What is an automotive mechanic? What’s the day of a mechanic like? In this article, I will take a dive into the life of an auto mechanic to shed some light on the ever-expanding auto repair trade. Whether you are just curious about what an auto mechanic does, or you are thinking about choosing a career in auto repair, there is something in this article for you.
Let’s get started…
What Is An Automotive Mechanic?
Auto mechanics are responsible for diagnosing and repairing cars, a mechanic can either specialize in one area, a certain make or model, or maybe classic cars. Many mechanics focus on general automotive repair as well. If you think of all the cars on the road it becomes much clearer how important auto mechanics are.
Whatever path a mechanic chooses, there are two things all mechanics must do well… Maintain customer’s cars, or find the problem and fix it correctly. Cars are more complex than ever these days and the demand for trained auto mechanics has never been higher. A very firm understanding of core principles is a must to succeed as a mechanic.
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In short, automotive mechanics need to have experience and skill, plus be able to think on their feet.
Some responsibilities of an auto mechanic
There is much more to being a successful auto mechanic, let’s break down some key things.
Diagnosing Issues: Auto mechanics use various tools and diagnostic equipment to identify problems in vehicles. You may ask, how does a mechanic know what’s wrong with a car?
To start, a good mechanic makes it a point to listen to the customer’s complaint and gain as much information as possible. They rely on customer descriptions of issues, visual inspections, and diagnostic tests to pinpoint problems, some easy and some complex.
A typical day can vary between performing scheduled maintenance and diagnosing intermittent, complex problems.
Performing repairs: After an auto mechanic diagnoses the problem they need to communicate, either directly with the customer or with a service advisor to explain what is needed to fix the problem.
It can be stressful to pull the trigger on a major repair that will cost the customer thousands of dollars if you are wrong … You need to call that customer and explain your diagnosis was wrong and all of that time and money did not fix the issue they complained about.
Before each job the mechanic must punch in on the time clock, when the job is completed he must punch out. The time clock is how every job is tracked so a mechanic’s efficiency can be determined, it’s also how he or she will get paid.
After performing the needed repair or maintenance a mechanic will road test the vehicle and make sure everything is safe and buttoned up properly. It’s the responsibility of the mechanic to make sure the car is safe for the customer to drive.
The mechanic’s job is not done yet however… There is still work to be done.
Tracking time and the write-up: At this point, the mechanic has diagnosed the issue and performed the actual repair. The car has been road-tested and it’s ready to be picked up.
The mechanic is not done yet… The car needs to be written up. In my shop, the mechanic needs to write up what was performed on the vehicle and account for all of the parts and any materials used. Then the write-up gets passed on to the service writers so they can finish the final write-up within the shop management system.
My shop is independent, at the dealer level the process is more segmented, but the mechanic faces similar situations with writing up the car.
Do mechanics require certifications?
The short answer is no, anyone can be a mechanic without any certifications, however, the garages that hire these people are usually lower-end shops that perform far less complex work for less cost.
Many dealerships and serious independent shops spend time and resources to keep their mechanics certified and trained.
The most highly regarded certification in the auto repair field is ASE certification, ASE stands for “automotive service excellence.”
A mechanic who is ASE certified has shown that he or she is serious about the auto repair business. They have taken the tests and proven that they have the knowledge to diagnose and repair today’s vehicles.
ASE is the premier automotive repair certification, mechanics must pass a series of extensive tests to become, and stay ASE certified.
Time, the auto mechanic’s nemesis
You can’t answer the question, what is an automotive mechanic without talking about time.
The automotive repair business relies heavily on efficiency. If a mechanic is taking too long to get vehicles fixed the shop is losing money.
Mechanics in most shops need to get vehicles diagnosed and repaired within a certain timeframe.
What is “book time?”
Usually, for a specific repair or maintenance item there is a “book time.” This is the time a specific repair should take to complete. Labor guides help shops know this allotted time so they know what to charge their customer for labor on a certain repair.
Book time is what a shop charges the customer for labor, if the mechanic completes the job and gets it done before the allotted time, he makes time (money.) On the other hand, if the mechanic takes 2 hours more than the book time, he is “losing his shirt” so to speak.
This is a pay model called “flat rate,” there are a few variations to how mechanics are paid, below are some examples.
What does it take to be a good automotive mechanic?
Now that we know what an automotive mechanic is, what are some of the things that make a mechanic a good one?
What is an automotive mechanic? There are plenty of auto mechanics out there, however, a good auto mechanic is a hard-working person who has the training and experience to maintain a customer’s vehicle, diagnose any problem with their car, and get it fixed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
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