The Specialists

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EXHAUST SPECIALIST

There are plenty of opportunities for good exhaust specialists. You only need to consider all the independent and franchise muffler shops to recognize the growth in this field.

Exhaust specialists use basic hand tools to remove worn or defective exhaust pipes and replace them. In addition, they must learn to use an acetylene torch and hydraulic pipe bender to fashion exhaust pipes from instructions or to make some custom pipes for special applications.

Exhaust work is dirty and grimy. However, employment as an exhaust specialist is relatively secure. Most exhaust shops also offer some other services like brake and shock absorber replacement, so you can get additional experience. Advancement opportunities are rather limited. The one logical advancement is to shop manager, or in the case of muffler shop chains, to a regional management position. It is also a good training ground and an easy entry-level position to obtain.



MOTORCYCLE MECHANIC

There are more than five million motorcycles registered in America. Although many motorcycle enthusiasts service their own bikes, many rely on the eleven thousand plus professional motorcycle technicians nationwide.

The professional motorcycle technician must diagnose and repair all the systems. Specialized equipment and tools as well as basic hand tools are used to diagnose, adjust, and repair the bike. Although bike technicians may specialize in some special aspect of the vehicle in larger shops, most have to be able to fix all the systems. Some technicians work on one make of motorcycle while others will repair all makes. The demand for motorcycle technicians is very high at the present.

AIR-CONDITIONING SPECIALIST

The air-conditioning specialist uses gauges and specialized leak detecting tools to diagnose problems in the system. Often a recharge of refrigerant is all that may be needed. Other common jobs include replacing weak or damaged hoses and lines, replacing compressor seals, or rebuilding the compressor. In addition to basic hand tools, the air-conditioning specialist spends several hundred dollars for special tools and equipment.

Air-conditioning service requires special training. It helps to understand the physics and laws of evaporation, condensation, and latent heat of evaporation. Mathematics is important, since measurements taken must be adjusted for atmospheric pressure adjusted to sea level and the level of humidity of the air.

RADIATOR OR COOLING SYSTEM SPECIALIST

Although one may specialize in only radiator and heater core repair, a growing number of technicians are becoming cooling system specialists who service the entire system. The engine cooling system is complex and plays a vital role in overall vehicle operation as well as emission control. The cooling system functions not only to keep the engine temperature at a specified level, but it also doubles the heating system for passenger comfort.

The radiator specialist traditionally cleaned and repaired radiators and heater cores by soaking them in a caustic bath and physically rodding them out, which involved passing thin rods through the tubes to remove any buildup of corrosion or sludge. Today's radiator or cooling system specialists find themselves using new techniques and tools to service the system.

The cooling system specialist services the entire cooling system and diagnoses causes of overheating like restrictions in the water jacket of the engine, the cylinder head, or head gasket, or problems such as cracked blocks or defective core holed plugs.

Cooling system service represents a substantial investment in equipment to service all the parts and to repair or rebuild them. However, the cooling system technician may work for a shop that supplies all the necessary large equipment and the technician may have to supply only basic hand tools.

Although cooling system service does require training, it is usually less than many of the other areas of specialization. Most of the work is done indoors, but one of the greatest health risks is from lead poisoning due to the quantities of solder used for radiator repair. In newer shops, this risk is reduced to a minimum by sophisticated air-purifying systems and safety practices.

TRANSMISSION SPECIALIST

The job of transmission specialist is one of the more visible occupational specialists today. There are numerous independent and franchise shops where this person is employed. He or she also may work at auto dealerships, service stations, and other independent repair shops. About sixty eight hundred shops nationwide employ nearly thirty thousand people.

Although removing and installing the transmission is a dirty and strenuous job, repairing or rebuilding the internal parts of the automatic transmission is a very clean one. In fact, the rebuilding area or room is kept immaculate, since even bits of dust or lint from a rag can cause the transmission to mal-function. The manual transmission is not as critical, but the work is still relatively clean.

Becoming an automatic transmission specialist requires additional training. One must understand the principles of hydraulics as well as mechanics. Transmission specialists must have numerous special tools to service the units. The investment in special tools can be between $3,500 and $6,500.

The trend toward more front-wheel drive cars demands special tools and training in the operation of these new drivetrains. For the interested person, this new avenue may be just the place to look for getting a job fast and making a good wage. There is a shortage of specialists in this area, so the demand is presently very high.

TUNE-UP OR ENGINE PERFORMANCE SPECIALIST

The tune-up specialist diagnoses the condition of the engine with respect to how well it runs according to fuel economy, performance, and emissions. Traditionally, about every twelve thousand miles he or she would replace the spark plugs, ignition points, and condenser. Then he or she would check and adjust the ignition timing and carburetor.

Although this kind of tune-up is still being done, it has become less and less frequent. In fact, the title of tune-up specialist has given way to engine performance specialist, since this more accurately describes the job.

Today's engine performance technician uses sophisticated diagnostic equipment to evaluate the various systems and subsystems of the engine. Machines costing upwards of $20,000 are commonly the basic tool for the engine performance specialist.

Engines and their related controls have become extremely complex. The points have been replaced with electronic modules and on board computers. Emission controls are an integral part of the engine.

The engine performance specialist usually begins by checking the battery and charging systems. He or she checks and evaluates exhaust emissions. With the aid of computerized diagnostic devices, the specialist evaluates the functioning of the various engine sensors. The control devices are checked. For example, electronic devices actually control the fuel mixture in the carburetor and adjust it many times every second. No longer can the mixture be set by turning a screw-a computer controls it.

An electronic, digital volt/ohmmeter and various specialized hand tools are an essential part of this specialist's toolbox, Engine repair and diagnosis is highly complex, but for the person who can master the field, the rewards are excellent. Wages and salaries are good and advancement opportunities for well trained technicians are well above average.

CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT TECHNICIAN

Construction equipment is a part of the vast field of automotive service. Construction equipment uses both gasoline and diesel engines and includes such things as power shovels, cranes, scrapers, paving machines, road graders, trench digging machines, bulldozers, and dredges.

Construction equipment mechanics work on all of these items, and some may specialize in lubrication or in repairing one system, such as the tracks on bulldozers. About 106,000 technicians specialize in mobile heavy equipment repair.

OTHER OPPORTUNITIES

Among the other possibilities to explore under the giant heading of automotive service are automobile tester, golf cart repairer, brake repairer, bus inspector, auto parts remanufacturer, spring repairer, brake drum and disc lathe operator, used car renovator, auto engine and drivetrain testers, instructor, writer, race car pit crew member, upholstery and convertible-top repairer, windshield and auto glass installer, machinist, and military vehicle technician. Just look around. Anything with an engine needs you.

EMERGING TECHNOLOGY MEANS NEW JOBS

Since the 1960s, when electronic ignitions became common, electronics have gained an increasingly important role in cars. The heart of exhaust emissions control is an electronic module that adjusts fuel mix and use. Motor Service magazine tracked this development in a 1995 article, thus summing up the influence of this trend. The magazine documented how electronics now control engine performance, brake systems, ignition, transmission, and more. While electronics have changed the way technicians work, the new technology also has opened up new opportunities. Motor Service estimated that emissions control repair would become a $1 billion business for repair shops around the country-if technicians are trained and ready to do the work required by the strict pollution controls we need to keep our air clean.
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