All in the Blue Collar Family: Auto Mechanic

Screenshot 2024-04-18 at 9.26.24 AM

We make the rubber that goes on the tires that get put onto cars. Automotive mechanics are the people responsible for making sure those tires are properly installed and taken care of. But they also do so much more than that. These specialized technicians provide critical services that help us keep our world moving (literally) every single day.

According to Forbes, 91.7% of US households had at least one vehicle in 2022, and a total of 278,870,463 vehicles were registered to drivers. But as critical as cars are for getting to work, school, and other day-to-day tasks, the majority of Americans are not able to fix many issues that may arise with their cars by themselves.

This is where auto mechanics come in. These skilled tradespeople provide the essential service of keeping our vehicles in good condition to stay on the road.

History of Automotive Service

When cars first came onto the market, routine care and repairs were largely left up to the owners since there was not yet an established industry for vehicle service. However, because they were so new, most people did not have the proper knowledge and skills to perform necessary maintenance, and only the wealthy were able to afford finding and hiring car makers and drivers who could do it for them. As more and more of these individuals were able to earn an income for performing vehicle service, it soon morphed into an established and valuable trade.

After several decades, cars became more standardized and less expensive, and therefore more common, leading dealerships and private businesses to offer more accessible and affordable mechanic services. Since then, vehicles have become increasingly complex, now requiring even higher levels of knowledge about new technologies and industry standards.

The Role of Auto Mechanics

Automotive mechanics have advanced knowledge of vehicle parts and operations, as well as how to evaluate, maintain, and repair them. Using a variety of specialized tools and techniques, they perform service tasks on cars, trucks, and other vehicles to fix any issues and keep them in prime operating condition. They may work in a variety of settings, such as independent repair shops, dealerships, or commercial automotive service centers, and specialize in a range of areas to work on different parts and types of vehicles.

What Auto Mechanics Do

The jobs of auto mechanics can vary depending on the kinds of vehicles they work on, as well as the type of shop. Some of their most common responsibilities include:

  1. Inspections: Whether part of routine maintenance or diagnosing an issue when a car comes in for service, mechanics are responsible for looking over the different parts of a car to identify any potential problems. This may include evaluating the condition of the engine and other mechanical components as well as the computer and other electronic systems.
  1. Routine Maintenance: To keep vehicles in optimal condition and stay ahead of any potential issues, mechanics conduct routine maintenance such as rotating tires, changing oil, lubricating parts, filling up fluids, and swapping out filters.
  1. Repairs: When issues arise, mechanics are in charge of fixing vehicle systems as necessary based on their evaluation and developed work plans. This may include replacing or repairing parts such as brake pads, sensors, bearings, hoses, or just about any other components.
  1. Customer Relations: When customers bring their cars in for service, mechanics must be able to effectively explain their findings and suggestions for optimal solutions, including time and cost estimates. They should also keep detailed records of the work that was completed for future reference.
  1. Updates: As the industry continues to develop, mechanics need to stay abreast of new technologies, repair techniques, and safety regulations. They should continue learning throughout their career so they have adequate skills to work with newer vehicles and perform their jobs more efficiently.

Becoming an Auto Mechanic

The first and most important qualification for becoming an auto mechanic is having an interest and at least some background knowledge of cars. The professional learning process then typically involves:

  1. Basic Education: To begin training as an auto mechanic, it is generally required to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Strong math, science, and reasoning skills, as well as previously spending time in auto shops tend to be helpful when starting out.
  1. Trade-Specific Education: Because of the complexity of working with cars, additional coursework is typically required, which can be completed in a variety of settings such as trade schools, community colleges, or even the military. These classes typically teach topics such as mathematics, electronics, and auto repair.
  1. Apprenticeship: In addition to classroom learning, hands-on training is crucial for gaining experience with the necessary tools and techniques under an experienced mechanic. Apprenticeships are often available in connection with educational programs or even dealerships.
  1. Certification: To begin working as a professional mechanic, certification from the National Institution for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is required. Entry-level certification is earned by passing an exam covering eight main areas, including breaks, engine repair, and all major systems.  
  1. Additional Qualifications: After becoming a certified professional, mechanics can go on to earn additional certifications in specialized areas such as air conditioning, diesel engines, or electric vehicles. There are also options to learn and grow into other related jobs such as auto body technician, aircraft mechanic, or heavy machinery mechanic.

With the necessity of automotives to operate in our modern society, mechanics are essential to the maintenance of our entire transportation system. As vehicles continue to become more complex and require advanced knowledge to maintain, the services of these tradespeople will become even more valuable.

To learn about other jobs in the blue-collar family, check out these articles about plumbers, electricians, and welders.

For more articles From the Plant, check out our blog.

More From The Plant: