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Automobile Mechanics

At a Glance

  • Some specialize in an area of repair
  • May work nights and weekends
  • Use a variety of tools and techniques
  • Train through formal programs or on the job
  • Most become certified in one or more of eight service areas
  • Often are paid a flat rate or by commission

Career summary

Automobile mechanics inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks.

Automobile mechanics may also be called service, automobile or automotive technicians.


Auto mechanics examine belts, hoses, plugs, brakes, and fuel systems. They may install or repair accessories, such as heaters and windshield wipers. They inspect and lubricate engines and parts. They tune engines to use less fuel.

Auto mechanics talk to owners to find out what problems the car is having. They examine cars and try to eliminate simple things that could cause the problem. Sometimes they test drive cars to observe their performance. They use a variety of testing equipment, such as hand-held diagnostic computers and compression gauges.

Once the problem is identified, mechanics make adjustments or repairs. Sometimes they replace or rebuild damaged parts. For large repairs, mechanics estimate the cost and get the customer's approval before doing any work.

Auto mechanics use a variety of tools, including:

Automobile mechanics are also called service technicians. Those in small shops must know about all areas of car repair. Those who work in large shops may specialize in one or more areas, such as:

Automatic transmission

Automatic transmission technicians work on gear trains, hydraulic pumps, and other parts of a transmission.


Bio-diesel technicians may remove old fuel tanks to install new fuel systems. They convert cars that use regular gasoline to use bio-diesel, ethanol, methane, or other fuels.


Tune-up technicians adjust timing and valves, and adjust or replace spark plugs and fuel systems.


Front-end mechanics align and balance wheels and repair steering and suspension systems.

Brake repair

Brake repairers adjust brakes and replace brake linings and pads. They also service regenerative braking systems in hybrid vehicles.

Related careers

This career is part of the Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to automobile mechanics.

Common work activities

Automobile mechanics perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, automobile mechanics:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Automobile mechanics frequently:

It is important for automobile mechanics to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for automobile mechanics to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Automobile mechanics need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an automobile mechanic, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Many automobile mechanics learn their skills through formal training programs. Professional-technical schools and two-year colleges offer these programs. Most auto mechanic programs combine classroom instruction and hands-on practice. Training lasts six months to two years.

Some automobile manufacturers and dealers provide training programs at professional-technical or two-year schools. In this type of training program, you study in the classroom and work in the dealer's shop. Every six to eight weeks you rotate between work and study. Some dealers help pay for tuition or the purchase of tools.

On-the-job training

Many automobile mechanics receive on-the-job training. An experienced mechanic trains you in basic tasks. You begin by working as a helper. During training, you learn to:

On-the-job training usually lasts up to one month.

Military training

The military trains people to become automotive and heavy equipment mechanics. Training lasts from eight to 29 weeks, depending on your specialty. Further training occurs on the job.

Washington apprenticeships

For further information on apprenticeships in Washington, contact:

Washington State Department of Labor and Industries
Apprenticeship Program (external link)

PO Box 44530
Olympia, WA 98504-4530

#Apprenticeship info still ok, 2/7/18 cj.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many automobile mechanics are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most employers prefer applicants who have completed a formal training program. Experience working on motor vehicles in the military or as a hobby may also be helpful. Employers also look for applicants with strong reading, math, and computer skills. These skills allow mechanics to read and understand technical manuals and to keep up with new technology. Employers also look for mechanics who can diagnose problems quickly and correctly.

Some employers look for mechanics who have gained experience by working as an entry-level technician at another garage for one or two years.

Employers also look for applicants who are dependable and motivated, have problem-solving skills, and a good attendance record at previous jobs or during high school. Three to four years of experience is usually necessary to be considered a journey-level worker. Applicants should have a current vehicle operator's license, a good driving record, and be in good physical condition. Some shops require mechanics to be certified. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence conducts certification tests for automobile mechanics twice a year. Some employers may also require workers to pass a physical examination, criminal background check, driving history investigation, and a drug screening test.

