Why Don’t We Call Technicians Mechanics?

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The automotive mechanic holds an almost mythical place in American culture. Americans have been working on cars, or paying to have their cars worked on, since the introduction of the automobile, and through decades of innovations and changes, the popular image of the mechanic has stayed remarkably consistent: an individual with a wrench and a tool chest. Yet at dealerships all over the country, you won’t be able to find a single mechanic, or rather, you won’t be able to find anyone who calls themselves that. The mechanic, who worked on parts with very little voltage, has been replaced by the automotive technician, who knows a car’s mechanical functions as well as its innumerable electronic parts.

This may sound like a superficial change of terminology, and to a certain extent, it is. The fact of the matter is that working on cars is superficially different that it used to be; the vast majority of vehicles have replaced carburetors with fuel injection that is regulated by computers, and much of the rest of a car’s features have followed suit.

That isn’t to say that being adept at examining computer readings is enough to be a great technician; as Acura Master Technician Chris May explained to us, life as a technician is hardly made easier by vehicles’ reliance on electricity. “Having so many computers and lines of codes is a mixed blessing,” Chris said, explaining that simply being able to interpret the data available from a vehicle is far from enough to diagnose a problem. Techs still use the powers of deduction and experience that mechanics did, they just work on modern vehicles in addition to older models.

As Chris pointed out, Acuras have made use of fuel injection for the company’s entire history, but the fact that the carburetor has virtually gone the way of the dodo doesn’t mean the way of the mechanic is dying; things are just getting a little more complicated, and it is the job of the technician to stay caught up in a world where the technology moves almost as fast as the cars it powers.

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