Learn About Being an Auto Mechanic

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published January 27, 2020

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What does an auto mechanic do?

An auto mechanic performs repairs and diagnostic tests on vehicles such as cars, vans and small trucks. Some will perform maintenance on heavy vehicles, while others specialize in off-road vehicles or parts such as engines, tires and brakes. Other responsibilities include:

  • Performing routine vehicle maintenance, including part lubrication and fluid changes

  • Checking each vehicle’s computer and electronic system and repair or update if necessary

  • Rotating or changing tires

  • Providing accurate price quotes for work, including the cost of parts and labor

  • Keeping comprehensive records on the work completed for each customer

  • Making sure all tools and equipment are functional and in good condition

Average salary

While location, skills and certifications can factor into an auto mechanic’s pay, where you work can also make a difference. For example, your salary may depend on how the repair shop pays its employees. Some pay according to the total number of hours you work on each vehicle. Others pay a flat rate regardless of the time you spent working. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $20.65 per hour

  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $47.40 per hour.

Auto mechanic requirements

To become a successful auto mechanic, you need several practical skills along with a certain amount of education and specialized training.

Education

The minimum requirement to work as an auto mechanic is a high school diploma or equivalent. Although you will spend most of your time working on vehicles, you should also have a basic knowledge of reading, writing and mathematics to succeed in your job.

Training

An internship offers you the chance to fully experience the working environment of an auto mechanic. You typically begin an internship while in high school or a vocational school. Most are unpaid, although candidates with some prior experience may also find a paid internship. 

Whether or not you serve an internship, most businesses will require you to spend at least two years as an apprentice before you can begin working on your own. Some apprentices are hired straight into a training program, while others work their way up. Companies that hire apprentices often prefer one year of experience or training, although this is not always required. After working as an apprentice for two years, you can begin taking qualification exams.

If you work at a car dealership, your employer will usually provide you with specialized training for that manufacturer’s vehicles. This may prove useful as you build your resume and develop more specialized skills as an auto mechanic.

Certifications

Many businesses require their auto mechanics to have certifications. Some most sought-after certifications in the U.S. include the following:

Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification

ASE certifications are the industry standard for testing a mechanic’s skill. ASE certification tests cover most aspects of auto repair. There are over 40 tests grouped into series, such as Automobile and Light Truck Certification and Transit Bus Certification Tests. When you complete a series, you will receive your ASE certification. If you complete a certain set of series, you receive master technician certification. Many employers require their mechanics to have an ASE certification.

Manufacturer certification

Car manufacturers offer training and certification for auto mechanics who want to gain detailed knowledge on how to repair that manufacturer’s cars. The requirements for certification are different for each manufacturer. Most will require you to pass tests and complete a certain number of hours working on their cars.

Skills

To succeed as an auto mechanic, you need both practical and relational skills. These include:

Excellent manual dexterity

Along with good hand-eye coordination, you should be comfortable working with small parts like screws and bolts. This requires you to have fine motor skills and full use of your hands. You must move your fingers with precision, assemble objects and work with tools. Steady hands are also a necessity.

Good physical condition

You will often need to crouch, stretch, lie down and lift moderately heavy objects as part of your work. This is why you need to be in good health and have unrestricted mobility.

Diagnostic and problem-solving skills

You will need to know how to use diagnostic tools to determine what’s wrong with a vehicle. While the solution to a vehicle problem can be simple, you may sometimes need to use problem-solving skills to accurately determine the cause of an issue and the most effective way to fix it.

Proficiency with tools and equipment

Auto mechanics work with a wide range of tools, which could include computerized diagnostic equipment. Knowing your tools means knowing which one to correctly use for the work you’re doing. Having this knowledge and proficiency enables you to do your work with speed and confidence.

Customer service skills

While most of your work will be with vehicles, you will still need to interact with customers. With good customer service skills, you can help ease customers by communicating vital information such as what type of car maintenance is required and how long repairs may take. 

Good communication skills

Many of your customers will not have a deep understanding of car mechanics. You will need to accurately and communicate what kind of problem you need to fix and how you plan to fix it. Your ability to communicate will also help you write reports, answer the telephone, respond to email and text messages and perform any other necessary office tasks.

Auto mechanic work environment

As an auto mechanic, you will spend most of your day working with power tools and other equipment that must be handled according to appropriate safety rules. Auto mechanics generally work full-time hours and frequently work overtime and weekends as needed.

How to become an auto mechanic

Here are the most common steps to becoming a certified mechanic, ready to work in most auto repair businesses:

  1. Graduate with a high school diploma. A high school diploma or equivalent is the basic educational requirement for auto mechanic work. You will also need this level of education before you can pursue any further training or certification. While you are in school, consider looking for summer internship opportunities to gain some repair shop experience.

  2. Enroll in vocational education. Look for local community college or vocational school programs to prepare you for the automotive service industry. Any training or experience will aid in applying for apprenticeships.

  3. Apply for an apprenticeship. Once you gain internship experience, vocational education or both, you can apply for an apprenticeship. Most auto repair businesses offer apprenticeships. After working for two years as an apprentice, you will be ready to become a certified auto mechanic.

  4. Become ASE-certified. Most auto mechanic jobs require ASE certification. Choose one of the test series they offer and take any required tests. Upon successful completion of a test series, you will gain your ASE certification.

  5. Receive on-the-job training. Once a business hires you, take advantage of any offered training. Successful mechanics develop a broad understanding of many aspects of car repair. Not only does this make you a better auto mechanic, but it could also increase your earning potential.

  6. Become a master mechanic. Since ASE certification is the industry standard, the ASE-certified master mechanic qualification is highly desirable. To be an ASE-certified master mechanic, you will need to take a specified number of their test series. 

Auto mechanic job description example

We are looking to add an auto mechanic to our rapidly growing repair shop. We need someone who can perform diagnostic and maintenance tasks such as fluid changes, tuneups, electrical and mechanical repairs and inspections. You should have experience working on cars and light trucks from a variety of manufacturers. Experience with hybrids and electric cars is preferred. You must be ASE-certified and have at least five years of experience.

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