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Old 08-17-2011, 05:32 PM
 
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I work at a Nissan dealership (3 mos) as an entry level automotive technican. I do all the basic stuff change oil and airfilters, conduct inspections, change tires, plug tires, balance tires, change lights, etc. etc. all the "lightweight" stuff.

I have a solid understanding on cars. I have a certificate for automotive technology from a vocational school and I still study in my spare time so when the year is up I can get all 8 A.S.E.

I talked to a friend and he said that it takes up to 5-6 years to become a Master Technician; time which I don't have. It's not that I want to rush the process but I have bigger goals in mind and need my skills now.

I was hoping to become a Master Technician in 2 years time. What can I do? I'm also going to college for Engineering science a prerequisite for Mechanical Engineering. The program helps to understand the theory of cars.

Advice would be much appreciated.
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Old 08-17-2011, 05:43 PM
PDD
 
Location: The Sand Hills of NC
8,773 posts, read 16,846,687 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Veyron View Post
I work at a Nissan dealership (3 mos) as an entry level automotive technican. I do all the basic stuff change oil and airfilters, conduct inspections, change tires, plug tires, balance tires, change lights, etc. etc. all the "lightweight" stuff.

I have a solid understanding on cars. I have a certificate for automotive technology from a vocational school and I still study in my spare time so when the year is up I can get all 8 A.S.E.

I talked to a friend and he said that it takes up to 5-6 years to become a Master Technician; time which I don't have. It's not that I want to rush the process but I have bigger goals in mind and need my skills now.

I was hoping to become a Master Technician in 2 years time. What can I do? I'm also going to college for Engineering science a prerequisite for Mechanical Engineering. The program helps to understand the theory of cars.

Advice would be much appreciated.
Would you feel comfortable going to a Doctor who just finished Med school and had little experience?

I know I would rather have an experienced mechanic trying to diagnose a car problem than a mechanic who rushed through the certification.

It takes experience to become a good mechanic just like it take experience to become a good doctor.
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Old 08-17-2011, 06:12 PM
 
Location: Apple Valley Calif
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The tests for ASE are only given twice a year, and you can only take, I believe it's three at the most, at one time, so that is one reason it takes years. Take one or two tests every six months, and time goes by fast...! If you should fail a test, you're set back six months.
It's been a few years since I got my Master's cert, so the rules are a little rusty, but the tests are killer, and if you can take and pass three in one evening, you have done something special.
Take your time, there is no hurry, even if you think there is. As you get older, you will slow down. There is no wayt to hurry the process..
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Old 08-17-2011, 06:12 PM
 
Location: Eastern Washington
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PDD's point about experience is a good one, but assuming you are a fast learner, you might be able to accelerate the process some by going to a good independent shop.

Cramming a 5 year program into 2 years is not likely to happen, maybe you can get it down to 3.5, just guessing.

Many vocational programs are designed for guys with just above average intellegence and drive, so the time in grade requirements tend to be long.

There are, though, some maturing processes that can't be rushed.
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Old 08-17-2011, 07:38 PM
 
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I hate to be the spoiler on this ... but in my experience training so many techs who went on to their own successful independent shops ....

I've never seen a competent tech, let alone a Master Tech ... develop their diagnostic skills, hand skills, and methodology of work in less than many years more than you're allowing yourself to reach that level.

In short, while you have a VoTech training program behind you ... you don't know what you don't know at this time.

I appreciate that you think that all that "lightweight stuff" is beneath your skill and training level, but I've had so many youngsters through my shop that were "top graduates" from VoTechs, some who even were awarded $20-30,000 Snap-On toolboxes/toolsets to start them on their careers ... that my perspective is a lot different. You see, I've had way too many of these entry level techs thinking that they were going to start out at the top level of wages because they knew so much ... and without fail, every one of them I've ever hired could barely earn his keep in my flat-rate shop, let alone bill enough hours in a week to justify an hourly wage. Working on high end cars and doing major repairs from day one (let alone 3 months ....) just wasn't in their range of skills, and I've paid dearly out of my own pocket to fix their screw-ups on my customer's cars.

I'll give you two examples of how well a typical entry-level tech performs: Earlier this year, I needed to make a last-minute trip with my 1995 F-250 Powerstroke, and I realized that it needed an oil change and inspection. So, on my way out of town, I stopped at the QuikLube facility at my local Ford dealership ... figured I'd take care of some shopping next door for supplies and then be on my way, more convenient for me than servicing the truck myself and then doing the shopping. Got my truck back and I heard a different sort of intake noise coming from under the hood as I pulled out of the dealer parking lot. Turned back after a couple of blocks, and back to the service aisle. Let's see under the hood here, OK? Both of the fasteners for the air filter were not threaded to the posts, and the "tech" had also left his screwdriver (a dinky little straight stubby, inappropriate for that task) under the hood so that the hood wasn't quite seating on the rubber stop on the left side. Particularly galling about this is that he'd stripped the fasteners ... I think he just caught the first portion of thread and then didn't keep the pressure on the spring loaded fasteners to get a couple more turns on before releasing the pressure ... and I'd mentioned to the service writer that I was in a hurry and to not touch the coolant system or the air filter because I'd already taken care of both recently and the air filter has a K&N installed which I clean routinely. The service writer had duly noted on the ticket that these items were to be left alone per customer request. The dealership, of course, is apologetic but denying any claim that the fasteners were damaged by their line tech and so I get to replace those from a boneyard one of these days.

