How Much Does an Auto Mechanic Earn?
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An auto mechanic is a professional that performs maintenance and repair work on automobiles. Though an auto mechanic is perhaps best known for doing things like oil changes and brake repairs, the scope of their work can actually be much wider, ranging from auto body repair to tire rotations.
Additionally, an auto mechanic might be a generalist who does a little bit of everything or they might specialize and perform only a specific kind of auto repair, like working on transmissions, or they might work with only a specific type or brand of vehicle.
Being an auto mechanic is much more than simply working on cars. Instead, today’s vehicles are so technologically advanced that an auto mechanic must fulfill a wide variety of job duties.
Auto mechanics are tasked with troubleshooting problems with vehicles, often based upon incomplete or erroneous information given to them by vehicle owners. To develop a clearer understanding of what the problem or issue might be, an auto mechanic relies not just on his or her own personal training in working on mechanical parts, but also on their training and understanding of computerized diagnostic equipment.
Once an auto mechanic has determined the problem with the vehicle, they must devise a plan for fixing the defect. Typically, mechanics rely on their knowledge and skills to guide them regarding what repairs to make, though they also rely heavily on established procedures, technical manuals, and best practices to guide the planning process.
What most people likely think of when they think of an auto mechanic is the aspect of the job in which they are working on vehicles to fix the problems they discovered during the troubleshooting phase. In terms of repair, auto mechanics will remove defective or deteriorating parts and replace them with new ones. Testing these new parts is a critical component of the repair and maintenance stage so that they are assured of working properly.
In many cases, auto mechanics need to explain to customers what’s wrong with their vehicle as well as how the problem can be fixed. This aspect of the job requires a very different set of skills than what’s required to work on a vehicle, including strong interpersonal communication skills. Mechanics must also be able to remain calm under pressure, such as if a customer is upset about the price of repairs or the time it will take to fix their vehicle.
Perhaps the least glamorous of a mechanic’s job duties is to clean and organize the shop space. With so many tools, parts, and automotive fluids in a typical shop, it’s imperative that the space be as tidy as possible for the safety of employees.
There are two primary differences between auto mechanics and auto technicians. First, an auto mechanic tends to perform work on the mechanical parts of a car, fixing broken or ill-performing systems. Conversely, an auto technician uses computers to interact with the car’s computer to diagnose problems. So, for example, if your car is experiencing engine trouble, an auto technician would likely be in charge of exploring the car’s computer to diagnose the issue, and based on that information, an auto mechanic would be tasked with fixing the problem.
The second main difference between these two professions is in the types of vehicles they can work on. Auto mechanics typically can work on any kind of vehicle because their training allows them to do so. That is, an engine in a passenger car is not that dissimilar from an engine in a truck, and that’s true across makes and models, meaning that even if an auto mechanic specializes in performing work on a specific brand, they can still likely do similar work on a different type of vehicle. Auto technicians, on the other hand, are far more specialized and have training that typically pertains to a specific brand of vehicle, like Fiat, BMW or Ford.
The working conditions for auto mechanics can be very challenging. That is, while auto repair shops tend to be very well lit and ventilated, the fact that they have large doors that are open to the elements means that the shop can be very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.
What’s more, there are many dangers in a typical auto repair shop that make the working conditions more dangerous than other kinds of jobs. For example, not only are there fluids that are dangerous (i.e., gasoline, motor oil) and potentially explosive, but there are also many types of tools that could cause injury if they were to be dropped on one’s hand, foot or other body part.
Auto repair shops usually strive to maintain a clean workspace due in large part to the need to have a space that’s as safe as possible. However, the work of an auto mechanic is certainly not clean. Mechanics can expect to have grease and other particulates on their hands, under their fingernails, and perhaps even on their arms, face, and other areas that are exposed.
Auto mechanics can work long hours, too. Many auto repair shops are open early and stay open late to accommodate the general public that might work 8am to 5pm. That means that mechanics might be on duty from 6am to 6pm, which makes for a long day of work.
With vehicles becoming ever more complex, it should be of no surprise that a typical auto mechanic degree program has a wide-range of learning targets for students. Though this is not a complete list, some of the most common things students learn are:
To become an auto mechanic, one must complete a post-secondary auto mechanics training program. These programs can be completed in as little as six months and are offered at vocational schools and often community colleges as well.
