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Periodic training for professional mechanics?

I got to wondering the other day what kind of training professional mechanics get? Here in the San Jose area there are a lot of engineers and scientists I encounter, and I know they go to a lot of training seminars, some held at their place of business, and some held in other states and countries. To keep up with new technology. I think they probably spend 10% of their time doing training, just a guess, but I think that’s pretty close. The companies pay them for doing it, pay for their travel if necessary, and pay for the classes, etc.

So what about pro mechanics? I’m not talking about the initial training, trade schools, apprenticeships, etc, but after you become an established mechanic, you still need to do periodic training sessions, right? The auto manufacturers change things every year which affect how to diagnose, maintain, and repair their cars. How to get the info you need from the car’s computer system, etc, that changes every year probably. Trends that develop from known design problems, like those Ford spark plugs that tended to break in half when you remove them.

So how do pro mechanics get this kind of periodic training? Phoning up other mechanics and asking what’s new? By doing their own individual research from trade journals? By figuring it out on the spot, when a customer’s problem presents itself, and you read what you need to learn to fix the problem from All Data or the manufacture’s website? Or do you take a break from wrenching from time to time and go somewhere to a class room situation and have instructors train you on new things appearing in cars that affect mechanics? Do you get paid for this training time?

Mechanics working for new car dealerships attend regular training on new technology as mandated by the dealership’s franchise agreement.

In private shops it’s spotty. Some do, some don’t. I know one guy that got tired of the cost and of being away from his shop, so he decided to limit his work to specific areas, in his case conventional braking systems (he’ll turn down ABS and traction control systems) and routine maintenance and repairs of a basic nature, like replacing shocks & struts, tuneups (yup, he knows carbs & old fashioned ignition systems) & such. He works alone in his own shop, long-since paid for and right at the end of his driveway, with his house long-since paid for and his kids long-since finished law school (they’re all lawyers), so he’s “got it made in the shade”. He can make these kind of decisions. He’s a good man, honest, trustworthy, and fair, and he’s also a damn good human being. His shop is on rt. 3 in Litchfield, NH, right by the mini golf course… if he hasn’t retired by now.

You might be interested to also know that community college programs have agreements with car manufacturers wherein the manufacturers provide new vehicles every year for the students to learn on, current technical documents (via a portal), equipment, and mandate that the teachers attend annual training on their new technologies. The college I retired from had agreements with Chrysler for many years and then with Honda. Our “sister” campuses had agreements with Ford and Toyota. It was through that Toyota agreement that I was able to access their technical documents. Colleges also subscribe to databases like Mitchells for technical information on other makes.

A properly run independent shop or car dealership should send mechanics to regular training sessions and quite often this is required. For what it’s worth, I’ve attended more than I can remember.

VW for instance required that every mechanic going to work for a VW dealership attend a lengthy introductory session no matter how much experience the mechanic has. I had to go through it and it was like 3 hours a week on Thursday nights for several months. Maybe the policy has changed…

I’ve been to multiple schools in Houston, OK City, Chicago, and San Antonio. Pay was drawn for the time in school and all expenses covered. This is an ongoing process that never ends if it’s done right.

Unfortunately, I think a trend has been for car dealers to shortchange the schools and/or coerce mechanics into signing a disclaimer they will pay the dealership in the event they quit or get fired within a certain time frame. Some insist that mechanics pay for this out of pocket and do it on their own. Get bent would be response…

I might add that some schools are glorified PR sessions. “Our new cars are infallible…” and “these sytems will be trouble free…”.
On a few occasions I’ve gotten on the bad side of a service instructor by asking a pointed question about whitewashing of a problem or some other policy.

Hope that helps and basically things like this vary dealer by dealer, shop by shop.

The dealer people have clinics to help them get up to date. Some mechanics don’t go.

When I was at the Benz dealership, there were classroom/hands-on courses for new model introductions, transmission diagnosis/repair, model year changes. This was at a training center, which was actually about an hour from my house. Mechanics living a certain distance from the school were entitled to stay at a hotel, near the training center. Free breakfast was included, as were beers in the evening, but that was it

The instructors at the training center were so-so. I could tell they understood the material, but they weren’t terribly interested in answering questions. They just wanted to hurry up and get out of there. I asked a few questions, but was unsatisfied with the explanations. Several other students were too scared to ask questions, because they didn’t want to look stupid.

