Automotive Service Technician

I think this is one of the most challenging trades because cars are so high tech these days, especially the electronics. Warren D.

Automotive service technicians keep cars and light trucks running smoothly. You prevent problems by performing regularly scheduled maintenance activities such as oil changes, lubrications and tune-ups and diagnose and repair problems when they occur.

You may specialize in servicing and repairing particular parts or work on all types of systems, including engines, electrical / electronic systems, braking systems, steering systems, drive trains and suspension systems. Or, you might service race cars, using your high tech computer knowledge and knowledge of the racing environment to quickly diagnose performance problems.

In general, you begin by reviewing a work order or examining a vehicle. To diagnose problems, you may take the vehicle for a test drive or use sophisticated testing equipment. You take parts, replace or repair worn or damaged parts, put things back together, and check to make sure the problem has been fixed. This may require using various types of diagnostic equipment, and consulting manufacturers’ manuals or other references.

You may also discuss vehicle performance with customers, estimate repair costs, write up work orders, provide advice and describe work that has been done or will need to be done in the future.

Work conditions and training

Most automotive service technicians work in the retail industry, in automotive repair shops, service stations and dealerships. Some are employed by large organizations to maintain fleets of vehicles. In retail shops, you may be required to work evening, weekend and holiday hours. Race car mechanics spend a considerable amount of time travelling, and work in a fast-paced environment with high standards and intense decision-making requirements. Apprenticeship training programs for automotive service technicians vary somewhat from province/territory to province/territory, but generally require about four years of learning on the job and taking short courses. Related work experience or completion of an automotive service training program at a college or technical institute can reduce the number of years required to complete the apprenticeship program, and make it easier for you to find an employer willing to hire and train you.

To keep your skills current, you have to keep up with new technological developments by  reading, talking with other technicians, and attending upgrading seminars. Vehicle components are becoming increasingly complex, and strong analytical and diagnostic skills are required to trouble-shoot problems.

Who’s the right person?

You enjoy taking things apart and learning how mechanical and electronic devices work. When confronted with a complex mechanical problem, you think it through, then try various possible solutions until you find one that works. You may need to wear ear protectors as the working environment may be noisy. To work with customers, you also need good communication and customer service skills.