2nd example: My neighbor has a 2001 Dodge 3500 Cummins dually he uses for his welding business. He took it in to our local Dodge dealership last week for a routine service, where they advised him that it needed diff lube changes due to mileage. He authorized the upsell work, and returned to pick it up that afternoon. He went directly from the dealership quick lube lanes to a close-by steel yard where he picked up his trailer and 10,000lbs of steel for a project. Made it about 15 miles before he noticed the screaming sounds from the rear end of the truck. Smokin' hot back there, it got towed back to the dealership within an hour of having left. No signs whatsoever of a leak, the dif had not been refilled after draining. The dealership tried to charge $1,780 for the repairs before they'd release the truck. Lube service workorder in hand, my neighbor went back inside to visit with the GM and suggested that they needed to warranty their work. He got out the door with the diff repair and tow bill paid for by the dealership, although no consequential damages for his lost day of work/sales.

My point here is that the basic work you are tasked with and allowed to perform as an entry level tech is important to the business, even though you may hold it in low regard. Until you can demonstrate a longer term ability to do this work cleanly, quickly, efficiently, and with being able to deal with the glitches that come along the way at this level (rusty/stuck, stripped fasteners, bunged threads, etc) ... there's no way a dealership (or, in my case, an independent) is going to entrust you with yet more challenging work tasks.

What I would be looking for from you is the initiative to understand the differences between a legitimate upsell to a customer's benefit vs ignoring issues on a vehicle because they're not on a work order. The fact is that the entry level service aisle is the most important initial customer contact in any shop .... While you are tasked with a lube service, do you notice bad tires? failed shock absorbers or bent suspension components? how about exhaust system hangars/brackets, or rusty components? and so forth ... stuff that many customers wouldn't notice or complain about until a total failure, but you can do them (and your employing shop) a service by being observant and writing it up.

Have fun in your career path in automotive .... and pay your dues to acquire the skills that you need to succeed.

Last edited by sunsprit; 08-17-2011 at 07:57 PM..
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Old 08-17-2011, 08:18 PM
 
Location: Eastern Washington
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Sunsprit, no doubt you know what you are talking about in terms of experience, but the 2 examples you cite are just lack of attention to detail, or lack of attention to the job at hand, more like character flaws than a lack of knowledge that can be trained out. More of a "distracted kid" thing than lack of training. Kind of surprised that you or your friend would use a dealer's "quick lube" setup - low end techs being pushed to turn out work in a hurry is a recipe for a disaster IMHO.

I do remember a zen like moment when I had been wrenching (part time of course) for myself about 10 or 15 years when it just got easier. No way to explain it, beyond going past a certain level of experience, the subliminal mind getting trained to notice what needs noticing.

You do make a good point that in performing simple maintenance over time, you do meet a glitch now and then, and over time you meet and deal with enough glitches to get experience.

OP, you seem to be trying to go down both the blue collar and white collar "car industry" career paths simultaneously. I don't know how well this will work, but good luck with it.

Like I mentioned to you before, Oregon Institute of Technology has engineering programs with a heavy "hands-on" content: OIT | Oregon Institute of Technology
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Old 08-17-2011, 09:14 PM
 
11,460 posts, read 49,240,277 times
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Originally Posted by M3 Mitch View Post
Sunsprit, no doubt you know what you are talking about in terms of experience, but the 2 examples you cite are just lack of attention to detail, or lack of attention to the job at hand, more like character flaws than a lack of knowledge that can be trained out. More of a "distracted kid" thing than lack of training. Kind of surprised that you or your friend would use a dealer's "quick lube" setup - low end techs being pushed to turn out work in a hurry is a recipe for a disaster IMHO.

In all the years I've been working on vehicles, it has happened by circumstances beyond my control only twice that I couldn't get to my own vehicle to service it in a timely manner. Such was the case for me most recently when I had to make an emergency trip to Colorado to evict some tenants and proactively be on the scene so that further damages to my property didn't take place. I had a 5 hour trip ahead of me and zero advance warning to pack my bags and some tools for the house repairs ... and 5,000 miles on the then current oil/filter change on my Powerstroke. As we all know, these are a little sensitive about keeping clean oil in them, so with the need to stop enroute at home despot for some materials, it was an act of convenience to leave the truck in the allegedly capable hands of the black oval shop.

Much to my disappointment, as described.

Excuses, however, are not substitutes for performance. Rationalize the behavior or mistake anyway you want for the tech that forgets to put lube into a differential after draining it as part of the servicing, the bottom line is that somebody isn't taking their job/tasks seriously enough to run through a mental checklist of events when they sign off that they've done the work.

