Auto Service Goes High-Tech

Increasingly, automotive repair and service is becoming a high-tech profession, note officials with the non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Old images die hard, but yesterday's mechanics have become today's technicians, complete with hand-held computer diagnostic tools and a wall full of credentials attesting to their abilities.

In a recent poll of ASE-certified automotive technicians, over four-fifths said they used a computer on the job, more than two-thirds said they owned a computer at home, and over half said they had access to the Internet.

"The profession is being revolutionized," notes ASE President Tim Zilke. "Brute force has been supplanted by brain power. If you don't think so, just look under the hood of one of today's sport coupes or SUVs. This is rocket science-or very close to it. Today's auto technicians need to be master diagnosticians, well versed in electronics, and have smooth customer service skills." Auto technicians face components and repairs virtually unheard of a generation ago: on-board computers, electronic fuel injection, and antilock brakes, to name but a few advances.

Fortunately, the requirements on motorists are much less. According to ASE, a major component of satisfactory auto repair is good communication between shop and customer.

ASE suggests that consumers read their owner's manual to become familiar with the basic systems and the service intervals. Once at the repair establishment, be prepared to describe the symptoms; but do not suggest a specific course of repair. Do not be embarrassed to ask questions or definitions of technical terms. Don't expect an on-the-spot diagnosis, but ask to be apprised of the problem, course of action, and costs before work begins. And, be sure you understand policies regarding diagnostic fees, labor rates, return of old parts, and guarantees, ASE advises.

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The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) was founded in 1972 as a non-profit, independent organization dedicated to improving the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive technicians. ASE-certified technicians wear blue and white ASE shoulder insignia and carry credentials listing their exact area(s) of certification. Their employers often display the blue and white ASE sign.