A career as an auto mechanic is not complete without being able to service HVAC units inside vehicles. Auto mechanics need to undergo separate training in order to understand the essentials of what is also called MVAC repair. Many auto repair shops will not hire auto mechanics who are not certified to work on HVAC units inside of vehicles. This is not seen as just an added credential, but more of a necessary requirement for auto mechanics looking to maximize their careers.
Automotive HVAC Essentials Education
Automotive HVAC education is a different discipline from typical auto repair fundamentals. There are detailed specifics involved with the service and repair of heating and cooling systems in a motor vehicle. Courses are available at a number of vocational schools and community colleges and are usually part of the auto mechanic education program.
There are post-secondary institutions that offer individual classes in automotive HVAC repair to students not enrolled in their respective automotive education program. Other institutions make these classes a requirement of the auto mechanic education curriculum. However, there are options for those looking to seek an individual concentration on HVAC repair.
The premise behind a heating and air conditioning course is to prepare students for one of the ASE (The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) certifications, known as A7- Heating and Air Conditioning. This is important to have because most auto repair businesses require their mechanics to hold this certification. Mechanics who are already skilled and certified in other areas can utilize HVAC technician education to enhance their careers.
There is also the need to obtain an EPA 609 Certification which permits auto mechanics to handle and purchase the refrigerant used in MVAC units. A complete education in automotive HVAC will allow mechanics to service and repair the following components:
The length of time required to master the skills required to fix Automotive HVAC units differs according to each educational institution. There are courses that last a full semester, which typically spans 3-4 months. There are also hybrid courses which combine classroom learning and online instruction. Lastly, there are HVAC essential courses that are offered completely online. Those classes can last up to 8 months as students are allowed to move at their own pace. Those looking to fast track through these courses can complete the requirements in much less time than those 8 months. Some of the skills taught in these classes are as follows:
- Diagnosis of automotive HVAC issues
- Conduct system tests for leaks
- Inspection and evacuation of AC unit
- Recovery of refrigerant
- Identify DTCs (diagnostic trouble codes)
- Proper use of tools used to test MVAC system
HVAC Mechanic CERTIFICATION
There is a pair of certifications commonly associated with Automotive HVAC repair. The first is an ASE certification which signifies that a technician has attained the skills necessary to conduct repair on a motor vehicle’s HVAC system. An education in this area clearly helps, but it must also be accompanied by work experience. Those who have graduated from an accredited auto mechanic education program only need to show one year of work experience to qualify for a ASE certification exam. Without a formal education, mechanics must show at least two years of work experience.
In order to earn an A7 ASE certification, mechanics must pass a written exam. The first part of that exam is comprised of questions involving the diagnosis, repair and service of a motor vehicle HVAC system. This portion consists of 42% of the exam. The next 20% of the exam focuses on the diagnosis and repair of refrigeration system components. The final portion takes up 38% of the exam and involves the diagnosis and repair of the operating system and related controls.
The ASE has set up test centers throughout the United States. Those looking to earn a certification must schedule a test in advance and bring the proper credentials with them in order to be eligible to take the exam. Auto mechanics must follow protocol in order to earn their A7 certification. Certifications are valid for five years and mechanics must take a recertification exam to keep their credential current. The recertification exam is much shorter than the original exam.
Auto mechanics are not required to earn any type of degree or certificate from a post-secondary school in order to take the ASE A7-Certification exam. However, that education is cuts the work experience mandate down to one year instead of two. An education is the first step towards earning an ASE certification. Without the education, employment is less likely and without employment, the certification exam is unable to be taken.
The next certification specific to Automotive HVAC repair is the Section 609 Certification, which certifies mechanics to handle and purchase refrigerant. This certification exam can be taken online and more than once There are prep courses that prepare students for this exam and they do not require a full semester of work.
Being skilled in automotive HVAC repair it's not going to lead to a job performing those duties alone. However, it will help auto mechanics in their search for employment. Auto repair shops offer repair and service on the heating and cooling systems in motor vehicles. Auto mechanics are expected to be able to perform that duty as it is generally part of their job requirements. It could also be a skill that decides whether an auto mechanic is given an open position or whether the position is passed on to someone else. This is a valuable skill to have and comes in handy when working in the auto repair industry. Automotive HVAC technicians are classified as auto mechanics and there is an abundance of jobs available.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines automotive HVAC technicians in the same category as automotive repair technicians. The median salary of an auto mechanic in the United States is $38,470 annually. However, there is the potential to earn more than that amount as the top 10 percent of auto mechanics nationally earn an annual income of $65,430. There are varying factors which influence the annual salary amount and that includes a number of certifications, years of experience and the type of automotive repair business. Higher-end businesses in more affluent areas have the ability to pay higher annual salaries.
There is also fluctuation in the salary of an auto mechanic, according to each state. Some states feature higher pay rates and here is a look at the top five, as per statistics provided by the BLS:
- District of Columbia - $59,350
- Alaska - $55,910
- Maryland - $50,050
- Connecticut - $49,980
- Washington - $49,680
The job outlook for auto mechanics is promising. There is also a heightened chance for employment for mechanics who acquire the essentials of Automotive HVAC repair. This qualifies them to take on most auto mechanic jobs in all types of repair shops. Growth rates for mechanics are still expected to remain at 6% over the next decade on a national level. But as more technological innovations are implemented into automobiles, auto mechanics are expected to enhance their overall knowledge. Being able to service a motor vehicle’s HVAC unit may eventually become an essentiality for those in this profession.
Automotive dealerships and individual service centers are still the most prominent home for auto mechanics. This is not expected to change and, as auto sales continue to increase, there will always be the need for individuals who are skilled and the repair and service of motor vehicles.
Some states have higher growth rates for auto mechanics, although most entry-level mechanics will need to utilize a full range of skills and that includes the repair and service of automotive HVAC units.
The most common way for auto mechanics to advance their career is to accumulate certifications. This can lead to the procurement of master technician status, which is an elite-level certification issued by the ASE. To achieve Master Technician status in Automobile and Light Trucks, a mechanic must earn nine individual certifications. One of those is a heating and air conditioning certification. There is no way to achieve master technician status without learning the essentials of automotive HVAC repair.
Adding this certification will help an auto mechanic advance his/her career by moving towards a higher level of overall certification. Master technician status can open the door for an immensity of possibilities which could include higher pay rates or becoming an instructor.
There are also workshops and seminars offered throughout the year to keep auto mechanics updated with the latest innovations in automotive HVAC repair. Many auto mechanic education programs will regularly distribute information on these workshops and seminars.