My neighbor is a welder/fabricator, not an automotive tech. So him not changing oil on his vehicles is standard practice. With all of his travels, he relies upon the most convenient service facility to do routine oil/filter changes ... can be a chain lube place or a dealership. He doesn't get anywhere near the long term mileage I get out of my vehicles, but then again he is acclimated to getting a "newer" 5-8 year old truck with 100K miles on it every few years. Welding jobs in the oil patch are pretty tough on 1-ton trucks ....


I do remember a zen like moment when I had been wrenching (part time of course) for myself about 10 or 15 years when it just got easier. No way to explain it, beyond going past a certain level of experience, the subliminal mind getting trained to notice what needs noticing.

Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" is a classic tome on this experience. If you haven't read it, you may yet find in interesting ... if for nothing else but a retrospective view on what you experienced. I went through that phase when I was about 14-15 ... but then again, I'd been working on vehicles by my Dad's side since I was very small, so that was still a lot of years into doing this type of work before it really dawned on me, too.

You do make a good point that in performing simple maintenance over time, you do meet a glitch now and then, and over time you meet and deal with enough glitches to get experience.

OP, you seem to be trying to go down both the blue collar and white collar "car industry" career paths simultaneously. I don't know how well this will work, but good luck with it.

Like I mentioned to you before, Oregon Institute of Technology has engineering programs with a heavy "hands-on" content: OIT | Oregon Institute of Technology
Overall, I'd have to say that the differences in diagnostics, workmanship, and efficient elegance between a lesser experienced tech and a true master are startling. I have had the pleasure of employing some really fine masters through the years who were so very kind as to share their insights ... either intentionally through their teachings, or by observing them work in my shop. A very striking common trait: all were "lazy" ... in the sense that all sought the most elegant path to results and finished verified work at anything they did, be it a simple service and multi-tasking while doing the work and inspection, or when taking on major engine repairs or similar complex work. There really was a lot of brainpower at work behind their every muscle movement, and they weren't about to waste any energy on a project they didn't have to. They were masters of visualization skills of how to use tools effectively and safely; you could tell you were watching a master at work just by how they selected and used their tools ... and how they took care of them. The really sharp guys are forever seeking out or fabricating tooling to make their tasks simpler and more efficient, and don't hesitate to spend the dough to acquire exactly what they want.

FWIW, I still have tooling and measuring equipment from my Dad's toolbox ... some of which includes fine tools from the days when my Dad was an apprentice in a Ford votech training program prior to him getting his ME degree. On my desk sits the wooden box with his .0001" step gauges for calibrating micrometers ... still in excellent working condition, and in my toolbox a host of BluePoint sockets and ratchets of excellent quality and they still get used.


Last edited by sunsprit; 08-17-2011 at 09:33 PM..
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Old 08-18-2011, 10:34 AM
 
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I work in a building full of ASE Master Techs and the largest collection of World Class Techs there is. At least one of the World Class guys I know of has NEVER turned a wrench in his life. He just studies and is good at taking tests. He's no an idiot when it comes to cars and trucks, but he's not a mechanic.

Similarly there are plenty of guys who aren't World Class, some of whom aren't even Masters, that are hands down some of the best mechanics you can find, that kind of knowledge only comes with experience.

So, I guess the question is, do you want to be a GREAT mechanic, or do you want to have a bunch of pieces of paper on the wall that will make people THINK you are a great mechanic? The former will only come from years of experience and being open to the realization that you don't know everything and you aren't as good as you think are and learning from doing and the people around you. The latter is easy enough to do, you just need to take the tests whenever they are offered and push your way through them.
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Old 08-18-2011, 11:50 AM
 
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Originally Posted by NJGOAT View Post
I work in a building full of ASE Master Techs and the largest collection of World Class Techs there is. At least one of the World Class guys I know of has NEVER turned a wrench in his life. He just studies and is good at taking tests. He's no an idiot when it comes to cars and trucks, but he's not a mechanic.

Similarly there are plenty of guys who aren't World Class, some of whom aren't even Masters, that are hands down some of the best mechanics you can find, that kind of knowledge only comes with experience.

So, I guess the question is, do you want to be a GREAT mechanic, or do you want to have a bunch of pieces of paper on the wall that will make people THINK you are a great mechanic? The former will only come from years of experience and being open to the realization that you don't know everything and you aren't as good as you think are and learning from doing and the people around you. The latter is easy enough to do, you just need to take the tests whenever they are offered and push your way through them.

Should I start repairing other people's cars in my spare time to gain mechanical experience faster. I'm willing to sacrifice my social life completely and spare time and work every day. All I do now is study and work with little social life now.
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Old 08-18-2011, 12:10 PM
 
Location: Blah
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Originally Posted by Veyron View Post
Should I start repairing other people's cars in my spare time to gain mechanical experience faster. I'm willing to sacrifice my social life completely and spare time and work every day. All I do now is study and work with little social life now.
Patience Grass Hopper!

Never miss an opportunity to learn something but all work and no play makes you a dull lonely burnt out dude! Mastering anything takes time and dedication. As mentioned above, study for 2-3 subjects and take their prospective ASE test each year. Your boss will see your new accomplishments and move you up the work ladder to more fun and challenging work loads.

Best of luck.
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