How to Find a Certified Auto Mechanic You Can Trust
National Standards Help Consumers
Locate Qualified Automotive Technicians
Car owners know they should keep their vehicles in good operating condition, but often do not know where to turn or what to look for in a repair shop.
Some choose a repair shop based solely on its convenient location or an advertised special. Not the best move, according to officials with the non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, also known as ASE. “Look for the ASE sign,” says Martin Lawson, Editorial Director at ASE. “It indicates the repair shop employs one or more ASE-Certified technician.” According to Lawson, finding a competent auto technician need not be a matter of chance. Much of the guesswork has been eliminated, thanks to a national program conducted by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. “Qualified technicians are the backbone of any repair establishment,” notes ASE’s Lawson.
ASE tests and certifies automotive professionals in all major technical areas of repair and service. With almost 400,000 currently certified professionals, the ASE program is national in scope and has industry-wide acceptance and recognition. ASE-certified technicians and parts specialists can be found at every type of repair facility, from dealerships, service stations, and franchises to parts stores, independent garages, and even municipal fleets.
Certification Benefits Motorists
ASE certifies the technical competence of individual technicians, not repair facilities. Before taking ASE certification tests, many technicians attend training classes or study on their own in order to brush up on their knowledge. By passing difficult, national tests, ASE-certified technicians prove their technical competence to themselves, to their employers, and to their customers. ASE does not certify repair shops or police individual business practices, but it stands to reason that those shop owners and managers who support their service employees' efforts to become technically certified will be as concerned about the other aspects of their business as well, according to Lawson.
How Certification Works
ASE certification exams are offered several times a year in hundreds of secure, proctored test sites across the U.S. and Canada The tests are developed by industry experts with oversight from ASE's own in-house pros and are designed to measure on-the-job competency. Technicians who pass at least one exam and fulfill the two-year work experience requirement become ASE-Certified. Those who pass a battery of exams (and fulfill the experience requirement) earn Master Technician status.
There are specialty exams covering all major areas of repair. There are nine tests for auto technicians alone: Engine Repair, Engine Performance, Diesel Engine, Electrical/Electronic Systems, Brakes, Heating and Air Conditioning, Suspension and Steering, Manual Drive Train and Axles, and Automatic Transmissions. (There are also exams for collision repair, school bus and transit but technicians; damage estimators, parts specialists, and others.)
ASE certification is not for life. ASE requires technicians to re-test every five years to keep up with technology and to remain certified. All ASE credentials have expiration dates.
Finding ASE-Certified Technicians
Repair establishments with at least one ASE technician are permitted to display the ASE sign. Each ASE professional is issued personalized credentials listing his or her exact area(s) of certification and an appropriate shoulder insignia. Technicians are also issued certificates that employers often post in the customer-service area. And employers often display the blue and white ASE sign as well.
Businesses with a high level of commitment to the ASE program (75 percent of service personnel certified) are entitled to a special "Blue Seal of Excellence" recognition from ASE, with distinctive yellow and blue signage. These elite facilities are among the best in the national. More than 1,500 businesses participate in this growing program.
As with other professionals—physicians come to mind—automotive technicians often specialize. So it's wise to ask the shop owner or service manager for a technician who is certified in the appropriate area, say, brakes, engine repair, or air conditioning.
Vehicle owners can visit the ASE website – www.ase.com – for more information about certified automotive technicians as well as seasonal car care tips and more.