A job as an auto mechanic can pave the way for a bright future and a rewarding career. The industry is always in need of new mechanics as the number of cars on the road continues to increase. The number of vehicles registered in the United States has gone over 264 million and the average age of light vehicles is 11.6 years. That is an opportune time for things to start going wrong, which makes the availability of auto mechanics more necessary than ever.
Auto Mechanic Population in the U.S.
The state of California is home to the highest number of auto technicians and mechanics, with a total of (63,500), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Texas is next in line (47,080) followed by Florida (45,810), New York (34,830) and Pennsylvania (31,720).
The highest concentration of auto mechanics work in Automotive Repair and Maintenance businesses and coming in a close second is Automobile Dealers. The third most populous workplace is Automotive Parts, Accessories, and Tire Stores. There is a bit of a dropoff in terms of the next business with the most auto mechanics as Motor Vehicle and Motor Vehicle Parts and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers come in next. Lastly, a lesser number of auto mechanics work in Support Activities for Road Transportation. These numbers have been provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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Finding Work as an Auto Mechanic
Finding work as an auto mechanic is not difficult, presuming the individual is striving to improve on this craft. Those who are always willing to learn are more likely to find repair shops that are going to pay. As long as there are no financial cutbacks, auto mechanics can enjoy job security for years to come. The most common reason auto techs lose their job is due to a poor attitude or a reluctance to learning new things about the profession.When it comes to actually being an auto mechanic, many will attest that the work is much better than the job. The sheer love of working on cars carries many mechanics through the day, particularly when the work environment is not the most favorable. Long-term employment is usually the goal of every auto mechanic in the industry, although it should be at the right shop. How the shop functions can have a major impact on overall job satisfaction.
While many mechanics are not looking to move around from shop to shop, there is something to be gained by working for different service managers. Different shop cultures can actually help auto mechanics grow and improve their overall skillset.
In 2016, there were 750,000 reported auto mechanic jobs in the United States, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number is expected to increase each year as projects show an overall growth of 6% by the year 2026.Bureau of Labor Statistics
Auto Mechanic Pay Rate
Most auto mechanics begin their careers as an oil changer, lube tech or tire guy. That typically results in pay rates that range from $10-12/hour. Certified technicians see an increase in pay as they earn between $16-25/hour depending on their level of certification. Master diagnostic technicians see an even greater bump in pay as they can make anywhere from $30-50/hour and that is contingent on which manufacturer they work for or the type of specialty shop they operate.
Average salaries on a national level attempt to combine mechanics and technicians with varying levels of experience. Those statistics equate to a national average of $38,470 per year. However, coming up with that average leaves a lot of room for variables. It makes it difficult to pinpoint exact salaries because pay rates are based on training, skill level and certifications, which all differ. Location also plays a key role and the type of repair shop also is a major factor in determining salaries. The top 10% of auto technicians in the U.S. earn an average salary of $64,070 annually.
A Typical Auto Mechanic Workday
The typical workday in the life of an auto mechanic/automotive technician depends on the specific repair shop. Each shop adheres to a different schedule, which maps out the day a bit differently. Here is a look at a couple of different ways repair shops are run.
This consists of a dispatcher giving out work based on the technician’s skill level. It is similar to is most dealership service departments. These shops typically use a team system in which a team leader gets work directly from a service writer or manager and dispatches them to their team members based on skill.
General Work Order
This is typically used in smaller shops. The customer brings in a vehicle and basically whoever is there begins working on the car.
When it comes to a typical day in a dealership service department, some techs may work on anywhere between 3 to 8 vehicles. A less skilled worker might work on more routine maintenance jobs while a higher trained tech might see one car and work on it all day. The higher skill level, the more specific the daily tasks will be. Higher skilled techs may also see a less amount of work than lower-level mechanics who may perform multiple oil changes and other simpler tasks over the course of a day.
Regardless of the skill level of an auto mechanic, it is important to have patience and always be open to learning new things. There is always something new that could be learned from all types of repair. And the biggest mistake an auto mechanic can make is not asking for help, or not admitting when help is needed. Another major flaw is not consulting the service manual. Help is available through many forms and finishing a job with a fair amount of uncertainty could lead to major problems.
What to look for in an Auto Repair Shop
When it comes time to apply for a job, try to find out how the service manager speaks to the employees. This will reveal a lot about the type of work environment that exists in that particular shop. This could determine whether auto mechanics look forward going to work or wind up dreading every single workday. It is always good to avoid working for managers who talk down to their mechanics.
Another area that warrants attention is the level of cleanliness within the shop. If tools are just left all over the place, then it’s definitely a red flag. This could make for both a frustrating and dangerous workplace.
It is also important to note that good auto mechanics never rush the repair process. Instead, they take the time to fully understand the system they are working on and always reference the factory repair manual. This ensures thoroughness in the repair process. Some components of the repair process are very technical. Referencing manuals is a way to be exact with both the diagnosis and repair. Rushing through any repair could get a mechanic into a heap of trouble. That is why a shop that attempts to thrive on speed and quick turnover rates are very prone to missing key steps or producing subpar repairs.
Increased Job Opportunities
Becoming ASE certified will increase a mechanic’s chances of gaining employment. Earning a certification will open up job opportunities and increase potential pay rates. Some auto repair shops even require certifications in order to gain employment. Here is a look at some potential places of employment where a certification can really come in handy:
Getting started in this kind of career can begin early, as there are some high school programs that offer early automotive training. These programs can fast track students into a post-secondary program. Those who take this route can find themselves working at a repair shop shortly after graduating high school. There is not the burden of high tuition and while other students are racking up debt at traditional colleges, auto mechanics are making a comfortable full-time living at a young age.
This also allows young mechanics to get a head start on working towards more certifications and master technician status. Before long, pay rates can really start to climb and auto mechanics can enjoy a comfortable life with a sizable annual income.
There is an ongoing need for new automotive technicians because there is a high retirement rate for older auto techs. This need goes beyond mechanics who just change oil and rotate tires. Auto technicians with higher levels of skill are in constant demand. In some areas, auto technicians are not being replaced as quickly as older techs are retiring. This reality provides a lot of incentive for younger mechanics to enhance their credentials. And being able to have a veritable choice of jobs translates into the ability to demand higher pay rates.
Many dealerships will invest in their automotive technicians by paying for the cost of certifications and additional training. There is also a lot of lost profit when turnover rate is high. Repair shops without enough auto technicians may have to force customers to wait or potentially turn some away. There is also a lot of time and effort that goes into training new employees and that makes for additional investments. Repeating that process is both arduous and costly.
As a result, most dealerships value auto technicians and that creates a lot of job stability. Skilled auto techs perform a much-needed service that is showing no signs of going out of demand. Getting