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What does an Automotive Electrician do?

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  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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An automotive electrician is typically a specialized type of mechanic that focuses primarily on repairing and modifying the electrical systems of cars and trucks. Many general automotive technicians are able to diagnose and repair certain electrical systems, though an automotive electrician will often have specialized training and knowledge. In many cases, automotive electric repair shops will also be able to repair or rebuild components such as starter motors and alternators. It is also common for these specialist technicians and shops to have the equipment and knowledge to handle the computerized systems present in many modern vehicles.

Diagnosing and repairing various electrical problems is often a large part of an automotive electrician's job. This can result in a sizable variety of potential issues, because the electrical system of a modern vehicle typically includes a charging system and battery, a number of complex accessories, and even computerized components. Many vehicles may have been modified with aftermarket accessories like digital versatile disc (DVD) players, Bluetooth™ devices, and Global Positioning System (GPS) units, so an auto electrician often has to be aware of the ways these additional components interact with the factory wiring. Some electrical shops may also offer installation services for electronic devices.

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Most general automotive shops no longer repair or rebuild components onsite. An exception is automotive electrical shops, which will often have the expertise and ability to repair malfunctioning components like alternators and starters. Sometimes, good rebuilt units are not available from the aftermarket, so having an electrical shop rebuild the existing component is the best option.

Computer diagnostics are another large part of the field of automotive electronics. Many auto electricians are trained in the use of various scan tools and other devices to pull codes from on board computers and to test potentially malfunctioning components. Most automotive systems have some manner of electronics or computers involved, and automotive electricians may have to work on items as diverse as anti-lock brakes and air bags.

It is often possible to train as an automotive electrician in a vocational program, though many techs come from general auto repair and augment their knowledge with on the job training and seminars. Sometimes it is also an option to obtain an automotive electrician apprenticeship, in which case the new technician will typically train under someone with extensive knowledge and experience in the field. Independent shops may be willing to train apprentices, while dealerships may be more likely to sponsor and hire from vocational programs.

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drtroubles
Post 3

@MrSmirnov - You probably did end up shorting something out. You may have also inadvertently voided the warranty on your car if the short caused a lot of damage.

The problem with new cars is that they are so computerized that you have to take them to an automotive electrician just to fix something simple. If one system goes down the whole car can have issues. I really think this is something car companies do to keep their repair shops in business. Often you can't go for third party repairs because it voids your warranty. It seems like a huge scam to me, but I guess making it harder to fix things is a good way to make cash.

MrSmirnov
Post 2

For those of you that have a newer model car make sure you go to see a licensed automotive electrician if you have any issues with things like the lighting and dashboard display in your vehicle. I made the mistake of trying to fix my own lights after they stopped coming on and nearly destroyed the entire electrical system in my car.

With older models of cars things were much more compartmentalized than they are now. It seems like now you can't touch anything in new cars without wrecking another system. For some reason fiddling with the overhead lights completely threw my other dashboard instruments out of whack. I am assuming I short-circuited something.

whiteplane
Post 1

Being an automotive electrician is not an easy job. Electrical problems in cars can be extremely hard to diagnose and beyond that they can be extremely hard to fix.

I worked in a shop in a big Ford dealership and we employed a full time automotive electrician. It was not uncommon that we would have electrical problems in cars that none of the other guys could fix. And electrical problems can be big problems. Cars are so automated these days that almost every one of their systems requires the input of electricity.

He was a busy guy in our shop. He had his own area of the garage and a lot of specialized equipment. He had gone through a special training program with Ford to learn to do what he did. I don't know for sure but I think he made quite a bit more than the regular mechanics too.

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