Service Technicians and Mechanics has Evolved!
Anyone whose car or light truck has broken down knows the importance of the
jobs of automotive service technicians and mechanics. The ability to diagnose
the source of a problem quickly and accurately requires good reasoning ability
and a thorough knowledge of automobiles. Many technicians consider diagnosing
hard-to-find troubles one of their most challenging and satisfying duties.
The work of automotive service technicians and mechanics has evolved from
mechanical repair to a high technology job. Today, integrated electronic
systems and complex computers run vehicles and measure their performance while
on the road. Technicians must have an increasingly broad base of knowledge
about how vehicles’ complex components work and interact, as well as the
ability to work with electronic diagnostic equipment and computer-based
technical reference materials.
Automotive service technicians and mechanics use their high-tech skills to
inspect, maintain, and repair automobiles and light trucks that have gasoline
engines. The increasing sophistication of automotive technology now requires
workers who can use computerized shop equipment and work with electronic
components while maintaining their skills with traditional handtools. (Service
technicians and mechanics who work on diesel-powered trucks, buses, and
equipment are discussed in the Handbook statement on diesel
service technicians and mechanics. Motorcycle mechanics—who repair and
service motorcycles, motor scooters, mopeds, and, occasionally, small
all-terrain vehicles—are discussed in the Handbook statement on
small engine mechanics.)
When mechanical or electrical troubles occur, technicians first get a
description of the symptoms from the owner or, if they work in a large shop,
the repair service estimator who wrote the repair order. To locate the
problem, technicians use a diagnostic approach. First, they test to see
whether components and systems are proper and secure. Then, they isolate the
components or systems that could not logically be the cause of the problem.
For example, if an air-conditioner malfunctions, the technician’s diagnostic
approach can pinpoint a problem as simple as a low coolant level or as complex
as a bad drive-train connection that has shorted out the air conditioner.
Technicians may have to test drive the vehicle or use a variety of testing
equipment, such as onboard and hand-held diagnostic computers or compression
gauges, to identify the source of the problem. These tests may indicate
whether a component is salvageable or whether a new one is required to get the
vehicle back in working order.
During routine service inspections, technicians test and lubricate engines
and other major components. In some cases, the technician may repair or
replace worn parts before they cause breakdowns that could damage critical
components of the vehicle. Technicians usually follow a checklist to ensure
that they examine every critical part. Belts, hoses, plugs, brake and fuel
systems, and other potentially troublesome items are among those closely
Service technicians use a variety of tools in their work—power tools,
such as pneumatic wrenches to remove bolts quickly; machine tools like lathes
and grinding machines to rebuild brakes; welding and flame-cutting equipment
to remove and repair exhaust systems, and jacks and hoists to lift cars and
engines. They also use common handtools, such as screwdrivers, pliers, and
wrenches, to work on small parts and in hard-to-reach places.
In modern repair shops, service technicians compare the readouts from
diagnostic testing devices with the benchmarked standards given by the
manufacturer of the components being tested. Deviations outside of acceptable
levels are an indication to the technician that further attention to an area
is necessary. The testing devices diagnose problems and make precision
adjustments with calculations downloaded from large computerized databases.
The computerized systems provide automatic updates to technical manuals and
unlimited access to manufacturers’ service information, technical service
bulletins, and other databases that allow technicians to keep current on
problem spots and to learn new procedures.
Automotive service technicians in large shops have increasingly become
specialized. For example, transmission technicians and rebuilders
work on gear trains, couplings, hydraulic pumps, and other parts of
transmissions. Extensive knowledge of computer controls, the ability to
diagnose electrical and hydraulic problems, and other specialized skills are
needed to work on these complex components, which employ some of the most
sophisticated technology used in vehicles. Tuneup technicians adjust
the ignition timing and valves, and adjust or replace spark plugs and other
parts to ensure efficient engine performance. They often use electronic
testing equipment to isolate and adjust malfunctions in fuel, ignition, and
emissions control systems.
Automotive air-conditioning repairers install and repair
air-conditioners and service their components, such as compressors,
condensers, and controls. These workers require special training in Federal
and State regulations governing the handling and disposal of refrigerants. Front-end
mechanics align and balance wheels and repair steering mechanisms and
suspension systems. They frequently use special alignment equipment and
wheel-balancing machines. Brake repairers adjust brakes, replace
brake linings and pads, and make other repairs on brake systems. Some
technicians and mechanics specialize in both brake and front-end work.