Q: I saw you
had recommended seeking an ASE certified technician to fix a
difficult problem. Can you explain what this is and how I’d know
the repair shop I might choose has one?
question! Some states require technician licensing for general
repairs, or more typically, emissions testing. This means many auto
techs nationwide are either unlicensed or choose to voluntarily
become certified via the National Institute for Automotive Service
Excellence (abbreviated to ASE).
ASE has been
around since 1972 and offers 50 certifications in car/light truck,
collision repair, truck repair, school and transit bus, heavy truck,
engine machining, service consulting, parts, among other
specialties. ASE has certified more than 300,000 technicians, with
each certificate being valid for five years. The car and light truck
section consists of nine service areas plus general maintenance,
advanced engine performance, hybrid autos and alternate fuels.
Technicians may obtain certification in one or more areas, such as
brakes or transmissions, or the whole lot, granting them master
status. To become certified the applicant must have a minimum of two
years of shop experience (or one year of experience and two years of
school) and successfully pass a comprehensive written exam in a
particular service area.
are the tests? They’re as good as any multiple choice test could
be; however, a book-smart automotive student with coaching and no or
minimal experience can typically squeeze past them, as could an
experienced tech that’s fallen behind on newer technology. The
best questions are the ones that require a combination of theory,
diagnostic ability, repair finesse and judgment gained from
experience to answer — not easy to create, or hopefully, answer! I
think the L-1 advanced engine performance and L-3 light duty
hybrid/electric vehicle specialist certifications are a very good
measurement of a tech’s ability to get the job done in all areas
of a modern vehicle, as the diagnostic skills and scan tool
competency he or she would have would be key to great solutions.
Is an ASE
certified tech the one to choose? I agree. While no measurement of
competency is perfect, this is the best thing going, and the fact
that the tech goes to the trouble and expense of becoming
voluntarily certified says good things about their professionalism.
To fly the banner that says "We employ ASE certified
professionals" means the shop has at least two techs certified
in at least one service area. Better yet is an ASE "Blue Seal
of Excellence" banner. This means at least 75 percent of the
shop’s techs are certified and each area of service is covered. It
shouldn’t cost more for a certified tech to fix your car, but a
repair shop that takes the high road with well-trained/experienced
techs, tools, and information systems will likely have a higher
hourly rate than one that’s just hanging in there.
If I were
shelling out $180 an hour (yes, it can be that high in many places)
for my car to be repaired, I’d have no problem asking, "Who
will be my technician, and how are they credentialed?"