Last Updated: 26.11.2021

Passion for auto repairs can get you into the industry fast. It pushes you to seek apprenticeships and entry-level positions at dealerships across the state to gain skills for a better-paying job.

It also motivates you to follow market leaders and watch countless tutorials whenever new technology causes a shift in trends.

Nonetheless, you’ll need certification to stand out among so many passionate and talented car mechanics. Start with an academic certificate, then enter the industry to gain experience. Hence, in this article, we’ll discuss how to become a car mechanic with and without formal training.

Before that… 

What Does a Mechanic Do?

In general, a car mechanic’s work involves:

Maintenance

filling the water tank with anti freeze in the engine compartment

Clients will come to you for different maintenance tasks. Some are short-term checks, and others will come every season. You’ll check oil and coolant levels, inspect the shocks, do oil changes, rotate tires, replace windshield wipers, and conduct a battery performance check. Maintenance requires inspection and diagnostics.

Diagnostics

Troubleshooting lets you focus your repair work on the problem that needs it. You’d need to be attentive to identify automotive issues in a short time. In addition to using diagnostics tools, your senses will also help you when troubleshooting. 

You’ll hear different sounds, feel changes in movement, or even smell something different in the car. Diagnostics tools make the work easy, but they may not help in everything. Therefore, even as technology advances, there’s still a need for a car mechanic with the skills to diagnose car problems manually.

Repairs

It calls for familiarity with various tools needed for the job. Plus, repairs require you to learn as much as possible when new technologies hit the market. It calls for many hours of work daily, often with some heavy lifting and grease spills here and there. Also, repairs call for an eye for detail as you fix and adjust small parts that may get lost in the repair shop.

At times, you’ll remove parts, and at other times, you’ll repair them. You may specialize in air conditioning, brake repair, or front-end mechanics, among other areas.

Communicates

mechanic explaining the repairs to be made on client's car

A mechanic explains the problems the car is facing and how to repair them. To do it the right way, you have to interpret industry jargon in words that a client understands. 

Another communication challenge is convincing clients about solutions and their prices, often becoming a back-and-forth as a client negotiates the price. 

Skills You Need to Become a Mechanic?

There’s more to being an auto mechanic than just having the skills to diagnose and repair a client’s car. Why? Auto repair is a business. You need to be:

Tech-savvy

The auto industry evolves every day because of advances in technology. A mechanic needs to learn about these changes to stay relevant. Therefore, you have to learn more besides the skills acquired in class. 

For example, car repair shops are incorporating technology even into the booking process. Customers don’t have to call a landline anymore as there are online booking platforms. They only enter their vehicle identification number, model, and auto situation. You’ll use this information to send a quote to the customer and schedule the job.

Other changes in technology are in diagnostics tools and the use of mobile applications to interact with car parts manufacturers. When you have a diverse skill set, you stand out and increase your earning potential.

Problem-Solving Skills

battery voltage test by mechanic

Clients love a mechanic who diagnoses and fixes problems. It saves them expensive car repairs and unexpected mishaps on the road. If you can tell the problem, you should know how to fix it. 

Sometimes, a client will ask for assistance away from the garage, and it’s upon you to identify and solve the mechanical problem without the facilities you have at the shop. Such could be the case when a client’s car stalls in the middle of the road.

Ethical

Put customers first and be committed to giving professional services. A mechanic’s job calls for courtesy when talking to a client and excellent listening skills.

Other skills are multi-tasking ability, time management, and critical thinking. Since you’ll spend more time moving about or lifting stuff, you should have above average fitness, have normal color vision, and the ability to concentrate on the same thing for hours.

How to Become a Car Mechanic Through Academic Training

Get a High School Diploma

You require it to enroll for a mechanic course, whether in certificate or degree level. It’s the bare minimum you can use to convince employers you deserve a job. They’ll ask for your diploma to see your ability in math, communication, and science, among other skills a mechanic needs.

Alternatively, you could get a GED instead of a high school diploma and use it to join a mechanic course.

Join Automotive Youth Education Services (AYES) Program

You could skip going to a regular high school and enroll in AYES using your junior high qualification. It’s a collaboration between institutions offering automotive education courses, dealerships, and manufacturers, and the program is available in many states. 

AYES allows you to pursue programs in car repair and automotive technology while continuing with high school. It improves your employability as you take on internships in car dealerships while in school. When you graduate, you can start full-time employment in an entry-level job. 

Additionally, AYES makes it easy for graduates to get sponsorship for programs supported by manufacturers. For example, a dealership may sponsor a student to join training programs offered by HONDA or Chrysler.

Get a Certificate From Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)

It runs several certification tests for candidates entering the auto repair industry based on work experience. You also take tests for the area of specialization. For example, you need one to three years of experience as a repair technician, two years as a parts specialist, or two years as a service consultant. 

