How to Become a Car Mechanic in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a car mechanic. Learn about education and certification requirements, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Automobile Repair degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does A Car Mechanic Do?

Car mechanics are responsible for inspecting cars, performing maintenance tasks on cars, and repairing cars as needed. This may involve running diagnostic tests to determine the source of a problem if a car isn't operating properly. Car mechanics may perform safety inspections and other tests to ensure that a vehicle meets state requirements to be considered roadworthy. Maintenance tasks may include changing the oil or other fluids, changing or rotating tires, or replacing worn parts, such as brake pads. As of 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 30% of auto service technicians and mechanics worked for automobile dealers. Nine percent worked in automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores.

Education Required High school diploma, vocational diploma/certificate recommended
Key Responsibilities Customer consultations, vehicle examinations, repair estimations, necessary vehicle repairs or maintenance updates
Certification Certification common in large cities
Job Growth (2014-2024) 5%*
Average Salary (2015) $40,720*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Car Mechanic?

A car mechanic is a technician who inspects, maintains and repairs cars. Your duties include consulting with customers about car problems, examining cars to locate the source of a problem and preparing repair estimates. You'll also be responsible for changing hoses, filters, belts, oil and spark plugs as needed, tuning engines, lubricating the drive train, and conducting test drives. You might also add coolant, transmission fluid and brake fluid, replace brake pads and turn brake rotors. You could choose to specialize in servicing air conditioning, transmission or other car systems.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

Applicants with automotive training in high school are very attractive to employers. Many high schools offer auto technician courses designed to prepare you for work as a mechanic. However, computer, physics and shop courses can still provide background information if your school doesn't cover auto repair.

Step 2: Complete a Diploma, Certificate or Degree Program

Diploma, certificate and degree programs for auto mechanics are available from community colleges, vocational schools, private technical schools and career training centers. Associate's degree programs explain the operation and purpose of a car's major systems and teach you to repair them by using a variety of computerized diagnostic devices, power tools and hand tools. Courses in auto shop procedures, shop management and electricity fundamentals are also common.

Some diploma and certificate programs are limited to teaching you to repair engines and one or two other systems, such as brakes and electrical systems. Others are nearly as comprehensive as associate's degree programs. You could complete a shorter diploma or certificate program in a year or less, whereas you might have to take 1-2 years to complete one of the longer and more comprehensive programs.

Step 3: Obtain a Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most of your job opportunities will be with auto shops and car dealers (www.bls.gov). Parts stores, tire shops, fleet operations, car rental services and government agencies are other possibilities.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Certification by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) isn't required, but it's the industry standard and common among mechanics in large cities. You can earn ASE certification in eight areas, including electrical and electronic systems, heating and air conditioning, engine repair and brakes. Passing the certification exams in all eight areas will earn you Master Technician status. Each certification is valid for five years, after which you must renew it by retesting.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Your advancement options within the mechanic field include extending your skill set to heavy diesel trucks and buses, earning promotion to shop supervisor or opening your own shop. Transitioning into auto sales, auto parts sales or automotive writing are other possibilities. With further training you could become a repair estimator or an educator.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Motorcycle mechanics may perform many of the same tasks as car mechanics, except they specialize in working on motorcycles. Like car mechanics, they often complete some postsecondary training at a trade or vocational school. Small engine mechanics may also specialize in motorboats, and work primarily on boat engines. They usually prepare for their career through training at a trade or vocational school program. Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians and diesel service technicians and mechanics can also prepare for their careers by completing training at a trade or vocational school, and they focus on maintaining and repairing construction, farm or railroad vehicles or vehicles with diesel engines, such as tractor trailers and buses.

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