Anyone with an auto shop can call themselves a mechanic, but unless they’re certified, you can’t be sure whether they’re really up to the job. What is a certified mechanic, and what kinds of qualifications can you expect them to have?
First, we need to learn a little about the body that issues them to answer those questions.
Who Issues Mechanic Certifications in the USA?
A non-profit organization founded in 1972, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), is the gold standard for mechanic certifications in America. Created to help vehicle owners distinguish a certified mechanics, they offer qualifications in all areas of automotive repair, from diesel engines to air conditioning.
Mechanics also need two years’ relevant work experience (or one year’s experience and a two-year degree) under their belt before being officially certified. To keep their certification, they must then re-qualify every five years. There are over 230,000 ASE-certified mechanics across the country—all of which work with auto protection providers to handle covered repairs.
What Are the Types of Mechanic Certifications?
Certification is such a big deal in the industry that many extended warranty providers will void your cover if anyone other than an ASE-certified mechanic works on your vehicle. Let’s take a look at some of the different ASE qualifications available and what they add to a mechanic’s skillset.
A1 – Engine Repair Certification
Any good mechanic should know their way around a standard car engine, so this is where ASE training begins. The test focuses mostly on general engine diagnosis while also including questions around cylinder head and valve train repair, engine block, cooling system issues, and other typical problems.
A2 – Automatic Transmission Certification
With an impressive 96% of Americans driving automatic cars, it’s also essential that mechanics know their stuff about automatic transmission. The second ASE certification focuses on this in particular, with questions around the various hydraulic and electronic systems and how to disassemble and reassemble them.
A3 – Manual Drivetrain and Axles Certification
The Manual Drivetrain and Axles certification moves on to manual drivetrain and the more traditional powertrain components and how to repair them. This certification includes a section on four-wheel-drive specifically. Hence, mechanics have all the knowledge they need to tackle everything from a run-of-the-mill family sedan to a mean off-road machine.
A4 – Suspension and Steering Certification
Suspension and steering are problem hotspots, so it only makes sense that these come next on the list of certifications. Mechanics must know how to diagnose and repair the most common issues in both areas and realign wheels and service tires properly.
A5 – Brakes Certification
Brakes are one area you can’t afford to make mistakes with, and you’re bound to want to seek out someone who has the relevant qualifications. The ASE A5 exam involves diagnosing and repairing several types of brakes and brake systems, so you can be sure your mechanic is prepared no matter what kind of vehicle they’re looking at.
A6 – Electrical Systems Certification
A little more niche but no less useful, the ASE A6 certification is all about a vehicle’s electrical components. Beginning with the battery and starting systems, mechanics also learn about charging and lighting systems and other more specific areas like power windows, cruise control, and automatic locking.
A7 – Heating and Air Conditioning Certification
If you’re having trouble with your AC, it’s safe to say it’s not something you’ll have much luck fixing yourself. These intricate systems require a trained professional, and the ASE is all about keeping mechanics at the top of their game. This certification is essential to doing the job right, as it gives professionals the skill to safely handle refrigerants.
A8 – Engine Performance Certification
The last of the core certifications, A8, is all about general engine performance. This qualification means mechanics can keep any vehicle running like clockwork, from diagnosing issues with fuel systems to having an in-depth understanding of emission control.
Master Automotive Technician
Once a mechanic has completed all A1 to A8 qualifications, they’re considered an ASE Master Automotive Technician. As one of the highest forms of recognition in the industry, give your vehicle to someone with a Master Automotive Technician shoulder badge, and you can be sure it’s in the very best of hands.
Vehicle Repair You Can Rely on
There are plenty of other ASE certifications, including electric vehicle mechanics and even school bus specialists. Mechanics can have any combination of qualifications to their name, but one thing’s for sure: an ASE-certified mechanic is a mechanic you can trust.
While taking your vehicle to an unqualified auto shop may save you a few bucks in the short term, you seriously risk something going wrong and costing you more further down the line. Seeing a certified mechanic keeps your extended warranty intact, with guaranteed quality results. And you can’t put a price on peace of mind.