The hands-on modules were generally a joke. It was broken up into groups, and some guys would just watch the others, but they weren’t really understanding it. I have to be honest, sometimes I was one of those guys who just wasn’t understanding the material, no matter how many times it was explained.

There were also various on-line courses, which you were expected to complete within a certain time frame. If you failed to comply, the service manager would drop by and ask why you weren’t getting with the program

Over the years, I’ve determined that classroom learning doesn’t work very well for me, as far as auto mechanics goes. Give me the vehicle, service manual, my diagnostic tools, and access to the factory technical website, if possible, and I’ll generally figure it out.

I usually learn far better, when I’m doing my own reading, versus if some guy is explaining it to me, and getting frustrated that I didn’t understand it right on the spot

At work, I have access to the GM technical website, and I also have access to an AC Delco technical training website at home.


Here’s some interesting facts, as far as what information is available for free

Kia technical website
Hyundai technical website
Ford has a free OBD2 theory website. It lists fault codes, by model year, and explains the parameters for setting the code
GM also has a similar free website. But it’s very dry, and more limited

As far as large commercial vehicles go, the main thing is not the name of the truck, but the manufacturer of the component. Bendix, Dana, Bosch, etc. all have very good free websites. I’ve repaired axles, transmissions, steering gearboxes, etc. at work, and all the service manuals were available for free. The repairs went off without a hitch. I’ve also diagnosed and repaired a few air ABS problems, based on information from the brake manufacturer’s website.

I may be wrong, but I believe the large truck service information is required to be available free. I’m not sure what the reasoning is, though

If auto mechanics followed the general plan for “recurrent training,” the classes would be held in Cabo or Vegas, you’d have to attend one class a day (attendance not taken), leaving the rest of your time free to enjoy yourself.

Then, you’d get home and write the whole thing off as a “business expense.”

I have to respectfully disagree with mountainbike about franchise agreements and mandated training. In theory that’s the way it should work. In practice, not so much.

I’ve worked for dealers who kept everyone up to date on the schooling and at others the dealer would stonewall sending any mechanics to any school unless they were forced into a corner at gunpoint. Even then it was often only the bare minimum such as a ho-hum product update school.
At one dealer several mechanics begged repeatedly to attend various schools and it was no-go even after heavy threats from Volkswagen of America to send them.

Schools can also vary greatly about the content and how it’s taught. With VW there was never one minute of plodding around or BS. It was like the stereotypical German prison camp guard; silence or you vill be shot…

With others there’s some amount of misapplied BS and at one school I attended the instructor spent 20% of the time talking about his same brand sports car racing. He would lock the door to make sure no higher ups walked through because that was all supposed to be verboten.
He couldn’t wait to get us out of there on Friday and catch the Friday night red eye plane to Road Atlanta…

It seems to me that if professional mechanics show up to work each day and work on anything that comes into the shop…they are essentially taking OJT (on the job) training. That’s the way I did it and it worked for me. The internet can fill in the gaps along with ALLDATA and repair manuals. I’ve been to seminars and it’s just “party time” for the most part.

Point well made, ok4450.
I should add that at the college where I worked there was extreme resistance by the administration to sending faculty for training IAW our agreement with the auto manufacturer. Nobody wants to accept the cost.

As to the instructors, dedication of all trainers varies wildly, as it does with faculty. I’ve known faculty that were fantastic, focused on the subject and always there for the students, and others that were… well… I’ve even known one to sabotage his program to reduce his workload. He hardly did anything at all, and became aggravated if a student asked a question. He’d been teaching for some 30 years, but I knew him for 18 and he’d always been like that.

People in other professional endeavors attend occasional training too, and I’ve been to fantastic courses and pathetic courses.

Over the years parts suppliers have worked through the local independent parts stores to offer clinics to keep mechanics updated. Wagner Brake did a great job on ABS braking system diagnosis and repair when that technology was beginning to show up long ago. And Snap-On diagnostics has often offerred technical crash courses to shops. A local community college instructer who was an excellent mechanic and kept ahead of the curve on most technology offered short 2 hour classes lasting 2 to 5 nights for a minimal fee. There seemed to be a great many mechanics and shop owners at every class that I ever attended over the years.