A few years ago, I had interviewed with a publication (that shall not be named), to be their Automotive Editor. While I made it to the final round of interviews, I was passed over because I simply didn’t have enough mechanical knowledge and experience. I had readily admitted it and suggested that my inexperience could be beneficial in opening up the world of repairing cars and other motor vehicles to the inexperienced readers while I attempted to learn. They still passed. That one still hurts a little.
It’s not that I don’t know how to do things under the hood, but I constantly find myself yearning to learn and understand even more about how cars and the tens of thousands of parts come together to get someone or something down the road or near everywhere in the world. After my hiring here, I decided it was time to really get down and dirty. First: Purchase a project car. Second: Why not study to become a Master Mechanic?
For those unfamiliar with the ASE, or “Automotive Service Excellence,” tests and certifications, these tests assess a technician’s knowledge and understanding of certain vehicle systems. Clearly, most of us here reading/writing for Jalopnik either work on our own cars or look to find competent individuals to touch anything we can’t or don’t want to do. In these cases, many look to have someone ASE-certified look at their vehicle, and in many places, it’s a requirement to even be a working, paid technician.
To become an ASE-Certified Master Automobile Technician, there are eight tests to take with subjects ranging from Engine Repair and Electrical/Electronic Systems to Engine Performance. Each test can take a few hours to complete and consist of anywhere from 40 to 50 questions concerning the subject.
And the tests are a gauntlet. The questions sometimes come down to a “best case scenario” and are outright mind games. To give you an example: They’ll ask that if “Technician A” is doing one thing (writes out scenario) and “Technician B” is doing it this way, who is right? Your choices for answers are: A, B, both, or neither. Both methods might work, but then again, you’re looking for the best answer. To succeed, you better know how to diagnose these systems, and well.
I have also found that studying for these tests outside of “the classroom” or shop, makes things a little tricky. My issue is that I learn best hands-on or by “reading with visuals.” So not having access to an engine (my Mercedes is still frozen in our Michigan garage) or other mechanical means to explore, I can’t always put all the delicate parts I’m reading through together.
It also really doesn’t help that whoever wrote this particular textbook writes in a way that expects you to know more than you actually do on a system. As a beginner breaking down some of these components, there’s not enough information to visualize everything. Then, if you’re lucky, there may be a diagram outlining individual systems, but they are few and far between, and usually on the next page. One is left to get creative or imaginative, which doesn’t help when it comes to mechanics and specifics.
So, studying has been difficult.
This whole idea is to help me actually repair my Mercedes while also helping me be a better technical writer. Plus, who doesn’t love a good wrenching story?
And the only benefit I really get out of this is that I can say I passed, since I technically will not be a certified technician. I’ve never worked in a shop and don’t intend to leave Jalopnik anytime soon to get the hour requirements needed to be 100 percent certified. So, in the end, I will be “certified to understand, work on and write about” cars mechanically, I guess. I’m alright with that.
If you have any tips or tricks to studying up for the ASEs OR great video channels or websites worth checking out for guides, send ‘em my way! I’m looking to start testing this spring!
And stay tuned for updates on the Merc. She’ll be getting more and much-needed attention soon.