Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

How to become an auto technician

What’s the best way to become an auto technician?

Auto mechanic school or apprentice?

You’ll find plenty of seasoned techs that started their careers decades ago as an apprentice. But that’s not the best choice today. A few shops are still willing to train you, but not many, and if you land a job as an apprentice, it’ll take you a long time to learn more and work your way up the ladder to the point where you make a livable wage.

Enrolling in an auto mechanic school is the best way to become an auto mechanic

Yes, it will take time to get through mechanic school. But here’s why you need auto mechanic schooling. Auto tech school teaches you electrical, physics, chemistry, hydraulics, and mechanical theory along with actual hands-on practice. Theory is far more important than most students realize. Understanding theory helps you become a more efficient diagnostician and that translates into better opportunities to make more money. Without theory, you’re at a huge disadvantage when it comes to diagnostics.

You need electrical, hydraulic, chemistry and physics training to really understand how the systems work. If you don’t have that knowledge, you’ll wind up guessing your way through repairs, replacing perfectly good parts, and getting a lot of comebacks. When your “fix” doesn’t fix the problem, you’ll get a second chance at it, but you won’t get paid for the second attempt. Accumulate enough comebacks and you’ll be invited to leave the shop and take your tools with you.

What can you expect when you graduate an auto mechanics  school?

The industry is critically short of technicians so you’ll get a job right away. Instead of starting as a lube tech at the lowest pay level, you’ll start off by doing mechanical work. As you prove your competency, you’ll start getting more complicated jobs.

You’ll be expected to continue your auto training after graduation

Technology changes with each new model year. So you’re expected to stay current on schooling. Some independent shops and most dealers will pay to send their best techs to school. Others will expect you to attend school on your own dime. The point is this; don’t think that auto tech school is one-and-done. Auto technology is constantly evolving and you have to keep up or you will be left behind doing the low level jobs.

Community auto technician school versus for-profit schools

Will you get a better education at a for-profit technical school? Maybe. Will it get you a better job after you graduate? Nope. You’ll start at the bottom just like the techs that went to a community tech program. And, you’ll have a much bigger student loan to pay off if you go to a for-profit school.

Apprenticing is a very hard way to become an auto tech

Many quick lube shops will take you is as an apprentice and teach you the ropes of doing oil changes and minor maintenance. So you’ll learn how to change oil/filers, air filters, light bulbs, and cabin filters. You’ll learn everything you need to know in just a few weeks, but that’s where the training ends. However, if you think that training will get you a good job at a shop, think again.

Auto apprentices don’t advance quickly

If you prove you’re a competent and efficient lube tech, the shop will want you to keep in that spot. Because if they move you, they not only have to train you to do more, but they also have to train your replacement.  So you’ll start at the bottom and stay at the bottom. You’ll get bored quickly and you’ll make close to minimum wage.

Starting as an apprentice will slow your career path, and reduce your earnings

Apprenticing is just a bad way to go

First, most shops don’t have the time to properly train you. They most often pair you with an experienced tech who will pawn off the most boring jobs on the “new kid.” Sure, you’ll learn how to replace parts, but you won’t learn how to diagnose.

Apprentices often learn bad habits

For example, I’ve seen senior techs tell apprentices not to waste time using a torque wrench to tighten suspension bolts, engine fasteners or spark plugs. In fact, they laugh at techs that use a torque wrench to tighten those. Older vehicles had some tolerance for over tightening. But late model suspensions and engines are made with lighter weight materials and many of the fasteners are single use “torque-to-yield” bolts. Use an impact wrench on those and you’ll not only break the bolt, you can break the component or strip the threads.

The industry is changing too fast to drag apprentices up the ladder

As an apprentice you can only advance as fast as the shop wants to train you. If you go to school, get your certifications and then continue your training with seminars you can climb the ladder at a faster pace.

©, 2022 Rick Muscoplat

 

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat



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