There is something exciting about starting out a career as an automotive machinist. The ability to work on cars and add new elements to the engine is a rewarding experience. That experience becomes even more intoxicating when automotive machinists are able to watch their work speed by. Those who are interested in modifying engines and making them faster can look into a career as an automotive machinist.

There is a certain thrill that comes with this job as it provides an air of excitement that elevates it beyond being just a normal auto mechanic. Speed is often a result of an automotive machinist’s work and that can be both exhilarating and rewarding. The job of an automotive machinist is not as common as that of an auto technician. However, it is a niche job that fuels automotive machinists with all kinds of incentives. Now can be the time to find out just how lucrative and rewarding those incentives can be as a bright future as an automotive machinist can be right around the corner.

What is an Automotive Machinist?

While the title of automotive machinist may appear to look a lot like the title of auto mechanic, the two are distinctly different. An auto mechanic focuses more on general repair while an automotive machinist works specifically on a vehicle’s engine. An automotive machinist provides engine work and repair. Much of the time, the endgame is to make a car go much faster. That has led to a lot of automotive machinists to work on race cars. Automotive machinists tend to concentrate on high performance. Here is a look at some of the tasks performed on a regular basis by an automotive machinist:

  • Engine rebuilding
  • Increasing horsepower
  • Building fuel injectors
  • Magnafluxing
  • Diagnosing engine problems
  • Cylinder head and block inspections

Automotive machinists are very well-trained in the ways that engines function. This enables them to make repairs and diagnose very complex issues. There are also occasions when an automotive machinist produces new parts for an engine. This is generally done to increase performance. Engine work of this nature is very complex and that means automotive machinists should be adequately trained.

Automotive machinists frequently build engines that are meant for racing. Many of these engines are not the typical ones that are found during everyday commutes to work. For that reason, modifications and repair can be a little costlier than what it takes to maintain the upkeep of a family car.

Automotive Machinist Education

For those looking to become an automotive machinist, there are post-secondary schools offering programs that specialize in this kind of training. Technical institutes, community colleges and technical colleges feature automotive machinist programs. These programs are different from auto technician programs, as they deal with advanced concepts and procedures. Here is a look at some of the areas of study within an automotive machinist education program.

  • Automotive machinist fundamentals
  • Cylinder head and block service
  • Engine testing and Engine assembly
  • Performance modifications
  • Advanced level crankshaft balancing

Post-secondary schools that offer a certificate in automotive machinist technology generally require one year of schooling. There are also community and technical colleges offering Associate Degrees in Automotive Machinist Technology. These degree programs take an additional year to complete, equaling a total of two years within an automotive machinist program. This training will prepare students to enter the workforce as an automotive machinist following their graduation. Automotive machinist programs have become known for offering the following perks.

  • Small class size
  • Hands-on training
  • Engine testing and Engine assembly
  • Expert classroom instruction

To be admitted into an automotive machinist program, a high school diploma or GED equivalency is required. Many programs have numerous start dates over the course of a year. The admissions process is not too rigorous, although class size may play a role in acceptance rates, primarily because there is a limited amount of room in each new class. Most schools have designated work areas where the hands-on portion of the program is conducted. Students get to learn by working on actual engines.

Automotive Machinist Certification

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) has not established any kind of certification for automotive machinists. However, the Automotive Engine Rebuilders Association (AERA) has instituted a Cylinder Head and Engine Machinist Certificate Program. This was started because there was no ASE certification available for automotive machinists.

Training can be done in an online capacity and successful completion shows that auto machinists have a higher level of knowledge when it comes to this discipline. An AERA certification can increase one’s chance of obtaining employment and increase the overall level of credibility. Certifications are not mandatory as each individual business and employer sets their own criteria for the hiring process.

Automotive Machinist Job Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, machinists, in general, earn an average salary of $43,220 per year. Data also shows that the top 10% of machinists earn an average salary of $62,590 per year. The earning potential for an automotive machinist depends largely on where that individual works. There are private service centers that cater to wealthy clients, who pay top dollar for performance modifications to their engines.

The exact salary amount also has a lot to do with the experience level of an automotive machinist. There are places of business that pay automotive machinists lower salary rates, primarily because the type of work is a little more basic. Job listings for automotive machinists with experience levels of six months or less are typically going to translate into lower-paying jobs for automotive machinists.

The top paying state for machinists is the District of Columbia, which has an annual average of $64,030. That is followed by Alaska, Hawaii, Delaware and Washington as the top five paying states for automotive machinists. Because it remains such a specialized industry, those who land a job as an automotive machinist are usually able to establish a career in what is a relatively small, but respected community. There are also far fewer auto machinists than there are auto mechanics. The number of auto repair shops is significantly higher than the number of speed shops.

Automotive Machinist Job Skills

Working specifically on an engine takes a particular skillset, one that includes specific training and a close attention to detail. When formal education meets practice, automotive machinists are able to fine tune their skills. Here is a look at the job skills that customers can expect to see from automotive machinists.

  • Takes engine blueprints and is able to visualize ways of fabricating parts
  • Comprehends the layout and is able to design an order of operations
  • Measures up and marks the metal stick for the purpose of machining
  • Aware of the CNC programming
  • Diagnoses any issues that may occur during the machining process
  • Successfully utilizes shop equipment
  • Write up reports on the work conducted
  • Detailed knowledge of G programming code

The basic skills of an automotive machinist go beyond the basic math concepts learned at the high school level. Probability and math concepts are used on a regular basis. Statistical inference is also used, in addition to trigonometry and geometry. This is all done in an effort to merge those concepts with practical applications. That means automotive machinists have to possess a skill level higher than a typical auto mechanic.

Automotive Machinists and Speed Shops

The connotation that comes with automotive machinists is speed. Coincidentally, many automotive machinists find work in a speed shop. This is a place where adrenaline aficionados come to make their fast cars go even faster. And right behind those modifications is an automotive machinist. There are a number of ways that machinists can add to the speed of the car. However, not every job assignment is going to fulfill a client’s need for speed. Some work in speed shops lean more towards to the repair variety.

Automotive machinists who take on these assignments generally have to get used to the metalworking machines that are used to repair various parts of an engine. This requires a thorough understanding of metal properties along with mechanical and mathematical knowledge. Here is a look at some of the specialty tools used by automotive machinists who work in a speed shop:

  • Grinding Wheel
  • Boring Machining
  • Drum Lathe
  • Height Gauges
  • Honing Machine
  • Calipers

Developing an understanding of how to use these tools creates both a safe and effective workplace. Automotive machinists will also use equipment to conduct maganaflux tests. The safe handling of all these tools is attributed to both experience and education. Those are two key elements that go into any successful automotive machinist.