#Background check & driving history investigation required by Intercity Transit mechanics per 1/2012 job announcement, cj.


Have diagnostic skills; it's predicted that diagnosing problems will take up the most repair time. Knowledge of all aspects of automotive theory is important. Reading comprehension, math, and problem-solving skills are important. Find an experienced mechanic to be your mentor. An internship at a local car repair shop or dealership is a good way to develop skills and gain hands-on experience.

#Last sentence in tips based on article in the Olympian, 9/22/03. CJ, 2004 update.

Costs to workers

Automobile mechanics often have to provide their own tools. The cost to supply all basic hand tools is about $2,000 to $6,330, depending on brand and quality. A complete set may cost $11,000 or more. You will need to purchase new tools as they wear out or break. Many workers have to purchase both standard and metric tools, which makes the costs even higher. Some workers are required to join a union and pay an initiation fee and monthly dues.

#Tool cost for beginning still seems ok - Walla Walla CC list basic first yr tools as $600-$1,300 and 2nd yr tools as $800-$1,500. General search on high quality brand tools shows that even a single deep socket wrench set can easily run $200 or more. 2/14/12 cj. WWCC still listing same tool cost ranges as noted here, so left as is, 2/6/14 cj. WWCC now listing 1st yr as $1,277-$4,772 and 2nd yr as $491-$1,561 so raised upper end of cost range 2/7/18 cj.


Many employers require automobile mechanics to be certified. Mechanics can be certified in one or more of eight different service areas. These areas include electrical systems, engine repair, brake systems, suspension and steering, heating and air conditioning, automatic transmission/transaxle, manual transmission/transaxle, and engine performance. Master automotive mechanics are certified in all eight areas. For certification in an area, mechanics must:

Completion of an automotive mechanic program in high school, vocational trade school, or community or junior college may be substituted for up to one year of experience. For more information, contact:

National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)
https://www.ase.com/ (external link)

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Automotive service technicians and mechanics (SOC 49-3023)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $14.10 $17.53 $22.88 $28.79 $35.48
Monthly $2,444 $3,038 $3,965 $4,989 $6,149
Yearly $29,330 $36,450 $47,590 $59,880 $73,800
    Bellingham Hourly $15.83 $18.31 $23.18 $29.52 $35.23
Monthly $2,743 $3,173 $4,017 $5,116 $6,105
Yearly $32,930 $38,100 $48,201 $61,383 $73,273
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $15.58 $20.31 $24.04 $28.48 $31.84
Monthly $2,700 $3,520 $4,166 $4,936 $5,518
Yearly $32,413 $42,239 $50,004 $59,248 $66,215
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $9.27 $12.76 $17.39 $22.79 $30.18
Monthly $1,606 $2,211 $3,014 $3,950 $5,230
Yearly $19,283 $26,550 $36,176 $47,405 $62,778
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $13.61 $17.88 $24.98 $29.19 $34.77
Monthly $2,359 $3,099 $4,329 $5,059 $6,026
Yearly $28,321 $37,196 $51,958 $60,728 $72,322
    Longview Hourly $12.53 $13.87 $19.26 $24.29 $30.27
Monthly $2,171 $2,404 $3,338 $4,209 $5,246
Yearly $26,064 $28,852 $40,061 $50,526 $62,957
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $13.41 $16.39 $21.66 $27.36 $30.62
Monthly $2,324 $2,840 $3,754 $4,741 $5,306
Yearly $27,893 $34,096 $45,054 $56,906 $63,698
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $13.55 $16.42 $20.07 $25.06 $30.48
Monthly $2,348 $2,846 $3,478 $4,343 $5,282
Yearly $28,199 $34,149 $41,735 $52,126 $63,404
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $14.73 $18.42 $24.02 $29.96 $37.52
Monthly $2,553 $3,192 $4,163 $5,192 $6,502
Yearly $30,627 $38,325 $49,951 $62,309 $78,031
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $15.83 $17.96 $22.33 $28.13 $34.84
Monthly $2,743 $3,112 $3,870 $4,875 $6,038
Yearly $32,924 $37,356 $46,456 $58,508 $72,470
    Vancouver Hourly $14.44 $17.79 $23.98 $29.80 $36.32
Monthly $2,502 $3,083 $4,156 $5,164 $6,294
Yearly $30,040 $36,996 $49,874 $61,981 $75,560
    Walla Walla Hourly $12.58 $15.96 $18.28 $22.27 $26.56
Monthly $2,180 $2,766 $3,168 $3,859 $4,603
Yearly $26,171 $33,196 $38,035 $46,330 $55,251
    Wenatchee Hourly $12.52 $15.46 $21.59 $27.20 $32.09
Monthly $2,170 $2,679 $3,742 $4,714 $5,561
Yearly $26,049 $32,140 $44,928 $56,561 $66,741
    Yakima Hourly $12.26 $13.64 $16.71 $21.78 $26.24
Monthly $2,125 $2,364 $2,896 $3,774 $4,547
Yearly $25,498 $28,377 $34,766 $45,299 $54,579
United States Hourly $11.26 $14.53 $19.57 $26.31 $32.19
Monthly $1,951 $2,518 $3,391 $4,560 $5,579
Yearly $23,420 $30,220 $40,710 $54,720 $66,950

