Car owners know they should keep their vehicles in good operating condition, but often they do not know where to turn for dependable service 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 nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, also known as ASE. “Look for the ASE sign,” says Tony Molla, vice president of communications at ASE. “It indicates the repair shop employs one or more ASE-certified technicians.” Molla emphasizes that 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 ASE: “Qualified technicians are the backbone of any repair establishment,” he adds.
ASE tests and certifies automotive professionals in all major technical areas of repair and service. With more than 300,000 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 fleet yards.
Certification Benefits Motorists
ASE certifies the technical competence of individual technicians, not repair facilities where they work. Before taking ASE certification tests, many technicians attend training classes or study on their own in order to update their knowledge. By passing difficult, national tests, ASE-certified technicians prove their technical competence not only to themselves, but to their employers and their customers. ASE does not certify repair shops or monitor individual business practices, but it stands to reason that those shop owners and managers who support their employees' efforts to become ASE-certified often will be just as proactively involved in the other aspects of their businesses as well, says Molla.
How Certification Works
ASE certification exams are offered eight months a year across the country in 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 carry the “ASE-Certified Technician” designation. 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 bus technicians, damage estimators, parts specialists, and others.
ASE certification is not a designation for life, however. All ASE credentials have expiration dates, and ASE requires automotive service professionals to retest every five years to demonstrate a commitment to continuing education and stay abreast of continually changing technologies in order to retain certification.
Finding ASE-Certified Technicians
Repair establishments with at least one ASE technician are permitted to display the blue and white ASE sign and often do outside and inside their facilities. 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.
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.