) certification and the engine performance (A8) certification.
A parts specialist certification test covers three areas; medium-heavy truck parts specialist, automobile parts specialist, and general motor parts consultant. Along with completing the required examination, two years of work experience in the specialty are also required.
The school bus certifications asserts the technician can successfully perform repairs and maintenance on the Type A, B, C, and D school bus subsystems. It is composed of seven separate certifications including body systems and special equipment, diesel engines, drive train, brakes, suspension and steering, electrical/electronic systems, and air conditioning systems and controls. In order to qualify for a maser classification, the first six certifications (S1 – S6) must be obtained.
Composed of eight certifications, the medium-heavy truck certifications ensure a mechanic can perform work on the systems of Class 4 through Class 8 trucks and tractors. Individual certifications are available in gasoline engines, diesel engines, drive train, brakes, suspension and steering, electrical/electronic systems, HVAC, and preventative maintenance inspection. Starting in 2017, a technician must complete the last seven sections (T2 – T8) in order to qualify for master status.
Undercar Specialist Exhaust Systems
An undercar specialist certification demonstrates extensive knowledge of the exhaust systems associated with automobiles, as well as the ability to diagnose and repair issues relating to the brakes, suspension and steering. In order to qualify for this examination, the successful completion of the automobile suspension and steering (A4) and the automobile brakes (A5) certifications must be obtained, along with two years of hands-on experience.
In order to maintain any ASE certifications, you must retest every five years. For the majority of recertification examinations, the duration will be shorter than the original certification test. Any examination that has prerequisites will still require the technician to be currently certified in those areas before a recertification examination will be scheduled.
Work Environment and Conditions
The majority of an auto mechanics work will be performed in a shop environment. A shop may be an independent business, located within a car dealership, or part of a maintenance or parts chain. For diesel specialists, there may be additional opportunities in state and local government, such as transportation departments, as well as truck transportation companies or certain whole trade companies.
Work hours are generally during the day, though evenings and weekends may be required depending on the workplace. Some work sites, such as those located in truck stops or bus depots, may provide services 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, many opportunities will be full time, and overtime may be required to meet certain deadlines or production quotas.
Proper attire may designated by the worksite, and can include branded items, such as polo shirts or coveralls, or may be more casual as long as the general look is appropriate for the business. The tasks can be labor intensive, including a lot of lifting, twisting, and bending as well as the need to lift heavy parts and tools.
It is common to be exposed to dirt and grease on vehicle bodies, parts and on the various forms of tools and equipment used during the maintenance and repair process. The environment may also be loud depending on which tools are used, and temperature control options may be limited in cases where bays tend to remain open or a high level of ventilation is required.
The need for auto mechanics and service technicians is expected to grow 5 percent nationwide between 2014 and 2024 with projected employment numbers ultimately reaching 779,000 by 2024. The median annual wage for auto mechanics within the U.S. reached $37,850 in 2015, but those who specialize in diesel can see a median wage of $44,520. For those considering a career in the field, the highest 10 percent of technicians earn above $63,330 and $66,940 for those focused on general auto or diesel repair, respectively.
While some auto mechanics will choose to work in established shops, approximately one in 10 were self-employed in 2015. Not only does this potentially increase the level of earnings one may make, it also provides additional control over your personal schedule. In order to operate an automotive repair shop in the state of Florida, all requirements of operating a business must be met. This can include the need for a specific business license as well as permits for the type of work involved.