By now you are painfully aware that all you have to do in California is pluck down a fee and have a business location to do auto repair. There is no test or requirements having to do with competancy. The training and expertise that is needed to perform auto services with reliability and confidence is escaping the auto repair industry. If you have a satisfactory facility, ask the owner what he thinks of the pool of talent that is available to work on your vehicle. He will probably tell you good help is hard to find. I say it is almost impossible, well maybe really hard.
The human being working on your vehicle has to repair and maintain one of the most complicated machines ever created by man. As the automobile evolved the mechanic still had to repair the already broken machines that paid his wage. The developements soon outpaced the time mechanics devoted to training. The mechanics who really kept up to date with technology could understand the new and changing problems as they were discovered in the field. The mechanics that were confortable with the old ways and technologies soon found problems with which they had little understanding. The greater the lag in self education the less competant the mechanic would become. There is a wide variety of skill level that comes from the lack of standards existing in the auto repair industry. You can see that the only one that can help this situation is you. What me? How? I don't know anything about cars. Well neither do some of the people who work on them and that, at some point, will be your problem.
In my experience, the best mechanics I have ever seen have just always been good with machines. I call them NATURAL mechanics. They probably were born with a wrench in their diaper and drank WD40! These people are rare and usually smart enough to take their talent out of the working pool by becoming owners of auto repair facilities. If you find one of these people I hope you can find one that also has good business ethics and communication skills. Maybe even one that still gets into his profession and still gets dirty. Good Luck!!!
For most of us are not going to find competancy unless we know what it takes to be a great auto mechainic. It takes continual self developement and critical problem solving skills. It takes literacy and determination. It takes contact with the actual problems associated with working in the field. It takes an attitude of confidence that shows the mastering of the machine. It takes improvisation and an understanding of basic engineering. It takes a patience that few people bother to develope in todays society. It takes the sacrificing of the human body to perform tasks that are both un-sanitary and on occasion painful. "Oh mama don't let you son or daughter grow up to be mechanics" Ju-u-u-st kidding.
Introducing ASE certification. (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence). I feel that many of the skills required cannot be easily determined, so lets get down to the requirements that can be tested and proven. Let us call them the academics of auto repair. The ASE has the most difficult and extensive tests to determine competance in the United States. The multiple answer-multiple choice questioning should be adopted for lawyers and government workers. Ju-u-ust kiding. These tests are really tough and just the ability to take the test shows advanced problem solving technique. The tests are given under strict security so you know they are valid. The tests are broken into several catagories and get into great detail. Since there are many different catagories you will have to look closer to determine if the mechanic is a master technician or just certified in certain catagories.
ASE signage should be displayed where you can see it so you do not have to waste your time if you do not see one outside a repair facility. Some technicians wear their ASE proudly on their sleeve and you can see in what catagories they are certified. If you see Master Certified Technician this is as high as you go. I feel this is a real accomplishment and I am proud to say I am one.
The real importance (of ASE Certification)is the demostration of the mechanics commitment to excellence in his or her profession. A person who just does his job is not the kind of person you want working on your car. You want a professional who day after day proves his ability to work on your vehicle and wants to show you he has made his commitment to his own credibilty. This type of mechanic is challenged by his environment and gets great personal reward from the diagnosis of complicated problems. The work of this mechanic is judged by a high personal standard based on excellence. When you find these qualities in a mechanic you are getting the very best in a technician. You are also getting a higher quality of person who by deed is asking for your patronage. Reward this person. Get to know who works on your car if you can.
There are many other ways for the auto mechanic to prove his abilities to the customer. The best is still the results of his service. The problem a lot of people face is that results are after the fact. With ASE mechanics you will try to eliminate lack of knowledge being responsible for poor performance.
ASE is not the only criteria that you use to judge competancy, it is just the best standard available at this time. City colleges and trade schools turn out fine mechanics. Manufacturers and parts distributors offer seminars and specialized training. Mechanics train themselves with video and much reading. There are many good places to get training and education but only one national program to test this knowledge. Look for the ASE insignia and give these establishments a chance to show you how much they know. Remember that incompetance is only one catagory of failure in auto repair, but it is a problem that can be avoided.