The primary goal of these short-term programs is to prepare students for immediate entrance into the workforce in an entry-level position. As such, the admissions requirements for these programs tend to be lax compared to other degrees.
Some prospective auto mechanics choose to complete an associate’s degree program as part of their studies. At two years in length, an associate’s degree offers more coursework both inside and outside of the major. That is, if one majors in automotive repair, there will be more required automotive courses as well as more required general studies courses, like math, science, and the humanities.
Whether a student participates in a short-term degree program or pursues an associate’s degree, they can expect a healthy dose of classroom learning and hands-on experience working on cars under the supervision of their teachers.
For additional training, some students might take certification programs that focus on a specific aspect of being an auto mechanic. For example, to make themselves more attractive to employers, a student could pursue certification as a brake specialist. Likewise, someone that already has a job but wants to expand his or her skills could take a certification course in an area like engine performance.
Though these specific certifications are usually not mandatory, having additional certifications will only help in finding a job. What’s more, some automotive shops might even sponsor a worker to obtain certification, making the extra learning opportunity free.
By far the most popular and widely recognized auto mechanic certification is the ASE certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. ASE Certified mechanics often enjoy greater income and improved job opportunities than mechanics that lack such a certification. And because this certification is so well respected in the automotive community, employers often require their mechanics to be ASE certified upon hire or to become ASE certified within a specified amount of time after being hired.
Just like studying on campus, an online program in auto mechanics affords students plenty of learning opportunities that prepare them to become competent auto mechanics. Naturally, studying online has many perks, not the least of which is having the opportunity to learn on one’s own time. That is, rather than attending classes at a specific time, many online degree programs in this field allow students to complete their studies at their own pace. This can be a huge advantage for students that work or have other obligations.
Additionally, modern online degree programs have a wealth of resources to help students in their studies. This includes interactive online “classrooms” where students can discuss topics with one another and their teachers. Many courses even have live and recorded video feeds so students can see and listen to their teachers explain crucial topics.
Online degree programs in auto mechanics typically have work experience components as well, which gives students a chance to put their learning to the test in real-world environments working on actual cars.
There are many different tools that auto mechanics must know how to utilize in order to complete their job duties proficiently. Though this isn’t a complete list, the following tools are certainly must-haves for any auto mechanic:
An auto mechanic must have the requisite skills to diagnose and fix mechanical problems with a vehicle. But they must also possess the personality traits and personal qualities that make being a good auto mechanic more likely. Some of these skills include:
A career as an auto mechanic comes with many benefits. Among some of the most important benefits this job provides are:
The job outlook for auto mechanics is about average for all occupations. According to a 2016 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this particular career area is expected to grow at a 6 percent rate through 2026.
On the one hand, the need for entry-level mechanics to perform basic automotive services like oil changes and basic repair services like changing brake pads is expected to be robust in the coming years. That’s due to the increasing number of vehicles on the road and the increasing number of aging vehicles on the road as well.
With new technologies emerging that are making cars more reliable (i.e., electric-powered vehicles), the need for auto mechanics is expected to be held in check. That is, if cars last longer and need less maintenance over the course of their lives, there will be lesser need for workers in this field. Nevertheless, good mechanics with proper training and demonstrable experience are always in high demand.
Working with one’s hands in the context of auto mechanics is a common occupation. There are many other occupations that require a similar skill set and offer a similar work experience. These include:
Auto body repair workers review damage to vehicles, prepare cost estimates for fixing the damage, and undertake repair work on damaged vehicles. This might involve removing body panels and replacing them with new ones, realigning a car’s frame, hammering out dents, or repainting a vehicle.
A diesel service technician specializes in working with diesel-powered engines, typically large engines like those found in semi trucks. This work includes inspecting the engine for blowby, replacing defective parts, cleaning engine components, changing oil, and inspecting the vehicle for other issues.
A small engine mechanic specializes in working on vehicles or tools with small engines, like motorcycles, boats, and even power tools like riding lawn mowers. Their duties includes inspecting engines for performance issues, lubricating parts, replacing worn parts, and adjusting engine components according to required specifications.
Aircraft mechanics are responsible for diagnosing, repairing, and maintaining airplanes such that they are safe to fly. This includes working on mechanical or electrical problems, repairing aircraft components like wings or brakes, examining aircraft parts for defects, and testing aircraft parts to determine their fidelity.