Auto mechanics use diagnostic software and mechanical skills to maintain, repair and modify cars, vans, motorbikes, lorries and coaches. They work on all vehicle mechanics and electrics, from engines and exhaust systems to air-conditioning and security. Auto mechanics are responsible for doing repairs and preventive maintenance to insure the customer’s vehicle is in good condition and running smoothly and safely.
An auto mechanic’s work responsibilities may include:
- performing diagnostics on all computer systems and electrical components to ensure they are functioning properly
- telling customers if repairs are needed and how important they are
- working out the estimated time and cost for jobs
- carrying out repairs and replacing damaged parts
- road testing the vehicle to check the repair work
- fitting and servicing accessories like radios and alarms
- carrying out standard servicing and checks
- carrying out MOT tests or converting standard engines
- customising vehicles for their owners
- working on electric and hybrid vehicles.
A TALENT FOR TINKERING
What does your job involve? My work, in brief, involves reception and liaison with clients for diagnosis of vehicular problems, estimation of costs of repair and technical advice. Then there’s the running of the business side of things which involves recourse to absolve problems, directing and guiding staff to tackle the faults and multitask in carrying out repairs, and doing costing, invoicing and public relations.
How did you get into this field? This trade was actually thrusted upon me after leaving UCT. I passed my first year studying BSc Chemical Engineering, but was impeded to complete my studies due to lack of fees or bursaries at that time. I was readily accepted (during ‘apartheid years’) as an apprentice at a major franchise dealer.
What training did you undergo? An apprenticeship contract of five years, which I completed by passing a trade test after a mandatory two years.
What makes a good mechanic? A patient and mechanically-inspired individual with a passion for automobiles. You’ll need to be a good problem-solver with lots of patience, possess good people skills and be a good listener.
Is experience as important as training? Experience is the best teacher, but is well complemented by training. Have the recipe, but cook the meal!
What do you like the most about your work? The satisfaction of solving a problem successfully and as promptly as possible.
What don’t you like? When I get complaints about items relating to rattles, noises from the body or trim of the car.
Any words of wisdom for newcomers? Accept that there is always someone with skills and knowledge in your trade that you can learn from.
What’s your dream for the future? A beautiful state-of-the-art workshop to my personal design.
There are various routes to take to become an auto mechanic. An apprenticeship involves theoretical training at a TVET college, combined with practical training under a qualified artisan within an organisation. A learnership includes theoretical and practical training that takes place on the premises of an organisation, which has the advantage of providing the learner with on-the-job experience. It is also possible to do a skills programme, a short practical course, at a TVET college. Graduates must take a Trade Test to qualify for registration as an auto mechanic.
WHERE CAN I STUDY?
Northlink TVET College
Coastal KZN TVET College
Imperial Technical Training Academy
National Diploma: Mechanical Engineering
AA Training Academy
Collier Training College
Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) – www.miwasa.com
The South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering (SAIMechE) – www.saimeche.org.za
Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services SETA (MerSETA) – www.merseta.org.za
Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended:
- Mechanical Technology
- Engineering and Graphic Design
- Technical Drawing
- Physical Sciences