The weekly workload of an auto mechanic is bound to involve some type of work with a vehicle’s transmission. However, it takes an experienced and trained professional to be an expert in this area. For that to occur, there needs to be a certain amount of training, experience and continuing education involved. Becoming an expert in the service and repair of automotive transmissions can lead to a lucrative career with a lot of job stability and opportunities for years to come.
Automotive Transmission Essentials Education
The education of an auto mechanic, who is looking to carve out a specialty working on transmissions, must begin with the basics. The first step is to enroll in an auto mechanic training program that teaches the fundamentals of auto repair. Such programs are offered at vocational schools, technical institutes and community colleges across the country. Some programs are labeled differently as there are automotive technician programs, auto mechanic programs and automotive repair programs. Most of these programs teach the same core concepts and procedures.
The pathway towards employment requires the completion of a curriculum that results in the awarding of a certificate, diploma or degree. Students can earn a certificate from programs that last anywhere from six months to a year. They can also pursue a longer academic endeavor that lasts up to two years with the awarding of a diploma or associate degree. That is the first step towards the greater goal of becoming certified as a transmission specialist.
Before any of that training can begin, it is recommended that candidates earn a high school diploma or GED equivalency. Some auto mechanics will obtain an apprenticeship that will teach the necessary job skills in an auto repair. However, those are more difficult to acquire as repair shop owners have a tendency to want mechanics who bring in a certain skill set at the entry level position.
Once an auto mechanic completes an accepted form of educational training, work experience is required to reach a higher level of education. Auto mechanic education programs deal with the specifics of transmission repair and that includes the following:
- Diagnosis of shifting issues
- Conducting pressure tests
- Identify issues with electrical system
- Inspection of seals and gaskets
- Replacing power train mounts
There are also post-secondary schools that offer certificates.
The ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) issues a certification to mechanics who have attained an above-average knowledge level of repairing transmissions. The certification is called the A2 Automatic Transmission/Transaxle Certification. There is also work experience requirements for mechanics seeking out this certification.
The requirement is at least two years of work experience in a legitimate auto repair setting. Those who complete an approved auto mechanic education program only have to show one year of work experience before qualifying to take the ASE certification for transmissions. A certification is valid for a period of five years and must be renewed by taking a recertification exam that is shorter in length than the incipient exam. The ASE A2 Certification exam is 50 questions and covers the following areas:
- General Transmission Diagnosis
- Hydraulic Systems
- Repair and Maintenance of In-Vehicle Transmissions
- Electronic Systems
- Installation and Removal
- Assembly and Disassembly
The A2 Certification is part of the Automobile & Light Truck Certification Tests, which extend to nine areas. In order to achieve master status, a mechanic must pass all nine of those certification examinations, which includes the A2 Transmissions test. The ASE has become the most respected name in auto repair certifications and many employers will only hire ASE certified mechanics. Being ASE certified is a way of increasing a mechanic’s chance of gaining employment or negotiating a higher pay rate. Tests are given at ASE test centers, which are located in each state throughout the country.
Mechanics may also want to look into earning an A3 Certification which focuses on manual drive trains. This certification is called Manual Drive Train & Axles, which deals with vehicles that use a clutch. The same premise is involved in this certification as mechanics must identify, diagnose and repair issues in manual transmissions. The A3 certification covers similar areas as the A2 certification. Auto mechanics who earn both these certifications have a stronger foundation for acquiring a position as a transmission technician.
There are numerous job listings throughout the country for transmission technicians. However, these technicians are expected to perform other related duties and not just focus solely on transmissions. That means they could be asked to conduct all point inspections, diagnose problem areas and perform other auto repair services. There are auto repair shops that cater to transmission repair and those are prime settings for auto mechanics who are ASE certified.
Many automotive transmission technician jobs are offered by private repair shops or automotive dealerships. The duties involved with any of these positions are relatively similar. Knowing the essentials of transmissions can lead to a long and productive career. Here is a look at some of the job duties required of a transmission mechanic on a daily basis:
- Diagnose problems in vehicles
- Suggest specific repairs to customer and shop manager
- Offer estimates for labor and service
- Abide by dealer policies and procedures
- Be cognizant of proper disposal standards
- Maintain and repair all automotive systems
Most jobs require an array of automotive repair responsibilities. Being well-versed and certified in transmissions will only help a mechanic’s chances of obtaining employment. Much of the work done on vehicles involves the transmission, which is why it is important to develop a firm grasp all the essentials of transmission repair and service.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have an individual category for transmission technicians as they fall into the same general category as automotive service technicians, whose annual salary is $38,470. Adding a specialty provides mechanics with the chance to increase their annual pay rate. For example, the top 10 percent of auto mechanics in the U.S. earn a salary of $65,430 per year. Some states offer higher salaries while the clientele and location of a business also plays a role in how much auto mechanics earn on an annual basis. Auto mechanics living in certain states receive higher annual salaries and here is a look at the top five paying states for auto mechanics.
- District of Columbia - $59,350
- Alaska - $55,910
- Maryland - $50,050
- Connecticut - $49,980
- Washington - $49,680
The job outlook remains favorable for auto mechanics and that implies there will be job stability for transmission specialists. Car dealerships and auto repair shops continue to be fixtures in communities throughout the United States. Those two types of businesses employ the highest concentration of auto mechanics in the country. The BLS estimates a 6% job growth for auto mechanics for the 10-year period between 2016 and 2026. As cars become more sophisticated, there will also be a greater need for mechanics who have developed their ability to repair and service transmissions. There are different rates of job growth for auto mechanics on a state to state basis. Below is a look at the top five states with the highest employment of auto mechanics:
- New York
The primary way for any auto mechanic to advance is through continued education. There are manufacturer specific training programs that teach mechanics how to repair and service vehicles made by a specific manufacturer. Completing one of these programs could lead to employment at a dealership that caters to one specific brand of vehicles. There are training programs that will help auto mechanics understand the finer points of transmissions in vehicles made by a specific manufacturer. Some of those programs are as follows:
- Chrysler Mopar
- Ford ASSET
- Toyota Ten
- General Motors ASEP
- Subaru University
Auto mechanics can also work towards achieving certifications offered by the ASE, specifically the ones previously mentioned in regard to transmissions. Earning all nine certifications in the Automotive and Light Truck Certification category will result in master technician status. This can lead to higher-paying jobs as Master Technicians often have their choice of where they would like to work. Some may even choose to specialize in transmission repair and that could demand a handsome salary.
Because of the ever-changing technology that is making its way into motor vehicles, auto mechanics are urged to stay on top of the latest industry innovations. That means continually attending workshops and seminars to keep pace. These types of events are offered throughout the country. It is also important to stay current with any ASE certifications and ensure that they are renewed every five years.