For most auto mechanics looking to advance in their field, formal training is a must. Unfortunately, this training is often expensive and time-consuming. Unless advanced training is available locally, taking a course can also mean spending a week or more away from home, translating into lost income.
While formal training is often preferred, there are steps you can take in its absence to keep up-to-date, improve your skills and broaden your base of knowledge. All it takes is time, effort and sometimes a few wisely spent dollars. Check out these ways to get training without spending an arm and a leg.
Start with the Boss
It's in your best interest to keep up-to-date on the latest automotive technology. This also benefits your employer. If the shop you work for neither shoulders a good part of the cost of continuing education nor makes it possible for technicians to get more training, ask why. If your boss does not see value in training, you may want to look for a new job.
Visit a Local Technical College
So you went to your employer to ask for more training options and no sale. For the time being, you're on your own, which means you are on a budget for both time and money.
Start with a visit to the bookstore at the local technical college and see what texts the college uses for its advanced automotive-technology courses. If these books address your needs, buy them. Then set aside a quiet time on a regular basis to study them. Follow up by taking the self-tests many of these texts provide. If your area does not have a technical college, look for reading lists online.
Check Out the Library
While it is unusual for smaller community libraries to have a wide selection of advanced auto-technology texts, the librarian may be able to obtain these books through interlibrary loan.
"If we don't have a book, we'll buy it if it's within our budget or borrow it from anywhere in the country," says Sandra Gamzon, manager of information services at the Hartford Public Library in Connecticut. "Generally, interlibrary loan is a viable alternative, though it can take up to a month to get a book."
Read the Right Publications
Many publications that cater to auto technicians can give you a glimpse of the latest technology and service approaches. If your boss doesn't subscribe, you can buy a subscription or two for just a few dollars. The expense may even be tax deductible if you meet certain criteria.
A Google search for "automotive training" produces more than 8.9 million hits. While many of these sites aim to sell you training, others, such as Autoshop101, offer some self-taught training programs free.
If you work for a franchised dealer, you may be able to use the online version of the manufacturer's training programs.
Check Parts Suppliers and Test-Equipment Manufacturers
From local one-night seminars to on-the-job advice, many parts suppliers and test-equipment manufacturers will help in your training. Some even offer troubleshooting suggestions when you face a difficult repair.
"We have the CarQuest Technical Institute, and we have 15,000 students enrolled in instructor-led programs," says Mike DeSorbo, director of professional markets and education at CarQuest in Raleigh, North Carolina. "Our plans are to take some of that curriculum and expand it online. There's no place like home to learn." CarQuest also offers a self-paced series of training programs.
These courses vary in their approaches. Some use workbooks, while others use video or computers, DeSorbo says. CarQuest also offers ongoing training for $1,249 a year for up to six technicians from a shop. If a shop takes advantage of all six slots, the price is just $209 per person.
The instruction is for two consecutive nights a month for a year. Classes are four hours each night. Offerings include technical courses that teach the technician to diagnose and repair vehicles and management courses covering topics like workflow management and maximizing productivity.
All of these approaches can work to varying degrees; a lot depends on your learning style. A combination of methods may work best for you.