Teen looking to get into auto repair


A couple of things:

  1. Some community colleges offer an inexpensive way to get into a 4-year state university program for anything. Go to the CC for two years at their cost and if your grades are good enough, you can get into the local Enormous State University. I live in Maryland, and anyone that goes to the county community college can get into the University of Maryland this way. You aren’t guaranteed housing, but you can get a UM degree that is every bit as good as any other. Maybe Illinois has the same deal. I am not saying that you shouldn’t look at a career in auto repair, just that there are other options that might appeal to you.

  2. School doesn’t necessarily make you good at anything. I have an engineering degree, and the thing it gave me is a way of solving problems. I certainly wasn’t good at solving problems, but it was a start. I developed my problem solving skills over the next few years, and I continue to learn better ways of approaching problems after 45 years working.

Whatever you decide, just recognize that you can always change your mind. You are young and have a lot of time to recover from a little time looking for the right career. My daughter didn’t recognize that, and had a lot of problems switching to something she really loves.


Lots of great advice in the previous replies.

An additional thought on schools:

  • As noted, stay away from for-profit schools.
  • Community colleges can be a valuable and far less expensive way to get your auto repair training.
  • Also look into non-profit schools. For example, I attended Ben Franklin Institute of Boston’s automotive program. I got a great education there. They have excellent degree programs, 2 year or 4 year, in a variety of technical fields. Even though their tuition is $16K/year, most students with financial need pay a fraction of that.

All the best in whatever you decide.


Another advantage of the community college route is that you’ll have time to see if auto repair is for you, and will also have access to lots of other fields if it’s not.


There are automotive schools. Some offer associate degrees. You can also do studies online. Just make sure that the school is accredited. You also will gain a wealth of information by reading blogs such as this one. I own a Hyundai accord and had a simaler problem. The dealership I bought the car from repeatedly turned off my check engine light. The code reader indicated bad spark plugs or coils. Turned out it was the intake manifold oxygen sensor. I ended up taking it two more places and educating myself on the hows and whys of the sensor system. By the time the problem was resolved my warranty was expired. The cars computer was receiving information that the engine was running lean, so it increased fuel from the injectors. Finally to the point of so much fuel the engine could not propel the car over 10 miles per hour. There are two catalytic converters in this exhaust system. One by the engine and one at the rear. The second one is often mistaken for a resonator. The second one cleans up exhaust that the first one misses due to cold oxygen sensors. They must reach 600° before they work. Failure usually starts with the first one due to dust accumulation from a dirty air filter. When a car is resold it is often cleaned for the best " curb appeal". If the canister that holds the air cleaner/ filter is just blown out with an air gun instead of vacumed the dirt and dust in the bottom can go into the intake and disable the oxy sensor and throttle position sensor. Now your engine is running richer and richer fuel to air ratio the computer senses a misfire and thinks it is the spark plugs or coils. The mechanic looks at the throttle and sees it’s dirty. Takes spray cleaner and the ensuing smoke and residual dirt clogs one of the two catalytic converters usually the second because the first one opperates at a very high temperature and burns it off. The second converter clogs up and chokes the whole exhaust system. This is a $300 item. But you bought a nice clean car.


Thats all true, but the diagnostic software is continually being improved, more sensors are being added, the diagnostic instruments are connected to the internet for upgrades and access to massive databases, and AI is being developed to suggest the optimum procedure to be followed. The manufacturers dont really want repair diagnostics to depend on the availability of a skilled technician. I have been involved in electromechanical repair businesses for over 60 years and have seen one product area after another go through those phases.


I agree pretty much with all of the above but I started out with carburated VW’s and advanced a little before computers came on full force. Instead of timing an engine with a light you plugged in a different chip for sport, racing or milage and forget playing with the spark plugs. But I digress, a focused community college program wo/uld be best but necessary. By focused I mean Ford, Toyota, BMW, Bentley or Maserati. The more exclusive or premium a car/Brand is and IF you are one of the few that know how to work on it then maybe you can get premium pay. But the reverse holds true, if you get too specialized and that car/brand falls out of favor or goes under then you are SOL.
If you are interested in fixing things with your hands then the guy above who suggested Air Force or some other branch with techy stuff ( what branch doesn’t including the Coast Guard) has a dynomite idea-laser or fiber optics.
But don’t forget the mundane, diesel mechanic, trucks, tractors and whatall runs on these things including logging equipment. There’s a CAT dealer across from whee I live who’s been advertising for skilled tech workers for the last 5 months. This is in Medford OR off of I 5. Down the road a piece is a truck stop with a full garage open 6 days a week working on trucks, busses, RV’s, etc.
Stay flexible and go for it.


I used to have a coworker who specialized in fixing heavy machinery. He had a job at a truck stop repair service, and he said that because he was paid by the job (rather than hourly or salary), his paycheck was feast or famine. Some weeks he’d bring home a big fat paycheck, and some weeks he’d bring home very little.

