Where the Automotive Technicians Work

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There were more than a million auto technicians in 1998 in the United States and about 134,000 in Canada. Some 437,700 were certified by the Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, a national organization formed to improve the technicians' education. Roughly half of all technicians work in automotive repair shops. Other technicians work in automobile dealerships, service stations, tire stores, and department stores that offer mechanical service. Usually, they work indoors in clean and well-lit shops. However, some older shops may be dim and much dirtier.

Automotive technicians work with their hands and handle many grimy and greasy parts. They may use quite a bit of strength to loosen and remove old parts that may be rusted or seized. Much time is spent leaning over a fender and working on an engine. Much more time is spent under the car while it is on the lift. The work can be strenuous and demanding. Sometimes the technician works from awkward positions. When working under the car, dirt and grime nay fall in his or her face. Although most shops are well ventilated, there is usually the odor of gasoline and exhaust in the air.

The picture is not totally bleak, though. Most of the time the technician works independently with little supervision. He or she can walk around during the workday - a healthy aspect of the job! Technicians are not confined to a desk, nor do they usually perform repetitive tasks that can be boring. New problems always come up, and the technician is challenged to use both brawn and brain to solve them. In this way, the work is often satisfying.

Places of employment vary. The technician may work for the federal government, state government, or the military. He or she may work for a fleet like a taxi service or bus or truck line. There are leasing and rental car companies, parcel delivery services, and airport ground equipment companies that the technician may work for. Any firm or organization that uses motorized rolling equipment or machinery also needs the professional automotive technician.


The light repair specialist usually is not responsible for making repairs to the more important systems of the vehicle but may be responsible for checking the car out before delivery at the new car dealership. He or she may install accessories and small parts like rearview mirrors, go over the vehicle, make certain adjustments, and verify that everything is working.

Some of the other items he or she may service are the exhaust system, valve clearance, and brake adjustments. This specialist may be responsible for retorquing the head bolts after major engine work has been performed, check in the timing, inspecting brakes and steering, and making adjustments to various components.

Light repair is a basic stepping-stone to the other more complicated and better-paying positions. Almost all general technicians begin in the area of light repair. It is the training ground for learning more about the overall operation c the vehicle. It offers opportunity to explore the various systems and can lead to position in heavy repair or to one of the several specialty areas, such as brakes and engine performance or transmissions.


The heavy repair technician is the person who really digs into the engine transmission, or differential. He or she is called on to dismantle, inspect, and repair the major components, such as pistons, valves, or crankshaft.

Although most of the work done by the heavy repair technician is performed with basic hand tools, large machine tools also may be used. The heavy repair technician may be responsible for removing the entire engine at time disassembling and rebuilding it as required. The internal mechanics of the engine require that everything be very precise, so the heavy engine technicians must use specialty tools like micrometers, dial indicators, and other measuring devices to fit the components precisely.

This specialist also may use machine shop equipment to grind valves valve seats, plane cylinder heads, and hone cylinder bores. A torque wrench essential when reassembling to be sure the parts are properly fastened.

The heavy repair specialist must study extensively and have a great deal practical experience. He or she usually works under the direction and guidance of a qualified and experienced mentor. Success in this field depends largely on the person's natural aptitude, interest, ambition, and a since desire to learn. Once he or she has mastered the work involved, the heavy repair specialist will be a valuable asset to any shop and will be in a good position for advancement.
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