A career in automotive repair can be challenging and pay very handsomely. Folks near the top of their fields, normally find the work interesting as well as rewarding. As with any profession there are also many that do not do well. Like most things, the quality of a person’s life normally mirrors their commitment to excellence.
Considering a career in automotive repair
Automotive repair is a highly skilled specialty. It requires a firm knowledge of mathematics, electrical theory, physics and many other disciplines. We also need logic skills, mechanical aptitude and an inquisitive nature.
As a child, if you preferred to take your toys apart to see how they operate, rather than simply playing with them, automotive repair may be for you. At an early age, most great technicians find they want to know how things work. This understanding allows them to find and repair problems that most people could never solve.
Automotive repair, past, present and future
Automobiles have advanced at an astounding rate in the last few decades. Unfortunately many repair shops have not kept up. Working conditions are often poor and wages are below standard. These facilities perpetuate the stereotypical image of dirty work for low wages.
Such outdated repair shops are going away at a rapid pace. Today, modern, clean, well lit and climate-controlled repair facilities are replacing such shops. These repair shops may be part of a new car dealership or increasing, an independent service garage. Good wages, benefits and training are available to the technicians in these companies.
Future automotive repair shops are likely to be very different from those of the past. Very large and well equipped, with professional management. In these repair shops technicians will likely work in specialties. They may confer among themselves, much like medical specialists in a physician’s group. This provides the speed of specialization with the versatility of a generalist.
Where to get started
People that wish to become part of the automotive repair business, face several hurdles. Because of the archaic manner in which past shops have operated, little formal training is available. It is difficult to find State-funded universities that offer advanced automotive training.
Many fine high-school level and regional programs exist and these are a good starting point. Checking on the placement ratio of these schools may give an indication of their standing in the auto repair community. These provide basic training, but the necessary advanced skills are normally learned on the job, through advanced classes.
Another option is to enlist in a branch of the military. The services all require motorized vehicles and have extensive training available. Many present day technicians receive their initial training through military service. We must also remember that military service may involve deployment in foreign countries and combat duty.
Automotive service technicians near the top of their fields often earn $60,000 to more than $100,000 annually. It is rare to start in such a position and several years of internship are normally required. This is where we gain experience that will be so crucial to the future.
An internship is critical in the formation of a great technician and plays a big role in future success. Finding the right environment is vital and very difficult. What is needed is good work experience, in a positive environment. Working with people that hate their jobs and blame their trade for their problems will drain the enthusiasm from almost anyone.
Finding a great shop to work for
Locating a potential employer is similar to finding a repair facility to service your automobile. Start by asking around, within the trade. Ask part stores and tool-truck drivers, "Who is the best shop in town?" After several enquiries, a few names should be evident. Next call other repair shops and ask two questions, about the shop in which you are interested.
(1) What is the quality of their work?
(2) Do they have a reputation for honesty?
Most modern shops supply equipment and specialty tools but hand tools are generally owned by the technician. The expense of a good set of hand tools can be very substantial and offer a roadblock to many good people. Fortunately, we can acquire many of the tools we need over time. This often occurs during the internship, when most people can least afford it.
If we work as a helper, with an experienced technician, they may be willing to allow us to use their tools. This is a great privilege and should be appreciated. Other facilities may have no-interest finance programs that help technicians to get started with the tools they will need. Good tools are an investment and will last many years.
Once you find a potential auto repair facility, visit their website. We learn a lot about a business from the way they construct their website. A site that answers why the company is the best in their field and talks about how they achieve quality is what we are looking for.
Contact the company and explain your situation. Ask if they have an opening and if they will grant an interview. Don’t be surprised if the best companies have no immediate openings. Most very good repair businesses retain their staff and have fewer openings than a less desirable employer. Don’t be discouraged and ask if they can recommend someone that may consider you. Also ask if they will contact you if an opening becomes available.
Alternative methods of gaining experience
Some other great methods exist to gain experience working on vehicles. Dawn Hofer is the owner of Autoquest, in Redwood City, Ca. She suggests, buy used and broken cars, fix and sell them. She says this is how she got started and if you mess up, no big deal, try again and learn from it.
Others start out in dealerships or independent garages as a helper in a team system. A person willing to learn can gain a great deal of knowledge watching the experienced technicians and asking questions.
A final method is to start at the bottom, even as a cleanup person. Listen, watch and learn everything you can. A hard worker that shows up on time, every day is impossible to miss. Very often someone will promote such a person and they are on their way.
Regardless of how we start, automotive service is what we make of it. Hard work and study, over time will move a person to the top of their field. As with any career, those near the top do exceedingly well and enjoy their jobs. What is required is a thirst for knowledge and an enthusiasm for being the best.