Technology is killing the auto mechanic… Or is it?

Maybe the sky isn’t falling after all

Empty cockpit of autonomous car, HUD (Head Up Display) and digital speedometer. self-driving vehicle.

Telematics and cyber technological advancements are popular subjects at any trade-related event nowadays.

You hear a lot of buzz about how hard cars are going to be to fix. There’s a lot of chatter about how today’s auto mechanic is out of their element. Dropping words like LIDAR, RADAR and ADAS attempts to scare folks into thinking these systems will be impossible to repair.

Attend one of these events and you’ll see fingers pointing at the manufacturers while claiming it’s a conspiracy against the independent auto shop and a cry for who is going to fix the cars of today and tomorrow.

There’s good news, however.

Things aren’t nearly as dire as one might think after attending one of these events. In fact, they aren’t dire at all, not if you are a trained auto service professional.

Collision avoidance technology features, like systems that alert a driver the vehicle is drifting out of the lanes, can be daunting to work on. Unless you are trained on the system.

We’ve faced challenges before

Invented just before the turn of the 20th century, the automobile was a marvel of technology at the time. I can only imagine how thrilling it must have been to come across an automobile on the road.

It, however, took a while before the professional auto mechanic became common place. Car owners would work on the vehicle themselves or find a bicycle mechanic, blacksmith or maybe a machinist to do the work.

In 1915, Henry Ford revolutionized the car-building process, greatly reducing the cost of an automobile. Once only owned by the wealthy, the automobile had gone mainstream and was here to stay. Ford’s building processes encouraged commonality on different models. This made autos not only more affordable, but easier to work on. Not long after, some smart entrepreneurs saw the opportunity in fixing cars. And the age of the auto mechanic was born.

Automobile shops integral to American commerce

Now, some 227,000 shop owners unlock their automobile repair shop doors each workday across the country. They are an integral part to American commerce.

Almost from the beginning, the auto mechanic was the key component to the survival of the automobile. Cars broke down constantly. Initially, many vehicle owners acted as their own mechanics. Eventually, vehicle owners started taking cars to professional repair shops.

And since the first auto repair shop opened, there’s been continued concern about the advancement of technology overtaking the trade. Concern that it would make it where auto mechanics couldn’t repair cars.

In the 1980s, it was the transition from carburetors to fuel injection. In the 1990s, we faced airbags, anti-lock brake systems and OBD2. By the 2000s, we started seeing advanced automation with remotely opening doors and cruise control systems that adapted the vehicle speed to the vehicle directly ahead. All of these systems were touted as the coup de gras of the auto mechanic. Yet here we stand. Cars are still getting fixed every day by competent auto mechanics.

And cars will continue to get fixed.

Because a technology is new is not a good reason to fear it. All this new technology was developed by people, and that means people can fix it. All you need is the tools, information and training.

New challenges

That doesn’t mean we don’t face new challenges.

Technology is ever evolving at a breakneck pace, and it is daunting to keep up with. As 2020 approaches, we are seeing braking and steering systems that ID and respond to potential collisions independent of driver input. These semi-autonomous features allow drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel and their eyes off the road. Not to mention advanced center stack systems that give the vehicle and its occupants direct access to the internet.

Pete Rudloff

All these features present new areas of learning for the modern technician. That, however, is nothing new. We’ve been learning new systems for literally decades. A key attribute of a good auto mechanic is they are able to take what they know and apply it to what they don’t. Folks who can’t do that won’t be good auto mechanics.

Automobile technology continues to advance

Make no mistake, automobile technologically is advancing every day. For some, autos are getting harder to fix. However, for auto mechanics who have been committed to training and learning, these advancements are surmountable. These advancements are just a natural progression of the automobile. Technicians who have kept up with training will have no more significant issues than were had when anti-lock brake systems were new.

As in the past, we will adapt to these new systems. We will also adapt to systems that haven’t even been developed or released to market yet.

We’ve done it before. We’ll do it again.

Maybe it’s been out of necessity, but adaptability and the ability to learn new things has always been the calling card of a good auto mechanic. The best part about new technology being intertwined in modern automobiles is that it raises the value of the auto mechanic. After years of stagnant pay scales, maybe today’s technicians can look forward to a pay raise in the not-too-distant future.

Importance of embracing technology

If you want to be able to fix the cars of tomorrow, stop worrying that vehicle technology is advancing and set a path toward success. It starts with educating yourself today. Training, tooling and information will continue to be the keys to long-term success of tomorrow’s automotive service professionals.

If you are a vehicle service professional who wants to stay on top of automobile technology advancements, go to and get a membership today!