Job as a car mechanic

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Sally Roberts is head technician at a service and repair garage in Scotland.

What does your job involve?

I deal with the service and repair of vehicles that come into the garage. When a customer brings a car in, I talk to them about the problem and then run some diagnostic tests to confirm the fault and decide whether it can be repaired or needs a replacement part. I then price up the job for the customer.

Do you have a typical day?

The hours are quite regular. I work from 8am to 5pm from Monday to Friday and from 8.00am to 12.00pm on Saturdays. However, I never know what model of car I'll be working on or what problem it might have. I also liaise with our suppliers on a daily basis to ensure we have all the parts we need for the jobs coming in.

Do you spend all your time in the workshop?

Yes – I can frequently be found in one of the engine pits working on an engine in my overalls and covered in oil!

Do you use a lot of tools?

I use all types of hand tools, including burning or heat guns which heat things by using a mixture of oxygen and acetylene. These help to release bolts. I also use air tools such as ratchets and guns, a hydraulic press and a diagnostic machine which I plug into a car's computer to locate faults.

How did you become a car mechanic?

I was training for a career with horses but changed my mind when I passed my driving test and became interested in modifying cars! My dad is the owner of a garage and you could say that I've followed in his footsteps.

What training have you undertaken?

I studied for my BTEC National Certificate in Engineering (Motor Vehicle Studies) college on block release. At the same time, I started my Modern Apprenticeship training through ReMIT (the training arm of the Retail Motor Industry Federation), which led to SVQ Level 3 in Vehicle Maintenance and Repair.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy the satisfaction of fixing a car on the first attempt.

Are there any disadvantages?

I don't enjoy having to work in freezing cold temperatures in the winter. Another downside is the constant need to scrub oil from my skin, although I use latex gloves to protect my hands.

Do you have to be very strong to be a car mechanic?

You do need physical strength but it is not the only skill required. You have to be technically minded, good with your hands and good with people, whether you are dealing with them face to face or on the telephone. I also think it's important to be able to think on your feet, be efficient and very patient.

What do you plan to do in the future?

I definitely want to stay in the motor trade and move on to work with performance cars. I would also like to do some teaching at a later stage.

Sally's route to her job as a car mechanic

  • BTEC National Certificate in Engineering (Motor Vehicle Studies).
  • Modern Apprenticeship in Vehicle Maintenance and Repair leading to SVQ Level 3.

Sally's tip

  • Try to get on an Apprenticeship scheme in a smaller garage, where you can work on a wider variety of makes and models.

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Salary of a car mechanic

  • An apprentice motor vehicle technician starts on a salary of approximately £11,000.
  • Experienced motor vehicle technicians can earn up to £16,000.
  • Some employers provide trainees and new employees with tools, or subsidise technicians who have to buy their own tools.

How to become a car mechanic

  • Motor vehicle technicians can start work on an Apprenticeship programme or as a trainee with a garage or motor manufacturer. Apprentices usually need some GCSEs/S grades including English, maths and a science, or equivalent qualification.
  • Training can begin while still at school on an Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) Pre-Apprenticeship from 14 to 16, leading to a Level 1 Technical Certificate, which offers a fast-track route to a full Apprenticeship.
  • NVQs/SVQs are available in Vehicle Fitting at Levels 1 and 2, and Vehicle Maintenance and Repair at Levels 1 to 3.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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