In the modern word, most people can’t live without their car. It’s how they get from place to place, and enables them to work, go to school, or take care of their family. When something goes wrong with that most important tool, it can be a massive headache. That’s where automotive mechanics come in. Trained mechanics can help people get back on the road and back to their lives. If you have something of a technical bent and aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty, maybe a career in automotive mechanics is for you! Here are some basic tips on how to make that ambition a reality.
What exactly does an auto mechanic do? It can vary depending on what kind of vehicles you want to work with. Maybe you want to stick to domestic vehicles like cars owned by individuals. Maybe you want to specialize and work on larger vehicles like big trucks. Whatever you decide, you’ll be doing things like checking and maintaining parts, ensuring things like oils and fluids are changed properly, and performing necessary repairs if necessary. With such a variety of vehicles out there, it won’t be hard to find some kind that resonates with you.
Love of Cars
One easy step to becoming a mechanic is just to have a love for cars and start to learn about them on your own time. The nice thing about cars is that almost everybody has one, so you can start learning their inner workings at any time! (Just make sure you have permission to do so, of course!) You can get a lot of practice and training in for free just by working on your own vehicle, or learning to help others with theirs.
Develop Your Skills
Another thing you can do for free to prepare for a career as an auto mechanic is to develop your own personal skills and physical capabilities. Mechanical work is demanding, so a being in good physical condition is a huge plus. You have to be comfortable working with very precise tools, so practicing with such tools on your own time and help train your manual dexterity. And of course, part of fixing people’s cars is learning to deal with the people! A mechanic often has to be the bearer of bad news, since no one wants to hear about issues with their precious vehicle. Learning some customer service skills, as well as how to communicate clearly and productively will be huge help to you.
Another easy way to get some free education is to get a hold of technical manuals, or publications focused at other consumers or technicians who love cars. There are multiple magazines out there you can start with, and learning what’s in them can give you an early sense if this is something you’d be interested in. If you can retain the information in such publications, you’re off to a good start.
Education and Training
A high school diploma is the minimum requirement for becoming a mechanic, but you can and should go beyond that. There are a lot of options when it comes to obtaining additional training for vehicle maintenance. You can go to a trade or vocational school, or community college. There are even special schools dedicated solely to training car mechanics depending on where you live. Two years of such training is a good benchmark, though some places will accept just one year.
Both during your educational process, and after, you’re going to need to get certifications authenticating your skills. These certifications will mainly come from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), which has a variety of tests you can take to prove you have what it takes. The ASE has a test you can take to get entry-level certified, so you’ll want to prepare for and take that test before you move on to looking for internships and apprenticeships.
Internships and Apprenticeships
Once you have some education under your belt, and your entry-level certification, you can start looking for internships to get you started. If you were doing a larger educational program, such as from a community college or vocational school, you might have already done such an internship as part of your training. Internships are often unpaid, but if you already have some education, you could instead go straight for an apprenticeship. This is paid work, but is subordinate to fully certified technicians. Most businesses will require some period of apprenticeship before you can work as a full-fledged mechanic. Once you have a combined total of two years of work experience and/or education, you’re ready to seek your full certification.
The ASE offers a range of professional tests which will give you certification to work as a professional automotive technician. These tests include specializations in many different forms of vehicles, so you can take several if you want to be certified in multiple types of vehicles. Additionally, if you’ve been working for a particular car manufacturer, those companies often have their own unique certification programs, which focus particularly on their vehicles. If you want to keep working for a particular company, this is a great thing to add to your arsenal of skills.
You’ve finally made it, and begun work as a fully certified auto mechanic! But the journey doesn’t end there. Vehicles are constantly improving and changing, with new technologies and techniques coming year after year. It will up to you to keep up with all these changes, so it’s a good idea to develop a long-time desire for continued education and information gathering. Some good ways to do this are attending training conferences, joining committees, or participating in industry events.
The world will always need well trained mechanics who can work on the vehicles used every day. It can be hard work, but is also extremely rewarding. You too could develop the skills to keep the world’s transportation going strong.