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What Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics Do About this section

Automotive service technicians and mechanics
Automotive service technicians and mechanics perform oil changes on vehicles.

Automotive service technicians and mechanics, often called service technicians or service techs, inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks.

Duties

Automotive service technicians and mechanics typically do the following:

  • Identify problems, often by using computerized diagnostic equipment
  • Plan work procedures, using charts, technical manuals, and experience
  • Test parts and systems to ensure that they work properly
  • Follow checklists to ensure that all critical parts are examined
  • Perform basic care and maintenance, including changing oil, checking fluid levels, and rotating tires
  • Repair or replace worn parts, such as brake pads, wheel bearings, and sensors
  • Perform repairs to manufacturer and customer specifications
  • Explain automotive problems and repairs to clients

Although service technicians work on traditional mechanical systems, such as engines, transmissions, and drivebelts, they also must be familiar with a growing number of electronic systems. Braking, transmission, and steering systems, for example, are controlled primarily by computers and electronic components.

Other integrated electronic systems, such as accident-avoidance sensors, are becoming common as well. In addition, a growing number of technicians are required to work on vehicles that use electricity or alternative fuels, such as ethanol.

Service technicians use many different tools, including computerized diagnostic tools and power tools such as pneumatic wrenches, lathes, welding torches, and jacks and hoists. These tools usually are owned by their employers.

Service technicians also use many common hand tools, such as wrenches, pliers, and sockets and ratchets. Service technicians generally own these tools themselves. In fact, experienced workers often have thousands of dollars invested in their personal tool collection. For example, some invest in their own set of pneumatic tools—such as impact wrenches—powered by compressed air.

The following are examples of types of service technicians:

Automotive air-conditioning technicians install and repair air-conditioners and parts, such as compressors, condensers, and controls. These workers must be trained and certified in handling refrigerants.

Brake technicians diagnose brake system problems, adjust brakes, replace brake rotors and pads, and make other repairs on brake systems. Some technicians specialize in both brake and front-end work. (See “Front-end technicians.”)

Drivability technicians, also known as diagnostic technicians, use their extensive knowledge of engine management and fuel, electrical, ignition, and emissions systems to diagnose issues that prevent engines from performing efficiently. They often use the onboard diagnostic system of a car and electronic testing equipment such as scan tools and multimeters to find the malfunction.

Front-end technicians diagnose ride, handling, and tire wear problems. To correct these problems, they frequently use special alignment equipment and wheel-balancing machines.

Transmission technicians and rebuilders work on gear trains, couplings, hydraulic pumps, and other parts of transmissions. An extensive knowledge of computer controls and the ability to diagnose electrical and hydraulic problems are needed to work on these complex components.

Technicians who work on large trucks and buses are described in the diesel service technicians and mechanics profile.

Technicians who work on farm equipment, construction vehicles, and railcars are described in the heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians profile.

Technicians who repair and service motorcycles, motorboats, and small all-terrain vehicles are described in the profile on small engine mechanics.

Work Environment About this section

Automotive service technicians and mechanics
Automotive service technicians and mechanics keep records of diagnostic tests and repairs.

Automotive service technicians and mechanics held about 756,600 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of automotive service technicians and mechanics were as follows:

Automobile dealers 33%
Automotive mechanical and electrical repair and maintenance 27
Self-employed workers 13
Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores 8

Service technicians stand for most of the day, and they typically work in well-ventilated and well-lit repair shops. Although technicians often identify and fix automotive problems with computers, they commonly work with greasy parts and tools, sometimes in uncomfortable positions.

Work Schedules

Most service technicians work full time, and many work evenings or weekends. Overtime is common.

Injuries and Illnesses

Automotive service technicians and mechanics frequently work with heavy parts and tools. As a result, workplace injuries, such as small cuts, sprains, and bruises, are common.

How to Become an Automotive Service Technician or Mechanic About this section

Automotive service technicians and mechanics
Automotive service technicians and mechanics learn from more experienced workers.

Employers prefer that automotive service technicians and mechanics complete a program at a postsecondary institution. Industry certification is usually required once the person is employed.

Education

High school courses in automotive repair, electronics, computers, and mathematics provide a good background for prospective service technicians. However, high school graduates typically need further training to become fully qualified.

Completing a vocational or other postsecondary education program in automotive service technology is considered the best preparation for entry-level positions. Programs usually last 6 months to a year and provide intensive career preparation through classroom instruction and hands-on practice. Short-term certificate programs in a particular subject, such as brake maintenance or engine performance, are also available.

