Before 1972 there was no such organization as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Initially it was funded by the "Big Four" automakers in the United States: General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, and American Motors. The new-car dealers' association also helped get the program started. Since that time, independent garage owners, service station operators, after-market wholesalers, manufacturers, and distributors have joined the bandwagon. Pick up any trade publication in this industry, and you will probably find an endorsement at the bottom of most advertisements for ASE.
The institute no longer needs the financial assistance once provided by the automakers. It is entirely self-supporting, with all of its funds coming from the modest test fees charged.
The institute's goal is to organize and promote the highest standards of automotive service in the public interest. It conducts continuing research to determine the best methods for training automotive technicians, encourages the development of effective training programs, and evaluates the competence of technicians through a testing and certification program.
In May and November of every year the tests for mechanic certification are administered simultaneously to applicants all over the country in more than 650 locations. The tests are usually administered at a high school, community college, or technical institute in the area. This arrangement, coupled with the fact that the tests are changed each time they are administered, ensures tight security. They are probably the most closely controlled tests conducted in the country. In some cases a special test center may be established. If there is no test center within fifty miles, a group of at least twenty persons may get together and request a special test center. Once the special center is established, others in the area may register to take the tests there.
The tests are written by automotive engineers, working technicians, vocational instructors, and automotive trade press editors who are brought together by the institute. The "raw" questions are then rewritten and put into professionally acceptable format by the American College Testing Program (ACT) of Iowa City, Iowa.
After the questions are assembled, they are tried out on panels of working technicians, engineers, and other experts who critique the questions and eliminate those that are ambiguous, tricky, or not "real world." Then, and only then, are the questions approved and made a part of the forthcoming tests.
Although anyone who pays the test fees may take the tests, only those individuals with two or more years of experience as a working technician will receive ASE certification. There is one exception: Up to one year's credit can be given for specific vocational schooling, where sufficient shop-time work can be documented.
No special training is necessary, however, since the tests are designed for working technicians. The tests reflect the technicians' expertise in the areas that they work on every day.
For example, if a technician principally does brake and front-end work, in two or three years he or she should have little trouble with those two tests. However, if the person has not done much engine work for two or three years and wishes to take the engine test, it would be a good idea to take a refresher course in engines.
This can help upgrade the expertise of practicing technicians to the benefit not only of themselves but also of the motorists who trust their vehicles to them.
Recognition of a certified technician comes in two ways. The first is the recognition from fellow technicians in the trade. The second is from the public. It is easy to spot a certified technician. He or she wears a blue-and-white shoulder patch on his or her work uniform. Persons who have passed all eight tests are awarded certified master automobile technician status. A gold bar on their patch states so.
The motorist need not walk (or drive) right up to the technician but only needs to look for a sign outside the shop that proclaims: "We employ technicians certified by ASE-let us show you their credentials."
TO BECOME CERTIFIED
Today there are more than 425,000 technicians who have been certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. ASE has become the major voluntary automotive technician certification program throughout the nation and has been increasingly accepted by legislators and the public alike. Recertification (every five years) ensures the continued integrity and validity of ASE credentials. If you are interested in becoming a certified technician, you can get more information by writing: