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The Job of a Transmission Specialist and Tune-Up or Engine Performance Specialist

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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 malfunction. 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 drive trains. 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.


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 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 bull-dozers. About 106,000 technicians specialize in mobile heavy equipment repair.


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 drive train 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.


An emerging specialty in automotive repair is that of electronics repair technician. These specialists tackle the electronic control units that run today's cars. 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 world of electronics will forever more be part of your daily service practice." 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-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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