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How to Become an Auto Mechanic

By Anita Akpuoforba

Published:

Are you naturally intrigued by how things work and enjoy tinkering with tools? If so, becoming an auto mechanic can be the ideal career for you. However, you need a certain set of skills and expertise to hack it in the world of auto mechanics.

We will cover all you need to know in this extensive guide to help you progress from starting out with little knowledge of the field to being a skilled and sought-after auto mechanic.

Career Summary

How much money do Auto Mechanics make?

Auto Mechanic Salary

It’s important to note that automotive mechanic salary ranges and career progression may vary based on factors such as location, level of experience, and individual qualifications. According to Glassdoor.com, the salary range for auto mechanics in the United States is approximately as follows:

  • Entry Salary (US$25k – US$40k)
  • Median Salary (US$40k – US$55k)
  • Executive Salary (US$55k – US$80k)

In 2020, the average annual wage for those working in the U.S. was close to US$69,000 meaning that an Auto Mechanics wage is generally lower than the national average.

What does an Auto Mechanic do?

Auto mechanics diagnose, repair, and maintain vehicles, including cars, trucks, and motorcycles. They inspect vehicle systems, identify mechanical and electrical issues, perform repairs or replacements, and conduct routine maintenance tasks such as oil changes, brake inspections, and tire rotations. They use a variety of tools, equipment, and diagnostic devices to troubleshoot and fix vehicle problems.

Auto Mechanic Career Progression

  • Entry Level/Junior Mechanic: Assists experienced mechanics, performs basic maintenance tasks, and learns on-the-job skills.
  • Technician: Gains expertise in diagnosing and repairing vehicle issues, often specializing in specific systems or areas such as brakes, engines, or electrical systems.
  • Lead Mechanic: Takes on a leadership role, supervises junior mechanics, assigns tasks, and ensures quality work.
  • Shop Foreman/Service Manager: Manages the overall operations of an auto repair shop, including coordinating repairs, handling customer inquiries, and overseeing the work of other mechanics.
  • Automotive Service Director: Provides strategic direction for an automotive service department, manages budgets, implements policies, and maintains customer satisfaction.
Auto Mechanic Career Progression

Pros:

  • Hands-on work with vehicles and the satisfaction of fixing and maintaining them
  • Fixing your personal vehicles at almost no cost.
  • Potential for career growth and specialization within the industry
  • Job stability due to the ongoing demand for skilled auto mechanics.
  • Variety in tasks and challenges, working on different types of vehicles.

Cons:

  • Exposure to various hazards such as chemicals, loud noises, and potential injuries.
  • Physically demanding work that can involve standing for long periods and lifting heavy objects.
  • Occasional high-pressure situations, especially when dealing with complex repairs or customer expectations.
  • Need to continuously update skills and knowledge to keep up with evolving automotive technologies.
  • Possibility of working in uncomfortable positions or environments, such as tight spaces or extreme temperatures.

Useful Skills to have as an Auto mechanic

  • Mechanical aptitude and problem-solving skills.
  • Strong attention to detail and diagnostic abilities.
  • Proficiency in using various tools, equipment, and diagnostic software.
  • Effective communication skills to interact with customers and explain technical information.
  • Ability to work well in a team and collaborate with other mechanics or service personnel.

Popular Auto Mechanic Specialties

  • Brakes and Suspension Specialist
  • Engine and Transmission Specialist
  • Electrical Systems Specialist
  • Air Conditioning and HVAC Specialist
  • Diesel Engine Technician
  • Performance Tuning and Customization Specialist

How to become an Auto Mechanic

Auto Mechanic 5 Steps to Career

Let’s get started with the educational aspect of becoming an auto mechanic. We have answered questions on whether you need a degree, how long it takes, how much it would all cost, and even alternative paths you can take to get the education you need.

Education

Do I need a degree to become an Auto Mechanic?

Having a formal degree to work as an auto mechanic is mostly optional. Although some people decide to earn an associate’s degree in automotive technology or a similar discipline, entry-level jobs do not always require it. Vocational or technical training programs are popular choices for aspiring auto mechanics because they offer practical teaching and certificates that are highly sought after in the field.

Why is it important to get a degree in Automotive Technology?

