Motor vehicle technicians, or mechanics, carry out service and repair of vehicles, MOT testing and engine conversions to liquid petroleum gas (LPG). They work for garages, manufacturers' service centres, freight, transport and construction companies, and vehicle hire and breakdown organisations. Technicians work in one of four areas:
Working mainly with cars and vans, a technician uses a range of hand and power tools, and electrical testing equipment to carry out regular service checks on engines and components. On more modern vehicles, they use computerised fault diagnosis equipment, which connects to the vehicle’s electronic control unit (ECU) to identify problems.
Any defective parts are repaired or replaced, in line with manufacturer’s manuals and guidelines. Other tasks include tuning parts, MOT testing (see Training), and fitting and servicing accessories, such as radios and alarms.
Technicians work on trucks, buses and coaches, earth-moving equipment, tractors, stationary engines (eg generators and pumps) and agricultural machinery. Many of the tasks are the same as those carried out on light vehicles. As heavy vehicle components are expensive, technicians aim to repair rather than replace parts.
Motorcycle technicians examine, repair and maintain motorbikes. They use many of the same tools and procedures as light vehicle technicians. They also customise bikes to owners' specifications.
Auto electricians find and repair electrical faults in vehicles. They also instal new electrical/electronic parts and accessories, such as car alarms, immobilisers and CD changers. Once again, their tools are similar to those used by light vehicle technicians. For more information about fitting electrics, see the profile for Auto Electrician.
Working 40 hours a week is common, with overtime available depending on workload. There may be shift work, including weekends, and some garages operate an ‘on-call’ system. Some heavy vehicle garages only service vehicles at night.
Newer service centres are relatively clean and spacious, whereas conditions in older garages can be cramped and dirty. Although, lifting equipment and hoists are used, the work is still physically demanding.
When dealing with breakdowns, technicians may have to travel long distances and be expected to work in all weather conditions.
To be a motor vehicle technician, you should:
Motor vehicle technicians work for small independent garages, fast-fit outlets - which carry out MOTs and basic servicing - large car dealerships, and haulage companies. Opportunities also exist with other organisations such as local authorities, the police, motoring organisations, large private firms and taxi companies.
There is a demand for highly trained technicians all over the UK. Due to the ever-changing technology involved in the car industry, many workers undergo further training. There may also be the opportunity to specialise in a particular area of mechanics, such as tyres, clutches and brakes, or specific make of vehicle.
Promotion is normally to senior technician and then supervisor. Management positions may also be a possibility. Some technicians become self-employed.
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