Perhaps years ago any backyard auto mechanic would do, after all cars were simpler then, less complex and anyone with a good mechanical aptitude, a know how of how the engine works and a set of tools and the skill set to use them could fix a small problem or even a big one. Today, that has all changed. With today’s high tech vehicles, the margin for error is dramatically less and the cost of a mistake is significantly more, so it makes financial sense to protect your investment in your vehicle through maintenance and service performed by qualified professionals.
Contrary to popular belief automotive trade is not a compulsory trade in many parts of North America – it certainly is not in British Columbia. This means that anyone can open and run an auto repair shop without having a single certified automotive technician on staff.
While they may be the exception to the rule, unlicensed mechanics are employed throughout the continent, often in small one and two man shops or in specialty shops such as radiator repairs, used auto parts yards, and, belief it or not, at brake and wheel alignment shops!
One way to differentiate between automotive is to look for or ask to see their certificates. In Canada, we have the Red Seal of licensing Automotive Technicians. This certificate will be tan in color and will have a red seal in the top right and bottom left corners and a Provincial logo in the center. This will not be a certificate from a trade school, college or auto parts company. Once a technician writes and passes the Red Seal exam he is certified for life.
Another certification body exists and it is called ASE. ASE Certificates can be identified by a blue gear shaped logo with the letters ASE in it. The ASE is an equal standard but has two advantages to it: it requires re-certification every five years and it is voluntary therefore, those techs that choose to write the exam show a strong commitment to their profession that is above and beyond the average and that they are commitment to keeping up with the changes in technology. Further, employers who support their technicians’ efforts to become certified can be counted on to be concerned about other aspects of their business.
Another thing about modern vehicles that bears discussion is how almost every system of the car is inter-connected with another system. This fact is often overlooked by those working in the above mentioned specialty shops. The brakes on the car are connected to traction control, cruise control, stability control, and other systems of the car. The specialist may have been repairing brakes for 30 years but automotive technology has changed more than just a little over that time and a repair that seems simple can often have complex side effects if performed incorrectly.
In closing there is a reason for certification and most established auto re