Getting a degree in automotive technology or a related field can offer several benefits and advantages, which is why it’s best to have one even though it is optional. Here are a few reasons why it is important to consider pursuing a degree:

  • In-depth knowledge and understanding: A degree program provides comprehensive education, covering various aspects of automotive technology, diagnostics, repair techniques, and industry-specific knowledge. This deeper understanding can enhance your skills and make you a more competent and versatile mechanic.
  • Increased employability: Having a degree in automotive technology can make you a more competitive candidate in the job market. It demonstrates your commitment to the field and shows potential employers that you have undergone extensive training, making you stand out among other applicants who do not have the same qualifications.
  • Career advancement opportunities: While entry-level positions may not always require a degree, having one can open doors to higher-level positions and managerial roles within the automotive industry. A degree can provide a solid foundation for career growth and advancement.

How long does it take to get a degree in Automotive Technology?

The time it takes to obtain a degree in automotive technology can vary depending on the program and educational institution you choose. Typically, associate degree programs in automotive technology or a related field take around two years to complete. These programs often include a combination of classroom instruction, hands-on training, and possibly an internship or cooperative education experience.

However, it’s important to note that there are also shorter-term certificate or diploma programs available in automotive technology that can be completed in a shorter time frame, ranging from several months to a year. These programs often focus on specific areas of automotive repair or specialized skills.

The duration of your degree program may also depend on factors such as whether you are studying full-time or part-time and any prerequisites or general education requirements that need to be fulfilled.

How much does it cost to study Automotive Technology at a University?

The cost of studying automotive technology at a university can vary significantly depending on various factors, such as the country, the specific university or college, the program’s duration, and whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student (in the case of the United States).

In general, its cost can range from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars per year, although the average cost is around $32,597 in annual fees. Apart from tuition fees, you might be expected to pay additional costs for textbooks, materials, and equipment used for the learning process.

If you decide to pursue a degree, it is essential to research and consider different universities or colleges offering auto mechanic programs to get a better understanding of their tuition fees and any available financial aid options. Additionally, scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities may be available to help offset the costs of education.

To access accurate and up-to-date information on all these, you can visit the financial aid office of the specific institution you are interested in attending or check out the financial aid section of their website.

Can I become an Auto Mechanic through online education?

Certain aspects of auto mechanic education can be pursued through online education, and in recent years, far more people have opted for it. Online auto mechanic programs often include video lectures, interactive modules, simulations, and virtual labs to provide a virtual learning experience. These programs may cover topics such as automotive systems, engine repair, electrical systems, diagnostics, and more.

However, it’s important to supplement online education with hands-on practice and training. Some online programs may require students to complete practical components at physical training centers, local repair shops, or automotive workshops to gain real-world experience. This practical training helps develop crucial skills and competencies needed for a career as an auto mechanic.

What are some web resources to learn skills to become an Auto Mechanic?

There are several reputable web resources available that can help you learn the skills to become an auto mechanic.

  • Automotive Training Center (ATC) Online Resources: ATC offers a range of online resources, including articles, videos, and tutorials covering various automotive topics and repair techniques. Their resources provide valuable insights and knowledge for aspiring auto mechanics.
  • AutoMD: AutoMD is an online platform that offers a wealth of resources for DIY car repairs and maintenance. Their website includes step-by-step repair guides, troubleshooting tips, and instructional videos that can help you understand and learn basic automotive skills.
  • EricTheCarGuy: EricTheCarGuy is a popular YouTube channel hosted by Eric Cook, a professional mechanic. His videos cover a wide range of automotive repair topics, providing detailed explanations and demonstrations. It’s a valuable resource for learning practical skills and techniques.
  • Online Automotive Forums: Participating in online automotive forums, such as AutomotiveForums.com or Reddit’s r/MechanicAdvice, can provide a platform to ask questions, seek advice, and learn from experienced auto mechanics and enthusiasts. These forums often have dedicated sections for beginners, DIY repairs, and discussions on specific car models.

Beyond getting a degree or going through online programs, getting practical experience in the field is very necessary. This could come in the form of internships over a period of time in places where you can grow.

Practical Experience

What are internship opportunities for an Auto Mechanic?

