What Does an Auto Mechanic Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A day in the life of an auto mechanic: Examine various systems within cars to diagnose problems, perform routine maintenance, remove and replace parts, keep detailed records of all work performed

The Balance / Ashley Nicole DeLeon

Automotive mechanics repair cars and light trucks, and they perform maintenance work on vehicles to keep them road-worthy and to avert major repair bills for customers down the road. Sometimes called service technicians, they held approximately 756,600 jobs in 2019. About a third of these workers were employed by auto dealerships.

Automotive Mechanic Duties & Responsibilities

It isn't just about fixing vehicles. Auto mechanics have other responsibilities as well.

  • Interact with customers to obtain information about the problems they're experiencing with their cars.
  • Examine various systems within cars to diagnose problems. Service technicians run computerized diagnostic tests to help them identify components that might be malfunctioning.
  • Remove parts that are worn or not operating properly and replace them with new or used parts.
  • Perform routine maintenance like oil, filter, and belt changes according to schedules established by various car manufacturers.
  • Explain repairs to customers and provide estimates for unanticipated repairs.
  • Pitch optional repairs or preventative maintenance to customers to generate additional revenue for the shop, although this depends upon the employer.
  • Keep detailed records of all work performed.

Automotive Mechanic Salary

Mechanics who work for government agencies and automotive dealers and those who own their own businesses tend to earn higher than average salaries. Mechanics working for gasoline stations and private service outlets often earn less.

  • Median Annual Salary: $44,050 ($21.18/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $71,40 ($34.59/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $25,790 ($12.40/hour)

Some service technicians earn a commission based on the amount of work performed, while others receive an hourly wage. Some mechanics who work for garages or dealers also take on some private customers outside their work hours and location. Others look for cars with significant mechanical problems that they can purchase, fix, and sell privately at a profit to supplement their incomes.

Education, Training & Certification

Auto mechanics have a variety of learning and training options, although they might not all be necessary.

  • Education: Options for mechanics include an associate's degree in automotive technology or a related field. They should ideally hold a high school or vocational training program diploma. A college degree is not generally required.
  • Certification: Certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is the standard credential for automotive service technicians. Employers may require their service technicians to become certified.
  • Apprenticeships: Either an apprenticeship working under an experienced mechanic or on-the-job training can be beneficial.
  • Continuing Education: Mechanics must be willing to engage in ongoing learning to keep pace with changing technology as new models of cars are released with ever-evolving features.

Automotive Mechanic Skills & Competencies

Workers in the automotive industry need a number of skills to help them maintain and repair cars, trucks, and other vehicles, and to work with customers, managers, employees, and team members. Employers seek these skills in the candidates they hire for automotive jobs.

  • Analytical abilities: These can help you conduct tests and inspections and to diagnose the causes of elusive car troubles.
  • Mechanical skills: Knowledge of engine components and systems and how they interact with each other is important. Technicians must be able to take apart major parts for repairs and be able to put them back together properly.
  • People skills: You'll be involved in customer service and customer relations.
  • An eye for detail: Not only will this help with hands-on work, but it can be beneficial in other aspects of the job, such as recordkeeping and maintaining inventory.
  • Coordination: Some work can require a great deal of manual dexterity and fine motor skills. Other work demands strength and agility.
  • Leadership skills: You might be called upon to supervise or teach others.

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities for automotive service technicians and mechanics are expected to decline by about 4% between 2019 and 2029.

The number of vehicles on the road is expected to rise, but this will be offset by advances in technology and design that should enhance the reliability of vehicles and minimize the need for repairs.

Work Environment

Mechanics work in a variety of automotive service settings, including car dealers, tire stores, oil change operations, gas stations, and full-service repair shops. Some mechanics operate their own business and take on management functions such as setting prices, advertising, training, and supervising staff.

Work Schedule

This job can entail some overtime. It's not always possible to clock out and walk away in the middle of a repair. Evening and weekend work isn't uncommon, and this is largely a full-time job.

How to Get the Job

Earn a Manufacturer-Specific Certification Stand out from other applicants because Ford or Audi, for example, has given you their seal of approval. The Automotive Technical Institute offers specialized training programs.

Search the Top Job Sites Search leading job sites like Indeed.com and Monster by job title (automotive technician, service technician, etc.) to find local job listings.

Check Out Niche Job Boards Sites like NeedTechs.com list current available openings for automotive technicians. This site posts links for both employers and job seekers.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Some similar jobs that involve working on different types of machinery offer varying median annual salaries.

  • Aircraft Mechanic: $66,680
  • Diesel Service Technician: $50,200
  • Small Engine Mechanic: $39,020