What Auto Technicians Do

Auto mechanics, or “technicians”, as some prefer to be known, do a LOT more than just fix cars. Technicians deal with distributors, solve problems for customers, crunch numbers, receive ongoing training, and even negotiate with insurance adjusters, often on behalf of the customer.

Want to coast through your next repair shop visit without a hitch? First breeze through these inside tips and insights into a technician’s work life:

WHN: What days/times of year are you least busy?

Want to do the technicians a favor and take your car in on a slow work day? Don’t press your luck but according to the Automotive Service Association (ASA), Tuesday (18%) and Wednesday (18%) are reported to be the least busiest days, based on the association’s most recent "How's Your Business?" survey results.

Consider local events and plan ahead. Curtis Goodman, owner of three Midas franchises in Colorado, mentions that the weeks before kids head back-to-school, “Our franchise in Boulder, CO, gets especially busy the week before classes when parents are dropping their kids off at school…as well as before any breaks when kids head back home.” Summer is also the busiest season so schedule your tune-ups and regular maintenance earlier in the spring.

“If you are considering a trip to your favorite independent repair facility, give them a call, describe your vehicle’s needs and schedule the repair,” says Darrell Amberson, AAM, ASA Collision Division director and president of Lehman’s Garage in Bloomington, Minn. “They can tell you if there is a particular time that is preferable during the week/day.”

WHN: How long can I expect common tasks to take?

This all depends on a variety of factors:

  • The type of repair shop (dealership, chain business, family-owned business), number of staff on board
  • If the problem can be easily diagnosed
  • If the shop is busy
  • If you have a scheduled appointment

“It is recommended that you call your service center to schedule an appointment even for just an oil change,” says Earl Dohner, AAM, ASA Mechanical Division director and owner of E&E’s Garage in Brookville, Ohio. “Not only will this help with prompt service, it will give you an opportunity to hear from the repair facility if there is a particular time the workflow may be high or low that day.”

Thinking of scheduling an appointment? Here’s how long a task might take, according to Dohner:

  • Oil change = 30-45 minutes
  • Tire alignment = 30-45 minutes
  • Tune-up, commonly referred to as “engine performance maintenance” = 1.5-2 hours
  • Collision repair = varies depending on severity of damage, however ASA members have reported that the average cycle time for ASA collision members was six days

Be patient – it may take a few short minutes or a few days to diagnose and fix the problem. “Some people expect [repairs] to take as long as it takes to cook a hamburger!” says Goodman. “Cars are complex machines with many different working parts!”

WHN: How do auto technicians help customers with insurance claims?

At the service shop, you’ll often meet with a service writer – a technician who is trained to act as a liaison between you, the customer, and the insurance company. The service writer will often take down notes about the repairs the customer wants to make, says Goodman. The service writer also writes up estimates and finds the necessary parts for the repairs. Be sure to ask plenty of questions about your car, the parts and ask for a breakdown of costs for any and all estimates.

WHN: Do technicians receive ongoing training? How do I know they’re up-to-date with information about my vehicle?

Many technicians receive ongoing training, especially collision repair technicians. “As you travel down the road, take note of the varied types of vehicles, passenger cars and pick ups alike,” says Amberson. “Each vehicle is different, with unique materials, instruments and tooling. For a repair facility to reassemble their customer’s vehicle correctly, training, tools and equipment are of the utmost importance.”

WHN TIP: Choose a mechanic who is ASE-certified.

What does this mean? ASE stands for The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, which is a professional certification testing organization for mechanics. ASE certified mechanics must undergo training and testing every five years to keep their certification.

WHN: What are three top things customers could do to make your work easier?

  • 'Check out local repair shops before you need one," says Dohner. "Choose a repair facility you trust and feel comfortable with. Ask friends and relatives for references. Also, looking at a repair facility’s certifications and association participation is also a way of determining shop credibility."

    WHN TIP: Choosing a Mechanic

    Read our Choosing a Mechanic article for a list of questions to ask when selecting a mechanical or collision repair shop.

  • "Read your owner’s manual and review it on a regular basis and adhere to the regular maintenance schedule for your vehicle," Dohner says. "Proper maintenance can save you money in the long run, optimize gas mileage and safety, and extend the life of our vehicle."
  • Bring your vehicle into the shop as soon as you notice something is wrong. Be able to explain in detail what you heard, smelled, saw or felt.

Thank you ...

Thanks to Curtis Goodman from Midas and thanks to the Earl Dohner and Darrell Amberson with the Automotive Service Association. For more car maintenance-related articles, visit our Car Accident articles page.