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What does an Automotive Service Technician do?

By Vicki Hogue-Davies
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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An automotive service technician, commonly called an auto mechanic, repairs and performs routine maintenance to cars, sport utility vehicles, vans and light trucks. These technicians work for auto dealerships, repair shops, gas stations and auto parts stores. In smaller businesses, an individual automotive service technician might perform a full range of maintenance and repair services. Automotive service technicians in large businesses often specialize in specific areas, such as transmissions, air conditioning systems or brakes. Automotive service technicians care for gasoline, electric, hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles.

Automotive service technicians are experts in understanding the mechanical, electrical and electronic workings of cars and other vehicles. They do everything from adjusting timing to repairing problems with on-board computer systems. Routine maintenance performed by auto service technicians includes changing oil and oil filters as well as changing air, cabin and fuel filters. Checking and topping off brake and transmission fluids and engine coolant are services performed by automotive service technicians. Changing spark plugs, inspecting wires and coils and installing new distributor caps also are common tasks.

When something is wrong with a vehicle, the automotive service technician gets a description of the problem from the vehicle owner or from other auto shop workers. Using his or her knowledge of cars and sometimes assisted by computerized diagnostic tools, the technician checks and tests various systems and components of the vehicle in order to isolate the problem. After the problem has been identified, the automotive service technician provides repair estimates to owners before proceeding with the work of fixing the car.

Besides computerized diagnostic tools, automotive service technicians use a variety of other tools to help them in their day-to-day work. Pliers, wrenches, screwdrivers and other basic handheld tools commonly are used. They also use welding equipment, machining lathes, pneumatic wrenches and other larger, more powerful tools. Automobile lift systems, jacks and engine hoists also are used by automotive service technicians.

The job of the automotive service technician can be a physical one. Lifting, standing, bending and contorting to get to hard-to-reach areas of vehicles comes with the job. Shops can be noisy, and some technicians might wear ear plugs. Grease and dirt also are common parts of the job for many automotive service technicians.

Some automotive service technicians learn the work while on the job. Others attend vocational programs in automotive service technology or obtain two-year degrees at community colleges. Some college programs are sponsored by auto manufacturers and dealers. Certification in the field is available in the United States through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.

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