What is it Like to Be an Auto Mechanic?
There continues to be good demand for automotive service technicians, diesel technicians, and body and collision repair workers. Cars and trucks will always need maintenance and repairs, and this is why working as a mechanic continues to be a lucrative and stable career. But, before you commit to completing an education and training program, know what you’re getting into and what it’s really like to work in this field every day.
Where Mechanics Work
If you train and learn to become a mechanic you will have a few options for where you want to work. About one-third of service technicians work for dealerships. These mechanics may have had general training, but often they completed a manufacturer-specific program, such as one for Ford trucks or Honda vehicles. About one-quarter of mechanics work in service shops, doing maintenance and repair work.
A handful of mechanics are self-employed, usually owners of their own shops, and about nine percent of mechanics work in auto parts stores or tire stores. Diesel and truck mechanics work in the transportation or trucking industry, in wholesale and for government agencies.
Daily Duties of Auto Mechanics and Service Technicians
Regardless of where they work, most mechanics have similar responsibilities and daily duties. These include working on vehicles and also working with customers. The job is a blend of hands-on physical work and customer relations. Some typical duties include:
- Determining the source of a vehicle problem, often using computer diagnostics
- Fixing vehicles, often by replacing or repairing parts
- Performing maintenance tasks, such as changing oil or rotating tires
- Creating and following flow charts and work procedures
- Using technical manuals
- Following checklists to ensure all steps are taken or parts examined
- Inspecting vehicles and parts
- Communicating with parts manufacturers and dealerships
- Explaining repairs and issues to customers
- Understanding and complying with state requirements and standards
Mechanical Work is Physically Demanding
Before becoming an auto service technician, it is important to understand how physical the work is. You can expect to be standing for most of the day and getting into uncomfortable positions to access certain parts or areas of a vehicle. The work is also dirty, with oil and grease on tools, parts, hands and clothes at the end of the day. Illness and injury rates are fairly high for mechanics because of the heavy parts and tools they work with and manipulate on a daily basis.
The Tools of a Mechanic
Mechanics and technicians do their work with tools. From diagnostic computers and large, hydraulic lifts to wrenches and pliers, mechanics need to know and use a wide variety of tools. Depending on where you work, you may be responsible for bringing your own tools to the job. In most cases, mechanics work with large, expensive tools that are owned by the shop or dealership, but own the smaller tools they bring to work every day.
New Technologies and Electronics
While the work of a mechanic is largely hands-on and mechanical, vehicles increasingly rely on computers and electronics to run. Service technicians and mechanics need to be more aware than ever of how these newer technologies work and how to maintain and repair them. As a mechanic, you can expect to work with computer systems, electric vehicles, hybrids and fuel cells. You will be expected to be constantly learning and keeping up-to-date with changing technologies.
In this career, you have the opportunity to become a small business owner, opening your own shop and being self-employed. This brings a whole range of additional responsibilities, including hiring qualified workers and overseeing them, getting insured, buying tools, resolving customer issues, inventorying and buying supplies and making sure the shop runs according to state laws that govern auto mechanics.
Working as a service technician, a mechanic or a diesel technician means working in a field that requires specific skills. These professionals have knowledge and skills that other people do not. They spend hours every day doing very physical and demanding work. If you enjoy hands-on work, problem solving and working with people, this could be a great career choice.