Mechanics are paid using one of several options. Some are paid a "flat rate." This means they are paid for a set number of hours for a particular repair. For example, they might be given one hour of pay to complete an oil change. If mechanics take longer than an hour to complete the task, they are not paid extra. However, if they complete the job in less than an hour, they are still paid for a full hour of work. Other mechanics are paid a set hourly wage regardless of the type of repairs they do. A few are paid a flat rate plus a commission based on the labor cost charged to customers.

Wages vary depending on the employer and the area of the country. Wages also vary according to the level of skill and experience of the mechanic. 

Benefits vary by employer. Many full-time auto mechanics receive benefits. These may include paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Those who are self-employed must provide their own insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook



The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics (SOC 49-3023)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 17,130 8.9% 16.1% 1,954
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 702 10.8% 13.4% 83
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 266 6.8% 8.6% 29
    Benton and Franklin Counties 759 9.0% 15.0% 86
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 884 11.5% 11.9% 106
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 1,212 11.2% 15.2% 145
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 1,144 9.0% 14.1% 131
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 901 9.3% 14.6% 104
    King County 4,808 7.2% 19.6% 527
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 772 8.5% 13.8% 87
    Pierce County 1,942 10.7% 15.2% 229
    Snohomish County 2,076 9.0% 12.4% 235
    Spokane County 1,487 8.4% 13.9% 168
United States 770,100 -0.8% 5.2% 74,000

National employment

About 15% of auto mechanics are self-employed.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will show little to no change over the next few years. The number of cars and trucks on the road is increasing and better designs allow vehicles to be driven for more years leading to increased work for auto mechanics.

However, new technologies are making cars more reliable and less likely to need repair. Most job openings will be at automobile dealerships and independent repair shops..

Job prospects are best for people with formal training and certifications, however, there will be strong competition for entry-level positions.

Other resources

Association of Diesel Specialists (external link)
7250 Heritage Village Plaza, Suite 201
Gainesville, VA 20155
AutoCare Association (external link)
7101 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 1300
Bethesda, MD 20814
AutoCare Careers (external link)
Automotive Service Association (external link)
8209 Mid Cities Boulevard
North Richland Hills, TX 76182
Automotive Technician Career Information (external link)
Engineer Girl! (external link)
National Academy of Engineering
National Automobile Dealers Association (external link)
8400 Westpark Drive
Tysons, VA 22102
National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) (external link)
1503 Edwards Ferry Rd., NE, Suite 401
Leesburg, VA 20176
SAE International (external link)
400 Commonwealth Drive
Warrendale, PA 15096


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupations

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational clusters