How to Choose a Car Mechanic
Selecting a mechanic to service you vehicle can be a big decision, and sometimes you just don’t know where to start. Along with these car maintenance and safety tips, there are a few factors you should take into consideration when choosing a car mechanic. The first thing you should know is that mechanics in the United States are not required by law to be certified by any institution. However, since its founding in 1972, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) has been the closest thing to an official certifying body the field has.
What Does an ASE Certification Mean?
When choosing your car’s mechanic, there are a number of factors to take into consideration. First is ASE certification, which is based on two criteria. The first criteria is a passing score on at least one of several tests. There are eight main tests, with more specific exams for specialists (collision repair, engine machinist, etc). The main tests include:
- Engine Repair
- Engine Performance
- Electrical/Electronic Systems
- Heating and Air Conditioning
- Suspension and Steering
- Manual Drivetrain and Axles
- Automatic Transmissions
The second criteria is work experience. The mechanic must have two years of relevant experience in order to be ASE certified and must continue to take tests every five years in order to remain certified.
When choosing a mechanic, you may see the ASE sign at service centers, which indicates that at least one mechanic employed at the shop is ASE certified. Ideally, you want to see an ASE “Blue Seal of Excellence,” which means at least ¾ of the staff are certified. While the other ¼ may have passed the required tests, they may not yet have the work experience to receive certification. You will want to inquire if there is a technician available that specializes in the repair or maintenance area you require.
Is Factory Training Important?
Oftentimes, a mechanic will be “factory trained” instead of or in addition to being ASE certified. This means the mechanic has been trained by the automaker to specialize in a specific make or model. You will most often find factory trained technicians at dealership service centers and independent shops that specialize in foreign cars. ASE training provides mechanics with general knowledge and a great foundation, while factory training gives mechanics expert knowledge on specific brands.
What Do You Want in a Mechanic?
Ideally you want a mechanic who is both ASE certified and and factory trained to work with the type of vehicle you own. When in doubt, be sure to do you research by checking online reviews and simply asking around. It is likely you will find a number of mechanics with similar qualifications, and the opinions of other drivers can be helpful in determining matters of quality of work, timeliness, etc.
March 5, 2012 by Jamie Rettig