Industry Career Trends
The automotive service industry offers a wide array of career opportunities. The focus of this lesson is on the “hands-on” shop-based technician careers. Other lessons cover the support positions and even emerging mobile diagnostic careers.
The careers available within the automotive service industry are always evolving as the underlying automotive technologies evolve. For example, due to the complexity of the newest generations of automatic transmissions, many manufactures no longer attempt to repair them in the field. This is mirrored in the aftermarket by the big drop in automatic transmission shops.
However, the same evolution in technologies that threaten some of the traditional job titles ultimately creates new ones. For example, look at the role of a Tesla technician. With Tesla, most of the service techs are integrated into a team led by an electrical engineer to diagnose and perform repairs. No doubt the future of the automotive service industry will be ever-changing as new technologies are implemented.
Larger shops, particularly dealerships, typically have a dedicated person that is responsible for the overall operation of the shop. Listed below are some of the responsibilities a shop foreman may be assigned. Also, note that with smaller operations a shop foreman may still perform work in the shop.
- Supervises all personnel and work in the shop
- Maintains training records and has a personalized training plan for each technician
- Communicates with customers as needed, particularly on cars that were bought back to be rechecked
- Is responsible for the overall quality of the repair work
- Is responsible for maintaining a safe workspace
YouTube Playlist: Shop Forman
Technician Skill Levels
“A” Level Technician
Advanced Electrical / Drivability Tech
An “A” tech is an experienced and seasoned tech that can perform all types of repairs and diagnostics but tend to specialize in advanced electrical diagnostics, drivability, and reprogramming. Since this position lives on the tip of the evolving technology spear, it requires a commitment to training and embracing change.
“A” techs have made a serious commitment to training/certification and most have credentials such as:
- Master ASE Certified (Certified in All 8 ASE Areas)
- Advanced Engine Performance Specialist – L1
- Ongoing training from a program such as Carquest Technical Institute (CTI)
- Attending training conferences such as AAPEX Show, ASTE Show, TST Seminars, and VISION,
“B” Level Technician
“B” technicians have a significant amount of training but tend to focus on specific areas of the car. Their electrical training is more focused on standard DC circuitry and not so much on controller area network (CAN) diagnostics. Some of the areas of focus within the “B” Tech level is covered in the sections below. Note that smaller shops may not be able to support this level of specialty and a “B” tech would do most all repairs except “A” level work.
Line Tech – Light
A “line tech” takes the next repair order up that falls within their expertise/qualifications. A “light” line tech would not tend to take on heavy work such as remove and replace (R&R) engines and transmissions.
Line Tech – Heavy
A “line tech” takes the next repair order up that falls within their expertise/qualifications. A “heavy” line tech would tend to take on heavy work such as remove and replace (R&R) engines and transmissions. These types of jobs tend to span several days and require more specialized tools, equipment, and expertise.
Under Car Tech
A “line tech” takes the next repair order up that falls within their expertise/qualifications. An under-car tech focuses on brake and steering/suspension work, including operating an alignment rack. Shops that offer alignments tend to have only one, or a few, techs that operates the alignment rack.
Undercar work tends to be physically harder work to perform and often a dirty environment; however, the work tends to be consistent (every car that comes in the shop could be a candidate for an alignment). Also, the technology doesn’t evolve as rapidly as other areas of the car.
While a larger general repair shop may have a dedicated person for transmission work, a transmission specialist often works at a repair shop that specializes in transmission repairs.
As covered in the overview section of this lesson, due to the complexity of modern automatic transmissions (as shown in Image 1), they are not repaired in the field as often as they were in the past. Many car manufacturers no longer train their technicians to repair them in the field, they swap the transmissions for a factory rebuilt or a new unit.
For example, this is the procedure to replace an automatic transmission at a Honda Dealership:
- Follow the Honda diagnostic procedure to determine the transmission has internal failures and will need to be replaced to correct the problem.
- Contact Honda with the vehicle’s VIN to order a factory remanufactured transmission
- The remanufactured transmission will be shipped to you in a reusable shipping container
- Place the original transmission in the reusable shipping container and ship it back to Honda
- Note that the transmission sent back to Honda (the core) must match the transmission number for the VIN used to order the remanufactured unit.
- Also note that if any part of the core transmission is missing, or any covers have been removed (and even put back on) Honda will likely keep the core charge (approximately $1000).
Hybrid drivetrains are drastically different than traditional drivetrains and as the percentage of electric and hybrid car drivetrains increase, it will also have an impact on the traditional transmission repair industry.
“C” Level Technician
The majority of “C” level technicians are working in the quick service bays. After a “C” tech has spent enough time in the quick service area to prove they are ready for more responsibilities they are typically partnered with an “A” or “B” tech for further training and mentoring.