Island Vehicle Care

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MECHANIC OR TECHNICIAN?

In the early years of the automobile the technology was basic; anybody with a little aptitude could carry out the servicing and repairs, much the same as you could with your first bicycle.  As technology advanced a qualified ‘mechanic’ was needed to continue the servicing and repairs although many service and repair procedures could still be performed by the ‘handyman’.   Now we are in the 21st century and technology is advancing ever rapidly, a technician is needed to service and repair the modern vehicle, so what exactly is the difference?


A Mechanic is by definition ‘a person who repairs and maintains mechanical machinery meaning this person understands the basic fundamentals of what they are doing within the mechanical field and uses their experience to approach each task.

However with so much electronic technology integrated into all aspects of the modern automobile they may not understand why they are having to do it and what can happen if they do it wrong.

 

A Technician is by definition ‘an expert in the practical application of a science’ meaning this person understands what they are doing, why they are doing it and what can happen if they do it wrong, ultimately a technician will apply the best practices to ensure that a quality end product is achieved. 

This person has received both theoretical and practical training which includes receiving and understanding information then using this stored information to pass knowledge tests before being presented with certification.


There are, however, differing levels of Technician just to make things more complicated.  The general customer and sadly many employers do not yet realise this, even some technicians themselves do not realise this.  For example a technician may have reached the highest certification level with Engine systems, yet may not know how to proceed when presented with an Automatic Transmission problem, or may have reached a ‘level 1’ understanding of Diesel engine technology but is unable to correctly proceed when presented with an advanced Diesel injection system problem.


A technician can accumulate such experience and training that takes them to advanced levels of understanding and earns the title of Automotive Engineer.


An Automotive Engineer is by definition ‘a person who uses scientific knowledge to solve practical problems’ , this person is highly trained and experienced and is able to design, test and develop new ideas for diagnosing and repairing problems.

Engineers are a critical part of the manufacturing of vehicles and the ongoing improvements that ensures their fitness for public use.  The manufacturers receive technical reports from the engineers as they work in the garages or are employed directly by the manufacturer to help design new vehicles, parts and systems.



 

20th century ignition distributor with breaker points and mechanically adjustable components to easily ‘tweak’ the system with a screwdriver.

 

Keep up or get left behind

As technology is ever advancing so must the technicians keep up with the training required to understand it, this is primarily up to the individual to pursue this, dealerships should offer manufacturer training to its employees and there are many sources of training available to non-franchise garages.  A true professional will constantly push to better themselves.


As the customer you have the right to know who is 'diagnosing' and 'operating' on your vehicle and what level of certification and competence they have.  You may well be disappointed to find that you have been charged a lot of unnecessary 'labour' time as the person was not proficient with the system on your vehicle.


A professional garage should have a portfolio of each employee which should include copies of their certificates, these should be issued by industry recognised institutes or manufacturers.


21st century ignition coils controlled by a control unit.  Electronic diagnostic equipment is needed to ensure that waveform frequency and amplitude are within tolerance based on engine load, ignition advance, air and coolant temperatures and other such parameters.  Also specialist knowledge is required to identify a parallel or series coil circuit before diagnosis can begin.



Modern garage structure

Of course there is room for a ‘mechanic’ to be working within a modern professional garage.  Problems are pre-diagnosed by a ‘diagnostic technician’, repairs can be carried out by the 'mechanic' then afterwards the work should be subject to a quality check.


The basic proficiency roles that apply to the different levels of automotive technician can be seen here, each role includes the knowledge and skills gained from the previous one.


EACH ROLE IS A ONGOING LEARNING STEP!


1 – Apprentice

Knowledge and responsibilities:-

  • Health and Safety within the workplace
  • Keeping the work place clean and tidy
  • Running errands
  • Watching and assisting an assigned technician

2 - Fast Fit Technician/Mechanic

Inspection and replacement of:-

  • Tyres
  • Batteries
  • Basic lighting system bulbs and components
  • Basic braking system components
  • Basic exhaust system components
  • Basic engine oil and filter

3 - Service Technician

Inspection, replacement and knowledge of:-

  • Braking systems
  • Exhaust systems
  • Basic mechanical systems
  • Basic cooling systems
  • Basic hydraulic systems
  • Front wheel alignment
  • Basic computer based test equipment
  • Comprehensive servicing
  • Customer liaison


5 - Diagnostic Technician


Inspection, diagnosis, replacement and knowledge of:-
  • Four wheel alignment and data interpretation
  • Mechanical systems diagnosis
  • Hydraulic systems diagnosis
  • HVAC systems diagnosis
  • Electrical systems diagnosis
  • Advanced diagnosis with computer based test equipment
  • Advanced vehicle safety systems
  • Diagnostic report presentation

4 – Systems Maintenance and Repair Technician

Inspection, replacement and knowledge of:-

  • Mechanical systems
  • Hydraulic systems
  • Cooling systems
  • Basic electrical systems
  • Computer based test equipment
  • Basic air conditioning systems (HVAC)
  • Four wheel alignment
  • Vehicle safety systems

note - This role can branch out to specialize in a particular system i.e. Automatic transmissions, Diesel injection systems etc.

6 - Master Technician/Automotive Engineer


Inspection, diagnosis, replacement and knowledge of:-
  • Complex electrical systems
  • Complex diagnosis with computer based test equipment
  • Instructional support
  • Customer liaison
  • Manufacturer liaison and warranty procedures
  • Legal responsibilities



 

More in-depth information about these roles and how to reach each standard can be found on the IMI website by clicking the image to the right.