Internship opportunities for auto mechanics provide valuable hands-on experience, exposure to real-world work environments, and the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals.

  • Manufacturer Training Programs: Some automobile manufacturers have internship programs that allow aspiring auto mechanics to work directly with their authorized dealerships or service centers. These programs provide specialized training on specific vehicle brands and models.
  • Automotive Technology Schools: Vocational or technical schools that offer auto mechanic programs may have internship or cooperative education opportunities as part of their curriculum. These internships often provide practical experience in a structured learning environment.
  • Automotive Workplaces: Internship programs at automotive dealerships, independent repair shops, and fleet maintenance companies offer aspiring auto mechanics the chance to gain hands-on experience in the industry. Interns work alongside experienced technicians, learning and assisting with various repair and maintenance tasks thereby gaining valuable experience that will improve their skills.

Networking with professionals in the industry, attending job fairs, and utilizing online job boards can also help you discover internship opportunities specifically tailored to auto mechanics.

What Skills will I learn as an Auto Mechanic?

As an auto mechanic, you will acquire a range of skills to effectively diagnose, repair, and maintain vehicles. The more refined your skills are, the more customers you are likely to get. So it is important that you do further research beyond what you are taught.

  • Automotive Systems Knowledge: You will gain an in-depth understanding of various automotive systems, including engines, transmissions, brakes, suspension, electrical systems, and more. This knowledge will enable you to identify and troubleshoot issues effectively.
  • Diagnostic Skills: You will learn how to use diagnostic tools and equipment to identify problems in vehicles. This includes performing diagnostic tests, reading error codes, and interpreting diagnostic data to pinpoint the root cause of issues.
  • Repair and Maintenance Techniques: You will acquire practical skills to repair and maintain vehicles. Such skills will be applied during engine repairs, brake repairs, tire rotations, fluid changes, and general maintenance procedures.
  • Use of Tools and Equipment: You will become proficient in using a wide range of tools and equipment specific to automotive repairs, such as wrenches, diagnostic scanners, multimeters, hydraulic lifts, and more.
  • Technical Reading and Interpretation: You will develop the ability to read and interpret technical manuals, schematics, repair guides, and service bulletins. This skill is vital for understanding vehicle specifications, procedures, and recommended repair methods.
  • Safety Practices: Safety is paramount in the automotive industry. All through your degree programs and internships, you will be educated thoroughly on how to adhere to safety protocols. Ultimately, you will understand the proper handling and storage of tools, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and safety guidelines while working with electrical systems, fluids, and hazardous materials.

These skills, combined with practical experience and a commitment to ongoing learning, will enable you to excel as an auto mechanic and provide quality service to vehicle owners.

What is the Work-Life Balance of an Auto Mechanic?

The work-life balance of an auto mechanic can vary depending on various factors, including the work environment, type of employment, and personal preferences. Here are some factors to consider that would give you better insight.

  • Working Hours: Auto mechanics may work a variety of schedules, including standard daytime shifts, evening shifts, weekends, and holidays. Some mechanics may have fixed schedules, while others may work on a rotating shift basis. It’s important to note that the automotive industry often requires flexibility, as emergencies or high-demand periods may necessitate overtime or irregular hours.
  • Seasonal Variation: Workload can vary throughout the year for auto mechanics, depending on seasonal factors. For example, during the winter months, there may be increased demand for services related to winterizing vehicles. Understanding and planning for these fluctuations can help maintain a better work-life balance.
  • Self-Employment: Some auto mechanics choose to be self-employed and operate their own repair shops or mobile service businesses. While self-employment provides autonomy, it can also require additional dedication and time commitment to manage the business effectively.

Balancing work commitments with personal time and self-care is crucial for maintaining overall satisfaction and well-being in the profession.

What’s the Career Outlook for Auto Mechanic?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of automotive service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

The demand for auto mechanics is driven by the need for regular vehicle maintenance, repairs, and the increasing complexity of automotive technology. The BLS also notes that as vehicles become more technologically advanced, employers require technicians with strong diagnostic and problem-solving skills. Specializing in specific areas, such as engine repair or diagnostics, can provide better job prospects.

To enhance career prospects, obtaining certifications can be beneficial. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offers certifications in various areas of automotive service and repair. These certifications demonstrate a mechanic’s competence and can lead to better job prospects and higher earning potential.