However, experience in one field, such as a repair technician, doesn’t qualify you for certification in another area like collision damage estimator. ASE tests provide certification in truck equipment, under-car exhaust systems, alternate fuels, and damage analysis, among others.

Employers recognize this certification; thus, it gives you an advantage over a person without any academic qualification to be a mechanic. There are over 40 categories to choose from if you’re unsure about the area that suits you. 

Select ASE when looking for a higher-paying job after getting your entry-level position on a high school diploma. Since you’ll need work experience to take the test, getting an ASE certification will stamp the authenticity of your skills.

It’ll also help you move to more specialized roles instead of general car repair jobs. For example, a certificate in heating and conditioning makes you stand out for such a position.

Pursue a Mechanic Course

It could be a certificate or diploma course in a trade school, community college, the military, or mechanic school. Some programs require you to complete an apprenticeship or internship to graduate. The duration of the program varies from one school to the other. 

On top of that, the program helps you apply for entry-level jobs as you’ll have skills in tasks like diagnostics, air conditioning repair, and oil changes. There are associate degrees in areas like advanced transmission diagnostics and automotive mechanics technology.

We cannot ignore the benefits of an academic certificate as a mechanic. It’ll help you grasp industry jargon, ask questions, read industry journals and even hold meaningful conversations with clients. A certificate also creates a foundation for specialization.

Benefits of Academic Training to Become a Mechanic

Going to school has its perks. Let’s look at a few of them.

It Builds a Foundation

An automotive technology course enlightens you on safety principles, technical systems like brakes, and how various machines work. It’s different from information handed down from one mechanic to the other as we often pass what we think is necessary and leave out a chunk of essential details. 

A training course, on the other hand, includes peer-reviewed studies. With this foundation, you can advance your studies or specialize in one area of automotive repair.

Freedom to Learn Under No Pressure

As an apprentice, your learning needs are subordinate to your employer’s profit goals. However, a classroom puts the interests of learners first even when designing the class schedule. Plus, trainers are professionals who know how to package the technical information for learners better than an apprenticeship can offer.

More Job Prospects

You can secure a job faster with an academic qualification as a mechanic. It’s also the first step to more rigorous training as a specialist.

Overall Growth

The course has additional units aside from the ones related to auto tech. For example, you learn communication skills to improve your conversations with employers and customers. These skills will also come in handy when you start your company and have a team working under you.

Understand the Industry

You’ll learn about opportunities in the industry and areas of specialization that are in demand. You’ll also have case studies and industry data from numerous companies, unlike when you’re an apprentice learning in one company only.

Learn in Modern Facilities

You’ll have access to the best training facilities as institutions adapt their labs to the changes in the market. You’ll also have access for more hours than would be the case in a car repair shop. 

While practicing in the lab, there’ll be a trainer on standby to answer your questions and help you solve problems. You’ll not enjoy such rights in a car repair shop, more so because you’ll not have the skills to work on clients’ cars.

How to Become a Mechanic Without Formal Training

Work in a Garage or Car Repair Shop

The best place to start is in a garage watching mechanics work. Ask questions often to know why they do what they do, as watching them will answer WHAT, not WHY. 

Some of the projects you can take on are in changing oil or lubricating. Later on, you can take a course to complement the lessons gained from hands-on experience. 

You could even work in a dealership in an entry-level job. It’s unlikely you’ll make money when working without job experience, but the experience will be your teacher giving you skills to get a real job later. 

The drawback of starting in an entry-level job is that you may spend years in the same position. You may also stick to the same job if you’re in a small car repair shop with limited revenue.

But, you have the advantage of getting skills on how to run a repair shop if you choose to do so in the future.

Invest in Tools

Secondly, invest in tools so that you’ll learn using what’s already in the field. Another easy way to learn is to buy an older car and work on it. You’ll have control over your learning speed, and you can take it apart as often as possible using online tutorials. 

Working on your own also gives you questions to ask experienced mechanics when you interact with them later. You could even reach out to experienced mechanics through their online tutorials

As you learn alone, you can become a manufacturer-specific mechanic to increase your chances of getting a job in a dealership specializing in the manufacturer’s parts.

Research and Read

Auto magazines and websites are other resources that’ll give you industry news if you can’t get books at a local library. If possible, find online forums that discuss car repair and other related topics. 

It’s a fast-paced industry fueled by innovation such that you have to be ready for any problem presented to you by a client. 

Final Thoughts

Let’s agree it’s better to start your career in the automotive repair industry when you have at least a high school diploma or GED and essential skills. If getting into college is a mirage at the moment, you can start with GED or a high school diploma then join AYES to gain skills for an apprenticeship. From there, you can sit for an ASE test for a certificate. Alternatively, get a job in a car repair shop then apply for ASE certification later. Overall when you have a passion for car repair, the sky’s the limit.