Automotive service technicians and mechanics, often called service technicians or service techs, inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks.
Automotive service technicians and mechanics typically do the following:
Service technicians work on traditional mechanical components, such as engines, transmissions, belts, and hoses. However, they must also 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 run on alternative fuels, such as ethanol and electricity.
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 handtools, such as pliers, wrenches, and screwdrivers, which generally are their own. In fact, experienced workers often have thousands of dollars invested in their personal tool collection.
Service technicians sometimes specialize in a particular type of repair that may be subject to specific regulations or procedures. For instance, those focused on air-conditioning system repairs must follow federal and state regulations governing the handling, recycling, and disposal of refrigerants.
In some shops, technicians may specialize. The following are types of service technicians:
Automotive air-conditioning repairers install and repair air conditioners and service parts, such as compressors, condensers, and controls. They are trained in government regulations related to their work.
Brake repairers adjust brakes, replace brake linings and pads, and make other repairs on brake systems. Some technicians specialize in both brake and front-end work.
Front-end mechanics align and balance wheels and repair steering mechanisms and suspension systems. 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. Extensive knowledge of computer controls, the ability to diagnose electrical and hydraulic problems, and other specialized skills are needed to work on these complex components.
Tune-up technicians adjust ignition timing and valves and adjust or replace spark plugs and other parts to ensure efficient engine performance. They often use electronic testing equipment to isolate and adjust malfunctions in fuel, ignition, and emissions control systems.
For information about technicians who work on large trucks and buses, see the profile on diesel service technicians and mechanics.
For information about technicians who work on farm equipment, construction vehicles, and rail cars, see the profile on heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians.
For information about technicians who repair and service motorcycles, motorboats, and small all-terrain vehicles, see the profile on small engine mechanics.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition