Auto Electrician Job Description - Duties, Tasks, Skills and Career Path
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Auto Electrician Job Description
An auto electrician is an automotive industry professional who specializes in the installation, repair and maintenance of electrical and electronic systems in accessories in cars and other motor vehicles.
Auto electricians work on the components of a vehicle’s electrical system (battery, starter motor, alternator, fuse box, wiring and connectors), as well as on all of the other electrical equipment and accessories in a vehicle, such as headlights, anti-theft alarms, GPS devices, air conditioning systems, central locking, digital dashboard displays, electric wing mirrors and electric seats. Auto electricians work with private, commercial and industrial vehicles of all types, including cars, motorbikes, vans and camper vans, as well as heavier vehicles, such as trucks, HGVs, buses and coaches.
Let’s now take a detailed look at what the job of an auto electrician involves.
The tasks of an auto electrician can be divided into essentially three main areas: repairing damaged or faulty electrical parts, installing new systems and equipment, and carrying out routine maintenance.
In the event of a failure or fault in a vehicle’s electrical or electronics systems (mechanical repairs are typically carried out by a car mechanic), auto electricians use a range of diagnostics tools (today mainly computer-based) to identify the cause of the problem and provide the customer with an estimate of the time and cost necessary to resolve it. Where there are damaged electrical components that cannot be repaired, the auto electrician removes and replaces them (ordering any materials that are not in stock). Once all the work has been completed, the auto electrician carries out checks and tests to verify that the repairs have been successful and that the vehicle is operating correctly.
Auto electricians may also make improvements and enhancements to a vehicle’s electrical and electronic systems. For example, they may fit accessories such as car radios and stereos, GPS navigation and tracking devices, reversing cameras and parking sensors, LCD displays, chargers for smartphones and many others besides.
Finally, auto electricians carry out electromechanical maintenance and safety inspections on vehicles. Some of the most common tasks performed by auto electricians include tests on battery and charging systems (to ensure that electrical components are receiving the correct voltage), vehicle lighting systems, headlight beam alignment, anti-lock braking systems (ABS), engine control units and circuits, and on other computerized components.
Some vehicles have special additional features that may also need testing. On buses, for example, an auto electrician might perform maintenance work on the ticket validation machines, security cameras and passenger counting systems, while an auto electrician specializing in refrigerated trucks might be required to check a vehicle’s cold storage system and thermostats.
Key requirements for an auto electrician include strong manual skills and mechanical and electrical expertise, as well as a knowledge of vehicle diagnostics software and tools.
When performing maintenance and repair work, auto electricians must ensure they work safely and wear suitable personal protective equipment (e.g. gloves, safety glasses and overalls).
Auto electricians generally work at auto repair shops, garages, car dealerships, MOT test centres and car service centres, alongside other automotive industry professionals, such as mechanics, tyre fitters and panel beaters. They may also be employed as electromechanical maintenance technicians by companies that own or operate fleets of vehicles.
Auto electricians usually have a standard full-time contract, with working hours varying according to the opening times of the garage or repair shop that employs them.
Other common names for this position: Automotive Electrician
Auto Electrician Responsibilities and Tasks
An auto electrician’s tasks typically include:
- Performing electronic diagnostics on cars and other vehicles to identify faults
- Repairing electrical and electronic faults in cars and motor vehicles, replacing damaged/faulty parts where necessary
- Performing checks and tests to verify the success of repair work
- Assembling and installing electrical and electronic systems in motor vehicles
- Preparing time and cost estimates for customers
- Performing routine revision and maintenance on motor vehicles
How to Become an Auto Electrician - Education and Requirements
Although not all employers require formal education, aspiring auto electricians should complete some kind of an automotive electrical systems program or certification through a technical school or college. Typical course content includes electronics, mechanics, electrotechnics and IT. Classroom training needs to be backed up by on-the-job learning (e.g. an apprenticeship or traineeship) so that junior auto electricians can acquire all the practical and manual skills they need to perform auto repairs.
Their job might be focused on electrical and electronics systems, but auto electricians also need to understand the mechanical workings of vehicles and motors. For this reason, in addition to an extensive knowledge of vehicle electrics and electronics, auto electricians also need basic mechanical skills. Meanwhile, to perform fault analysis and detection, auto electrician need to be familiar with the latest computer diagnostics equipment. Another key skill is the ability to use auto repair and testing tools, such as multimeters, connectors, terminal removal tools and starters.
Finally, to successfully and efficiently carry out repair and maintenance work on newer vehicles and systems, it is important for auto electricians to regularly update their knowledge.
Auto Electrician Skills and Qualifications
Auto electricians typically require the following skills:
- Auto electrical and mechanical knowledge
- Knowledge of diagnostics tools for vehicle electrical and electronics
- Ability to read electrical and electronic schematics and circuit diagrams
- Ability to carry out/repair electrical wiring in a range of vehicles
- Strong manual skills and precision when carrying out repair and testing
- Organizational skills and ability to work as part of a team
- Problem-solving skills
The career prospects for auto electricians are very good: with the latest vehicles featuring increasingly sophisticated electrical and electronic systems, demand for their talents is growing. Salaries and contractual terms tend to vary according to seniority and the specific context.
The career of an auto electrician may take a number of different paths. An experienced auto electrician may take on additional responsibilities within an auto repair shop or garage and eventually progress to become shop foreman or supervisor.
Alternatively, an auto electrician may decide to go down the specialization route and focus, say, on maintenance for trucks and other heavy goods vehicles, or perhaps on a specific model or manufacturer (who in some cases may run special training courses).
Other auto electricians may choose the freedom of running their own auto repair shop, offering vehicle repair and diagnostics services for cars, motorcycles, vans and trucks.
Finally, auto electricians with a business-focused mentality may decide to use their skills in a sales or customer service role within the automotive industry.
Top Reasons to Work as an Auto Electrician
A career as an auto electrician is ideal for anybody with a passion for cars and auto repairs who loves to get their hands dirty in the workshop. The work itself is varied and stimulating: every new fault poses a fresh challenge, while installing new systems and accessories is a task that requires considerable technical skill.
The automotive industry is continuously growing. A constant stream of technological innovation means that today’s road vehicles are fitted with sophisticated electrical and electronic systems and accessories that require the expertise of trained specialists and as a consequence, job opportunities for skilled auto electricians are on the rise.
Finally, another factor that is having a positive effect on employment prospects in the auto electrics industry is the growth of the electric vehicles market.