There are many factors which combine to make a great automobile repair technician, but all truly great technicians will have the following four characteristics:
It’s the ability to easily understand how things work. I do not believe this is something that can be learned—some just seem to be born with it. When they find something broken, no mater what it is, they take it apart to try to determine what is wrong and if it can be fixed. Only when repairs have failed completely is the item discarded. This trait can appear at quite a young age and never seems to diminish.
Basic Automotive Training
This type of training can start anytime in one’s life. Spending time with the neighborhood “car guy” is a common starting point. This can begin with a basic oil change and lead to helping with a full restoration project. At some point, an automotive trade school or community college will come into play. Nearly all of the best technicians have graduated from an accredited automotive trade school or community college automotive technology program.
Nothing improves a technician more than experience. Our vehicles have become extremely complex machines. Even with all the training in the world, the only way to put it all together is though work experience. Many experts believe it takes ten years of work experience before a technician develops the understanding of automotive systems necessary to diagnose and repair the most complicated problems.
As new features and/or systems are added (nearly every new model year has something new), the manufacturers take the lead in training the dealership service technicians. Over time, as the vehicles begin to find their way into the independent repair shops, there are many companies who offer training to the technicians working in these shops. It is not uncommon for a technician to attend twenty to forty hours of training each year.
In addition to the “big four,” a great technician will also have a never-give-up attitude, good communication skills, and be completely honest when recommending necessary repairs.
I have purposely left certifications off of my list because while nearly all great technicians will have certifications from the ASE and/or a manufacturer, certifications alone don’t make a great technician. Someone lacking in one or more of the items listed above, who simply studies for and passes the certification tests is not necessarily a great technician. A technician must be great in his own right—certifications are something that are acquired along the way.