Auto Mechanic Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of an Auto Mechanic?

Once you are done gathering all the necessary skills and knowledge, you are halfway through achieving your goal of becoming an auto mechanic. Now, you need a job.

Here are some great workplaces you can check out.

  • Automotive Repair Shops: Many auto mechanics work in independent repair shops, which offer services ranging from routine maintenance to complex repairs. These shops cater to a wide range of vehicle makes and models, providing opportunities to work on different types of vehicles.
  • Automotive Dealerships: Auto mechanics can find employment in authorized dealerships, where they specialize in specific vehicle brands. Dealerships often offer comprehensive repair and maintenance services, and mechanics may work on new vehicles, conduct inspections, and address warranty-related repairs.
  • Specialty Shops: Specialty shops focus on specific areas such as brakes, transmissions, exhaust systems, or performance enhancements. Auto mechanics with expertise in these specialized areas may find employment in such shops that cater to customers seeking specialized services and earn a higher salary due to their unique talent.
  • Fleet Maintenance: Many companies, including transportation, logistics, or delivery services, maintain their own vehicle fleets. Auto mechanics can work in fleet maintenance departments, where they are responsible for servicing and repairing a fleet of vehicles.
  • Automotive Manufacturers: Some auto mechanics work for automotive manufacturers in their authorized service centers or research and development departments. These positions may involve diagnosing and resolving complex issues, conducting vehicle inspections, or providing technical support.
  • Self-Employment: Some auto mechanics choose to be self-employed and operate their own repair shops or mobile service businesses. This gives them the flexibility of managing their own schedule, choosing clients, and potentially earning higher profits.
  • Education and Training: Experienced auto mechanics may pursue teaching positions at vocational schools, community colleges, or technical institutes. They can share their expertise by training aspiring mechanics in classroom and hands-on settings.
  • Roadside Assistance and Towing Companies: Auto mechanics can work for roadside assistance and towing companies, providing on-site repairs and assistance to stranded motorists. This role requires the ability to diagnose and fix common issues on the spot.
  • Government and Municipalities: Auto mechanics can find employment with government agencies, public transportation departments, or municipal vehicle maintenance facilities. These positions involve maintaining and repairing government-owned vehicles, such as police cars, ambulances, or public transportation vehicles.
  • Specialty Roles: Within the field of auto mechanics, there are specialized roles such as transmission technician, brake specialist, diesel mechanic, or diagnostic technician. These roles focus on specific areas of expertise and may require additional training and certifications.

Deciding to become an auto mechanic is a significant career choice that requires careful consideration, despite the perks that come with it.  You need to reflect on your passion for working with cars, your aptitude for problem-solving and attention to detail, and your long-term career goals to ensure you are ready to go all in.

If you do decide to pursue a career as an auto mechanic, make the most of opportunities to obtain practical experience, observe seasoned workers, and look into internships to better understand the industry.

While you would face difficulties like risk exposure, stressful circumstances, and the burden of continuously improving your skills, on the upside, you get to enjoy excellent pay, the chance for career advancement, and job stability.

Careers Related to Auto Mechanic

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most important factor in becoming a successful Auto Mechanic?

A solid background in technical knowledge about automobile systems, components, and repair procedures is the most important factor in becoming an auto mechanic. Formal education, career-focused programs, on-the-job training, or a combination of these can all be used to gain this expertise.


What are the responsibilities of an Auto Mechanic?

The diagnostic testing, inspections, maintenance, and repairs of vehicles and small trucks are the responsibility of an automotive mechanic. They also work on all of the internal automobile systems, such as the engines and transmissions, and are increasingly in charge of the electrical components of modern vehicles, such as the steering and brakes.


Where can I get a degree in Automotive Mechanics?

Trade schools and community colleges offer associate degrees and certificates in automotive technology and mechanics for students considering higher study. A number of auto mechanic courses are available in many associate programs, some of which may concentrate on topics like automobile engine maintenance and automotive transmissions.


What is an Automotive Mechanic entry level salary in the U.S.A.?

An entry level automotive mechanic in the U.S.A will earn between US$25,000 – US$40,000 per year.


Anita Akpuoforba

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