Our top observations
- A car mechanic, or vehicle engineer, is a professional whose job is to repair and maintain motor vehicles.
- The job is a highly skilled profession requiring an understanding of how cars work, and how to assess, repair, and maintain complex technical systems.
- Many mechanics also need to be skilled in working on electronic systems and also using IT, as many modern cars are operated by computer systems.
- The starting salary for a car mechanic can be low, but as you build expertise and experience it can grow considerably. The most lucrative avenue to take in the profession is to set up your own business.
- There is no formal requirement for qualifications, but many employers expect basic GCSE’s.
- Most people enter the profession through an apprenticeship, and study for a vocational qualification whilst also getting practical experience on the job.
- Major employers include garage chains, car manufacturers, breakdown services, and even organisations like bus companies and the military.
What is a Car Mechanic?
A car mechanic, or vehicle engineer, is a technician whose job involves the maintenance and repair of motor vehicles. The job can involves such tasks as performing repairs and restorative work on engines, electrics, brakes, gears, fuel pumps, exhaust systems, security features and the air conditioning.
It also involves servicing vehicles testing for any mechanical or technical faults, undertaking assessments and MOT tests, and advising customers on the condition of their vehicle and the nature of any problems it may have.
It is a highly technically skilled profession, and in the modern day when many cars are run using a range of computer systems as well as mechanical parts, there are a wide range of skills and specialisms that re required in the job.
What Skills and Responsibilities are there?
The day-to-day tasks of a car mechanic can vary widely depending on the nature of the services you provide and the different vehicles you are tasked with repairing.
A core skill needed by all car mechanics is a technical understand of how a car works, what the various parts of the engine and other car systems do, how they work, and how they can be repaired or replaced.
Problem solving skills are also key as it will be your task to work out what the problem is with a car that isn’t working properly, and how the necessary repairs can be carried out.
You will need to be good with your hands and adept a practical work and working with tools because you will have to a wide range of technical repairs yourself. This can range from fixing components, to replacing components, and even rebuilding whole engines and other mechanical systems such as gearboxes, completely.
A degree of electrical skills are also beneficial in the role, as many cars contain complex electrical systems that require regular maintenance. This can range from the air conditioning and the radio, to the sat-nav and these days many systems that keep the engine and other systems working with optimal efficiency.
Other tasks you may be faced with include repairs to body work, fuel systems, and even converting a car from one fuel system to another. You may also be requested to undertake specific customisations to a car, such as additional lights or a new sound system.
Most car mechanics work in close proximity with the general public and therefore good communication skills and the ability to build a good rapport with people is extremely beneficial.
You will also need strong administration skills as there is a wide range of paperwork that has to be completed with every job you will undertake.
Finally, if you are working with more modern cars then a competency with Information Technology is a distinct advantage as many cars will need to be repaired using their in-build computer systems.
Pay and Benefits
A car mechanic is likely to start his professional career as a trainee or apprentice and will therefore most likely be on a fairly low salary. This can be as little as minimum wage when you first start out.
Once you have qualified, you salary is likely to improve and you can expect to earn between £18,000 and £23,000 a year. With experience and further technical qualifications, this can grow to somewhere in the region of £30,000.
Some highly experienced mechanics working in specialist sectors can earn in excess of this too.
Specific academic qualifications are usually not required to enter a career as a car mechanic, but increasingly employers are looking for all employees to hold basic GSCE’s in English, Maths, science, and technology. This may not prove to be essential if you can prove to a prospective employer that you have a good aptitude for mechanics and engineering, and a sound grasp of the basic skills required to do the job.
Many mechanics enter the profession through an apprenticeship, which is a qualification that combines theoretical learning with practical, on-the-job experience. These usually involve the apprentice taking a City & Guilds or BTEC qualification in a relevant subject.
If you are already working as a trainee mechanic, there are also qualifications you can take to enhance your CV and build on your skillset. These include such things as a City & Guilds Certificate in Vehicle Maintenance and Repair or a BTEC National Certificate in Vehicle Repair and Technology.
All of these qualifications and apprenticeships are likely to be offered by your local vocational college or through local garages and other employers.
As with many trades there are no set routes into the job. Many people start off as an apprentice and may get onto a course through their local vocational college or alternatively through applying directly to a local garage, garage chain, or even directly to a manufacturer.
There are many small businesses that operate vehicle repair services in local communities, but there are also plenty of big employers who are on the lookout for car mechanics. These can include major garages and service centres, transport and construction companies, breakdown services, taxi companies and car dealerships. Even bus companies and the military services are regularly on the lookout for this kind of skilled professional.
Jobs are sometimes advertised in local press or with job centres, but it is often recommended that prospective employees make direct contact with local companies as jobs are often available through word of mouth.
An apprenticeships can also lead to more permanent work with the organisation you are undertaking your practical work experience with as well, provided of course you make a good impression whilst on their books.
Once you have built up enough experience you may opt to set up your own business. This carries its own risks but if it is successful can prove to be an extremely lucrative career.
Find out more about Apprenticeships at the Governments official Apprenticeships website.
You can learn more about City and Guilds Qualifications at their official website.
For our guides to other trade professions, visit the UKJobsGuide Tradesman’s Job section.