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Automotive Articles >> Careers

Career Growth for Automotive Technicians

While the automotive technician of today faces his, or her, own unique challenges, he is also faced with the opportunity to explore exciting new breakthroughs in automotive technology. On an almost daily basis, new frontiers are being explored in regards to vehicle propulsion, fuel efficiency, and passenger safety. With the right training and the right attitude, the sky is the limit for the modern automotive technician. In addition to training and attitude, a technician must consider his location.

For instance, before choosing a specialty field he must consider climate, federal mandates, and traffic patterns. A technician will typically perform a wide variety of repairs, on a number of different vehicles, but will have one particular area in which he excels. If the technician has a proclivity towards vehicle exhaust emission testing and repair, then he certainly will need to be employed in a county or region that requires federally mandated vehicle emission testing. If the technician specializes in vehicle air-conditioning, then he should select a climate which is favorable to this specialty field.

There are also other decisions to be made. Cities and towns near an interstate are normally more favorable to vehicle repair, due to the transportation needs of the higher per capita population resulting in an increased traffic flow. Vehicle type and classification can be one of the most important factors in determining employment stability and career success rate. Vehicles are categorized in three basic classes; light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty. Depending upon the vehicle class special licenses may be required in order to operate the vehicle, and this should be taken into consideration prior to making a career decision. Physical ability should also be pondered; heavy-duty vehicles require that the technician handle heavier components than the lighter duty vehicles, therefore the physical demands of heavy-duty vehicle repair are greater.

Facility Types

Regardless of vehicle classification, there are three basic types of vehicle repair facilities for each class. The first is the independent repair facility. These facilities differ in almost every way; from size to successful repair rate. In almost any town you may find an independent, multi-bay, well lighted, up-to-date vehicle repair facility on one corner and an independent, single-bay “mom-and-pop” vehicle repair facility on the opposite corner.

Both of these facilities are operated as self-sufficient entities unto themselves. The revenue generated in these buildings pays the technicians, owners, and managers, as well as paying for the high cost of workman’s compensation and liability insurance, facility maintenance, equipment updates, and daily operating costs. Second is the franchise automotive repair facility. These types of facilities can be as few as two, or include as many as thousands.

Typically, these facilities are fairly uniform in appearance and operation. They share an operating policy and a method of estimating and repair, from one facility to another even though they may be located in different states. Revenue generated in successful facilities may be used to temporarily sustain unsuccessful locations. The third type of facility is the vehicle service department of a new vehicle dealership. These facilities resemble the franchise facility, even though they are normally independently owned and operated. Factory trained personnel are a key selling point for these facilities. These three different types of facilities also share a number of characteristics, including:

  • Potential customers rely on public opinion and advertising to select a repair facility.

  • Vehicles are delivered to the facility, very little if any off-site repairs are performed.

  • Customer vehicle complaint is considered and an educated diagnosis is attained.

  • Based on the diagnosis, an estimate is provided to the customer. It includes parts and labor.

  • The customer has an opportunity to accept the estimate as is, negotiate the price of the estimate, or refuse it completely. If repairs are refused, a diagnostic charge generally applies.

  • Once the facility and the customer have come to an understanding, the repairs are performed.

  • After repairs are performed the vehicle is retested to ensure that the vehicle is now operating correctly.

  • Assuming that the repair is successful, the customer is contacted to arrange vehicle pick up.

Getting Paid to Repair Cars

In the automotive repair field there are several methods for determining the amount that a technician should be paid. Obviously, an experienced technician will warrant a higher rate of pay than an inexperienced tech. The various methods for calculating pay are flat-rate hourly, commission percentage, hourly, and salary. Technicians who are paid on commission usually experience elevated pay checks on good weeks, but may also see decreased checks on slow weeks. Often the hourly pay system will result in a higher weekly average over a long period of time.

  • Flat-rate pays a predetermined amount for a set number of hours, per repair. If the technician turns no hours, there is no pay, if the tech is experienced and smart he may complete the repair faster than “book time.” Consistently and successfully completing repairs faster than book time can result in bigger pay checks.

  • The commission percentage method pays the technician a predetermined percentage of either the total profit made on the invoice, or a percentage of the labor portion of the ticket. The pros and cons of commission percentage are the same as those of flat-rate pay.

  • Hourly pay simply indicates that the technician clocks in when he arrives and clocks out when he departs. He is paid a predetermined amount per hour, regardless of how much work is accomplished in a given time.

  • Salaried technicians are normally paid a predetermined rate of pay based upon a 40 hour work week. Frequently, techs will be required to work more than 40 hours even though the salary only pays for 40 hours.

Breaking into New Automotive Fields

Whether you are an inexperienced technician, fresh out of vocational college or an experienced technician, there are areas of innovative technology that should be considered.

  • Diesel propulsion is certainly not a new concept, but innovative new technologies are opening new doors to this type of propulsion. Clean burning diesel systems are producing low emission, low noise diesel power plants which can be used with more diversity than ever before.

  • Advancements in hybrid vehicle technology have taken this type of propulsion from fantasy to reality. Only five years ago, this technology was so expensive that it was not practical to own. Now, the advantages of a vehicle powered by a gasoline engine coupled with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery far outweigh the disadvantages. This has resulted in nearly every major automobile manufacturer releasing a hybrid model.

Becoming familiar with these innovative types of vehicle technology can assure the technician of a lucrative career for many decades to come. Review some more types of vehicles on

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