Automotive Maintenance

Anyone whose car or light truck has broken down knows the importance of the jobs of automotive service technicians and mechanics. The ability to diagnose the source of a problem quickly and accurately requires good reasoning ability and a thorough knowledge of automobiles. Many technicians consider diagnosing hard-to-find troubles one of their most challenging and satisfying duties.

The work of automotive service technicians and mechanics has evolved from mechanical repair to a high technology job. Today, integrated electronic systems and complex computers run vehicles and measure their performance while on the road. Technicians must have an increasingly broad base of knowledge about how vehicles’ complex components work and interact, as well as the ability to work with electronic diagnostic equipment and computer-based technical reference materials.

In modern repair shops, service technicians compare the readouts from diagnostic testing devices with the benchmarked standards given by the manufacturer of the components being tested. Deviations outside of acceptable levels are an indication to the technician that further attention to an area is necessary. The testing devices diagnose problems and make precision adjustments with calculations downloaded from large computerized databases. The computerized systems provide automatic updates to technical manuals and unlimited access to manufacturers’ service information, technical service bulletins, and other databases that allow technicians to keep current on problem spots and to learn new procedures.

Job Outlook and Growth Potential:

Job opportunities in this occupation are expected to be very good for persons who complete automotive training programs in high school, vocational and technical schools, or community colleges. Persons with good diagnostic and problem-solving skills, and whose training includes basic electronics skills, should have the best opportunities. For well-prepared people with a technical background, automotive service technician careers offer an excellent opportunity for good pay and the satisfaction of highly skilled work with vehicles incorporating the latest in high technology. However, persons without formal automotive training are likely to face competition for entry-level jobs.

Employment of automotive service technicians and mechanics is expected to increase about as fast as the average through the year 2012. Over the 2002-12 period, population growth will boost demand for motor vehicles, which will require regular maintenance and service. Growth of the labor force and in the number of families in which both spouses need vehicles to commute to work will contribute to increased vehicle sales and employment in this industry. As personal incomes continue to rise, greater numbers of persons will be able to afford the luxury of owning multiple vehicles, which also should increase the number of passenger cars in operation. However, a slowdown in the growth of the driving-age population, as the smaller post-baby boom generation comes of age, may curb demand for cars and trucks. In addition, increasing demand due to growth in the number of vehicles in operation will be partially offset by improvements in vehicle quality and durability that improve reliability and reduce the need for extensive repair and maintenance

Wages and Earnings Potential:

Median hourly earnings of automotive service technicians and mechanics, including commission, were $14.71 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $10.61 and $19.84. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.14, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $25.21. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of service technicians in 2002 were as follows:

Local government $18.04
Automobile dealers $17.66
Gasoline stations $13.04
Automotive repair and maintenance $12.77
Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores $12.60

Many experienced technicians employed by automobile dealers and independent repair shops receive a commission related to the labor cost charged to the customer. Under this method, weekly earnings depend on the amount of work completed. Employers frequently guarantee commissioned mechanics and technicians a minimum weekly salary.

Some automotive service technicians are members of labor unions such as the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America; the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association; and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Copyright © 2014, Ohio's 2-Year Council of Deans and Directors of Engineering & Industrial Technologies

Career information from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition and member schools.