He does fleet maintenance and repairs now for a public entity, so he gets the same paycheck every week and good benefits, but those jobs are rare, and there is lots of competition for them. He also does generator maintenance.

You’re not likely to get a job like that coming out of a training program with no experience, but if you’re competing with someone who only has experience (with no training certificate or associate’s degree), you’ll have a competitive edge.

There are worse ways to make a living than mechanical work, but it’s not something I’d want to do long term. When you get to be middle age, you’re not going to want to be taxing your body the way you can in your 20s and 30s. My former coworker I mentioned above has back problems that cause him to miss work frequently, and he’s in his early 40s. Also consider that the profession involves exposing yourself to toxic substances, such as used oil and brake dust, that an occasional shade tree mechanic like me doesn’t have to worry about. Daily routine exposure to carcinogens, in my amateur opinion, is something that should be avoided whenever possible.

I guess what I’m saying is, if there is a way for you to make a living that doesn’t tax your body and expose you to carcinogens on a daily basis, and it’s something you enjoy as much as working on cars, than I suggest you explore that career.

On the other hand, if you’re sure this is the career path you want to take, then by all means, take it, but in that case, I recommend carefully limiting your exposure to dangerous substances by taking precautions and setting career goals that get you out of the garage and into an office as you age, preferably in a stable job with good benefits. If you can start out in the private sector and land a good public sector job after you have 3-5 years of experience, all the better, especially if you hope to get vested in a pension.


Are you sure about that identification?
You might want to take a careful look at the logos that are affixed to your car.


You’ve got a lot to learn on auto repairs. There have been TENS OF THOUSANDS IF NOT MILLIONS of catalytic converters being replaced because of a faulty O2 sensor and thus sending a false reading to the ECU. Granted that On-Board-Diagnostic has helped troubleshooting tremendously, but it’s just ONE tool a good technician uses.


Yes and no. There’s only so much you can add to help. And even if you did in many instances it’s not going to pinpoint the exact location. You are now in my world. Been working as a Software engineer/Architect/SW Manager for over 40 years. It’s still very difficult for software to diagnose precisely where a mechanical problem is or what it is. Sometimes it can. Other times it’s just a ball-park area of what it might be.


O2 sensors can be tested but the labor/parts cost is about the same just replacing it and see what happens. I tested some that had been replaced, just for academic purposes, and they were working, but not as well as new, so there was some benefit to replacing them if there was high mileage. The converters deteriorate with age too, so there can be more than just one part that needs to be replaced.


Working in the same area, and it is so true :slight_smile:
Moreover, sometimes the report software would give you is pinpointing to something very different, which is only a side-effect of the real problem.


We’ve owned 5 vehicles in the past 30 years that we put over 300k miles. I replaced a total of 1 O2 sensor.

Again…those 5 vehicles all had the original Cat when sold. Our 96 Accord went to our niece when she started college, and my 98 Pathfinder went to my daughter when she started college. Niece sold Accord after college with over 400k miles, and my daughter gave the Pathfinder to her ex boyfriend when she started graduate school. Last I knew the Pathfinder was a little over 500k miles…and both those vehicles still had original cat. They may deteriorate over time, but it’s usually well beyond the life of the vehicle.


There’s another possibility, hard as may be to believe

Maybe some guys don’t want to be supervisor, because they just love wrenching, or maybe they don’t want the responsibility

Not everybody is wired the same, not everybody has the same goals


Very true. This was covered by the Peter Principle. People who don’t want promotions will intentionally sabotage them. My favorite example was a groundsman who seemed unorganized at work but was super organized at home. It appeared unorganized at work to avoid a promotion.


I am very sure I know the man about whom I was speaking better than you do.


I have several people that work for me who have been engineers for decades. They have no desire to manage. They like to design and code (and extremely good at it). They went to college for engineering NOT management. I work for a small company where I still code and design as director of software development. I would not be in management in a large corporation because management duties would take up all my time. That’s not me.


Absolutely. This was my Dad. He was a career machinist and tool & die maker. He loved working with his hands and passed up many opportunities to advance through management opportunities so that he could continue doing what he loved- making things.

Most places I have worked have dual path for career growth. You can take the fork into management or stay on the technical path and still have plenty of opportunities to advance. Quite a few engineering types stay on the technical path- because solving puzzles is in their DNA…


When I first started in the Software field over 40 years ago after Senior Engineer you went into management. That was the ONLY way for higher pay. Now most companies have several levels above Senior Engineer. The highest tech level in some companies is as high as a Sr VP.


About 30 years ago, I worked for a company that recognized the issue and came out with the dual path. We were losing the best talent as they had hit the ceiling and did not want the management (of resources directly) hassles. Now most have it.