Some service technicians get an associate’s degree. Courses usually include mathematics, electronics, and automotive repair. Some programs add classes in customer service and other necessary skills.

Various automobile manufacturers and dealers sponsor associate’s degree programs. Students in these programs typically spend alternating periods attending classes full time and working full time in service shops under the guidance of an experienced technician.

Training

Service technicians who have graduated from postsecondary programs in automotive service technology generally require little on-the-job training.

Those who have not completed postsecondary education, however, generally start as trainee technicians, technicians’ helpers, or lubrication workers. They gradually acquire more knowledge and experience by working with experienced mechanics and technicians.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all technicians who buy or work with refrigerants to be certified in proper refrigerant handling. No formal test preparation is required, but many trade schools, unions, and employer associations offer training programs designed for the EPA exam.

Certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is the standard credential for service technicians. Certification demonstrates competence and usually brings higher pay. Many employers require their service technicians to become certified.

ASE certification is available in nine different automobile specialty areas: automatic transmission/transaxle, brakes, light vehicle diesel engines, electrical/electronic systems, engine performance, engine repair, heating and air-conditioning, manual drive train and axles, and suspension and steering.

To become certified, technicians must have at least 2 years of experience (or relevant schooling and 1 year of experience) and pass an exam. Technicians who achieve certification in all of the foregoing areas (light vehicle diesel engine certification is not required) may earn ASE Master Technician status.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Service technicians discuss automotive problems—along with options to fix them—with their customers. Because workers may depend on repeat clients for business, they must be courteous, good listeners, and ready to answer customers’ questions.

Detail oriented. Service technicians must be aware of small details when inspecting or repairing vehicle systems, because mechanical and electronic malfunctions are often due to misalignments or other easy-to-miss causes.

Dexterity. Service technicians perform many tasks that require steady hands and good hand–eye coordination, such as assembling or attaching components and subassemblies.

Mechanical skills. Service technicians must be familiar with engine components and systems and know how they interact with each other. They often must take apart major parts for repairs and be able to put them back together properly.

Organizational skills. Service technicians must keep workspaces clean and organized in order to maintain safety and ensure accountability of parts.

Physical strength. Service technicians must sometimes lift and maneuver heavy parts such as engines and body panels.

Troubleshooting skills. Service technicians use diagnostic equipment on engine systems and components in order to identify and fix problems in increasingly complicated mechanical and electronic systems. They must be familiar with electronic control systems and the appropriate tools needed to fix and maintain them.

Pay About this section

Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

Median annual wages, May 2019

Vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers

$44,590

Automotive service technicians and mechanics

$42,090

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for automotive service technicians and mechanics was $42,090 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,400, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $68,880.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for automotive service technicians and mechanics in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Automobile dealers $45,710
Automotive mechanical and electrical repair and maintenance 39,820
Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores 36,180

Many experienced technicians working for automobile dealers and independent repair shops receive a commission related to the labor cost charged to the customer. Under this system, which is commonly known as “flat rate” or “flag rate,” weekly earnings depend on the amount of work completed. Some repair shops pay technicians on an hourly basis instead.

Most service technicians work full time, and many work evenings or weekends. Overtime is common.

Job Outlook About this section

Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers

0%

Automotive service technicians and mechanics

-4%

 

Employment of automotive service technicians and mechanics is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.

The number of vehicles already in use is expected to continue to rise, and some service technicians will still be needed to perform basic maintenance and repair tasks, such as replacing brake pads and changing oil. Increasingly, however, new vehicles are being built with interconnected sensors, cameras, and instruments that allow for predictive maintenance and remote diagnosis, thus reducing maintenance workhours.

Additionally, the increasing prevalence of electric vehicles in the marketplace may limit future demand for automotive service technicians and mechanics, because these vehicles require less maintenance and repair.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities for qualified applicants should be very good, whether they obtained their knowledge through education or experience.

Many job openings will be in automobile dealerships and independent repair shops, where most service technicians currently work.

Employment projections data for automotive service technicians and mechanics, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Automotive service technicians and mechanics

49-3023 756,600 728,800 -4 -27,800 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more details about work opportunities, contact local automobile dealers and repair shops or local offices of the state employment service. The state employment service also may have information about training programs.

For information about careers, education, and training programs, visit

Automotive Youth Educational Systems

National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation

For information about certification, visit

National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence

CareerOneStop

For a career video on automotive service technicians and mechanics, visit

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