Monthly Archives: January 2016

Automotive Technology as a Big Tech Career

Officials with the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence — the independent group that tests and certifies the competence of auto technicians nationally — note that automotive service and repair has changed dramatically in just the span of a generation. High-tech systems unheard of 30 years ago are now standard equipment on much of the nation’s fleet of vehicles: stability and traction control systems, adaptive cruise control and variable valve timing, just to name a few. And more changes are on the way: hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicles are commonplace; hydrogen fuel cell and other alternative fuel vehicles are deployed in municipal fleets around the country; and Internet connections, voice recognition commands and GPS mapping are available in economy to luxury models.

Given the advance of technology and a richly varied automotive industry that offers an array of positions and career paths, the future is bright for talented young persons with math, science, communications and technical skills. And unlike many high-tech careers that require four, six, or even eight years of college, automotive technology careers can begin after just two years of education. As with any career, lifelong learning and continuing education is necessary, but the simple fact is, students in automotive technology can get out into the real world sooner – and with less college debt.

Moreover, job growth looks strong into the foreseeable future. The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts automotive repair and maintenance industry is expected to add 237,500 new jobs and have a 30 percent growth rate through 2020, making technicians one of the top 20 jobs with relatively high median earnings and the potential for significant job openings over the next decade. And with the outsourcing of jobs picking up steam – first manufacturing jobs, now computer programming, customer call-center work, and accounting services all going overseas – it should be comforting to know that automotive service and repair is fairly immune to such moves.

So, what kind of work is out there?

The jobs run the gamut from line technician to service consultant, service director, or store owner. There is work in parts, parts distribution and wholesaling; collision repair, painting, and damage estimating; vehicle maintenance, repair, and performance upgrades; and motorsports. There’s the growing field of high-performance machining and rebuilding. There is work in technical areas, training, or in management at the corporate level for national franchises, vehicle manufacturers, and private and municipal fleets. There are positions with high schools and community colleges, as well as proprietary schools, as instructors. Still other technicians find themselves moving into sales, marketing, and business management. Countless automotive aftermarket executives got their start turning wrenches, though nowadays the tool of choice is as likely to be a diagnostic computer and monitor.

In fact, so many people have started their careers in the automotive aftermarket as an auto technician that it is viewed as something of a portal career. For those whose true calling is in the service bay, it’s far from a dead-end career. Top-notch technicians well versed in computer diagnostics and the latest engine performance and driveabilty solutions can and do command top-dollar salaries. Pride in work, technical savvy, and craftsmanship are rewarded.

So if your child prefers to get out into the real world and make his or her mark, consider a career in automotive technology. Ask your child’s guidance counselor, or better yet, visit your local National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) accredited community college or technical school.

Vehicle Maintenance Tips

The cost of neglect

“It’s tempting to avoid car maintenance in tough economic times, but that’s not a financially sound method to manage the big investment you’ve made in your vehicle,” notes Tony Molla, vice president of communications for the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence . “Surveys of our certified technicians show that a well-maintained vehicle lasts longer, retains more of its resale value, pollutes less, and gets better mileage than one that’s been neglected — to say nothing of being safer to operate.”

According to the pros  neglect causes components to wear out faster than they would otherwise (poorly aligned tires, for example) and can result in minor problems growing into more expensive repairs (worn brake pads will eventually damage the more expensive rotors).  suggests motorists, whether they are do-it-yourselfers or take their cars to ASE-certified technicians, become familiar with their owner’s manual and follow the service schedules. “The owner’s manual is under-utilized; it summarizes systems to check and provides schedules based on normal or severe driving,” notes Molla.

While some people might relish a weekend tinkering with the family car, today’s technological advances under the hood and busier lifestyles find more consumers in search of dependable, trustworthy automotive service and repair.

Finding a good mechanic

Finding a competent auto technician need not be a matter of chance. Much of the guesswork has been eliminated, thanks to a national program conducted .

ASE tests and certifies automotive professionals in all major technical areas of repair and service. With more than 360,000 currently certified professionals working in dealerships, independent shops, collision repair shops, auto parts stores, fleets, schools and colleges across the United States, national certification program has industry-wide acceptance and recognition.

ASE certifies the technical competence of individual technicians, not the repair facilities. Before taking ASE certification tests, many technicians attend training classes or study on their own in order to brush up on their knowledge. By passing difficult, national tests, A certified technicians prove their technical competence to themselves, to their employers, and to their customers.

What’s more, because this program is voluntary,  certification becomes a self-selecting credential. And while ASE does not certify repair shops or monitor business practices, it stands to reason that those shop owners and managers who support their employees’ efforts to become ASE-certified often will be just as proactively involved in the other aspects of their businesses as well.

How certification works

More than 40 certification tests in all areas of vehicle service and repair are offered eight months out of the year at secure computer centers. Technicians who pass at least one exam and fulfill the two-year work experience requirement earn the “ASE-certified” designation. Those who pass a battery of exams, as well as fulfill the experience requirement, earn “Master Technician” status. In addition, all ASE credentials have expiration dates. ASE requires technicians to retest every five years to demonstrate their commitment to continuing education and stay abreast of changing technologies.

The tests are developed and regularly updated by industry experts with oversight from own in-house pros. They are administered by ACT, the same group known for its college entrance exams.

There are specialty exams covering all major areas of repair. There are nine tests for auto technicians alone: Engine Repair, Engine Performance, Light Vehicle Diesel Engines, Electrical/Electronic Systems, Brakes, Heating and Air Conditioning, Suspension and Steering, Manual Drive Train and Axles, and Automatic Transmissions. There are also exams for collision repair technicians, engine machinists, parts specialists, bus techs and others.

Automatic Transmission Tips To Shift

Your shift interlock feature, which requires you to step on the brake pedal to prevent unintentionally shifting out of Park, could be malfunctioning. Alternatively, the shift cable or linkage connected to the shift lever could be gummed up with grease or corroded so that it can’t operate freely.

If the interlock switch is worn and not fully releasing, or the brake lights don’t receive a signal from the brake light switch to illuminate, you won’t be able to shift out of Park.

Grease, dirt and moisture can collect in or on the interlock and brake light switches, and on the shift cable and related parts, hampering their operation. When that happens, you’re most likely to have problems shifting out of Park when the engine and transmission are cold, such as after the car has sat for hours. After the engine gets warm — and other parts get warmer, as well — the goo might become softer and make it easier to shift out of Park.

Most cars have a means of overriding the shift lock so you can drive the car to a mechanic rather than have it towed: A small door the size of a fingernail is often found on the console next to or close to the shifter itself. After prying this cover off, one can insert a screwdriver or key and press down to release the lock. Vehicles with column shifters may hide the release on top of the steering column or on the bottom. Your owner’s manual will help you identify the location on your car.

A transmission that’s low on fluid also can be hard to shift out of Park, though that also would likely cause a noticeable degradation in the transmission’s overall performance, such as sluggish or harsh shifts.

Another possible cause is that when a car is on even a slight incline, it will put more load on the transmission parking pawl (a bar that engages teeth in a transmission gear to prevent the vehicle from rolling). This is more likely to happen if you didn’t engage the parking brake before releasing the brake pedal. The weight of the vehicle rolling onto the parking pawl makes it harder to shift out of Park. To avoid this, engage the parking brake when on an incline before shifting into Park or releasing the brake pedal. That way the parking brake, not the transmission pawl, bears the load.