Learning the Trade of Automotive Industry

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There are many ways to learn a subject. One is to read about it and learn the theory as best you can. The other is to perform the task yourself and learn by doing. Both are good methods, but neither one of them is enough. Although experience is an excellent teacher, doing a task without understanding why makes the worker little more than a robot. In the automotive service business, that person is usually referred to as a parts-changer, because that is all he or she is capable of doing.

The first place for an aspiring automotive technician to start is in high school.

It is a difficult thing to admit, but in the past the automotive curriculum was often considered a catch-all for those who could not, or would not, do well in the academic disciplines. No longer is that the case. If you are seriously interested in the field of automotive repair and service, there is much to learn.

Basic courses in mathematics are vital to make computations for necessary adjustments and repairs to vehicular systems. Courses in grammar and English are important because the job requires that you be able to communicate orally and in writing. There is much reading to do in the service business. Technical manuals and trade journals keep the technician informed of new developments and service techniques. Nobody is expected to know all there is to know about every vehicle ever manufactured. You are, however, expected to know where to find the answers and be able to put that information into practice.

If your school offers blueprint reading, it will be beneficial. Courses in electronics and physics will help you understand the principles of operation and then put them into practice.

Take business courses. There is usually much business math involved unless you choose to work for a big shop where all you will do is repair cars.

In most smaller shops and garages, you may have to write the repair order, diagnose the problem, give the customer an estimate, service the vehicle, and finally compute the bill and collect the payment from the customer. Since some technicians go on to become service advisers and service managers, this is good practice, and the skills and knowledge learned early will be a benefit later. You can join the Automotive Service Association and study at the Automotive Management Institute, Bedford, Texas, (800-272-7467: www.asashop.org) for accredited automotive managers, or get general business training from local schools and colleges.


Too many people never get around to planning their careers. They just bounce around from job to job and fall into a career by default. Since most people will spend the better part of their lives working-from twenty-five to forty-five years- it is well worth your time and effort to make some career planning decisions.

The first rule is simple: take the time and plan. Even a few days or a week in planning is a lot better than a lifetime of regret or underemployment. What is underemployment? That is what happens to someone who has the ability and aptitude for getting a better job, but since he or she is not sufficiently trained, he or she ends up in jobs that do not offer enough challenge, money, or personal satisfaction. They know they can do better, but they aren't able to land that job for lack of either experience or training.

Planning a career takes thought. It also takes enough information to make a good decision. It is surprising how even a few hours of investigation can pay off big dividends for your future. Since you are reading this book, you are taking one of the first steps.

As you are probably aware, jobs are becoming increasingly specialized. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor lists more than twenty-thousand career specialties in its Dictionary of Occupational Titles. In addition, new technology is creating a demand for a much more highly skilled work force, and employers are putting a premium on persons who have those specific skills that are beneficial to their operation. The automotive field is becoming more specialized every year. Automotive systems are each growing more complex as the auto manufacturers find new ways to increase fuel economy and to reduce emissions. According to estimates from the Department of Labor, most of the future jobs will require some sort of specialized technical or trade school training, if not college.
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