Finding a competent auto technician need not be a matter of chance. Much of the guesswork has been eliminated, thanks to national program conducted by the non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
ASE tests and certifies automotive professionals in all major technical areas of repair and service. With nearly 400,000 currently certified professionals, the ASE program is national in scope and has industry-wide acceptance and recognition. ASE-certified professionals 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. Prior to 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. Moreover, shop owners and managers who encourage their employees to become certified can be counted on to be concerned about the other aspects of their business.
How Certification Works
About 100,000 technicians sit for ASE tests each May and November at over 750 locations. 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.
The tests, developed by industry experts with oversight from ASE's own in-house pros, are administered by ACT, the same group known for its college entrance exams.
There are specialty exams covering all major areas of repair. There are eight tests for auto technicians alone: Engine Repair, Engine Performance, 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 technicians, engine machinists, parts specialists, and others.)
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. Employers often display the blue and white ASE sign as well. Businesses with a high level of commitment to ASE (75 percent of service personnel certified) are entitled to a special "Blue Seal of Excellence" recognition from ASE.
Choosing the Right Technician
As with other professionals, 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.
For a free brochure on how to select a repair shop, send a business-sized, self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Choosing the Right Repair Shop, ASE, Dept. W-6, 101 Blue Seal Dr., Suite 101, Leesburg, VA 20175.
Choosing a Repair Shop Checklist
Here are some tips from the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) on finding a good repair establishment:
- Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one.
- Ask friends and associates for recommendations; consult local consumer organizations.
- Arrange for alternate transportation in advance so you will not feel forced to choose a shop based solely on location.
- Look for a neat, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays.
- Look for a courteous staff, with a service writer willing to answer all of your questions.
- Look for policies regarding labor rates, diagnostic fees, guarantees, acceptable methods of payment, etc.
- Ask if the repair facility specializes or if it usually handles your type of repair work.
- Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area such as civic, community, or customer service awards.
- Look for evidence of qualified technicians: trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and certification by ASE.
- Reward good service with repeat business and customer loyalty.