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To ensure a vehicle operates at maximum efficiency, the auto mechanic must have knowledge of mechanics, computerized automotive systems, and the mechanical profiles and specifications of a variety of automobile makes, models and years. He also needs an understanding of computerized repair and testing systems, and must have exceptional eye-hand coordination, physical stamina and skill with tools. The mechanic applies all of his knowledge and talent in several broad areas of responsibility – troubleshooting, repair, maintenance and customer service.
Identification and Troubleshooting
Sometimes the problem with a vehicle is obvious, such as a blown muffler or punctured tire. Other times, the problem is not obvious and the mechanic must use his diagnostic abilities. He'll ask the driver about the nature of the problem, its frequency and other unusual occurrences. He will visually inspect the car and may test drive it. He may also run diagnostic tests using specialized equipment such as emission analyzers, infrared engine analyzers and circuit testers. The mechanic is then usually able to identify the problem and determine what repairs he needs to make.
Repairs that mechanics commonly make can include removing and replacing old or broken parts such as pistons and rods in the engine, rebuilding faulty assemblies such as steering systems, repairing or replacing brakes and repairing heating, cooling and electrical systems. Mechanics also repair or replace transmissions, shock absorbers, carburetors, distributors, radiators, ignition systems and a host of other circuits, parts or systems. They also fix or adjust a car's accessories such as windshield wipers, radios and mirrors.
To keep a car running smoothly and prevent costly repairs, mechanics also perform routine maintenance procedures, such as rotating tires, changing the oil, lubricating engine parts and tuning up the electrical system. Maintenance also includes inspecting belts, hoses and mechanical systems to be sure that all are operating properly. They may record the results of their inspection on a checklist that they review with the owner.
Although the majority of a mechanic's time is spent working on automobiles, communicating with customers about a car's problems, repair schedule and costs are also important. Being able to explain mechanical terminology so that a layperson can understand is a valuable skill for a mechanic and can go a long way toward gaining a customer's trust and repeat business.
In larger auto shops, mechanics may specialize in a particular type of repair. Common specialty areas for these technicians include brakes, front-end, air conditioning and transmission. Additionally, mechanics can specialize within specific industries for increased wages. For example, the median salary for an auto mechanic was $38,470 in 2016. However, those employed by power companies, working on fleet vehicles, earned an average of $64,180. Those who worked in the natural gas industry averaged $69,800, while those working for telecommunications companies averaged $73,860.
Since 1995, Jan White has written instructional pieces in the areas of career development, higher education, and accounting and finance. She utilizes her professional expertise as a career counselor in writing and editing career-related articles online. She has a master's degree in career development from JFK University and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Concordia College.