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Automotive heating, venting, and air conditioning systems (HVAC) first appeared as “weather conditioners” used in the vehicles in the 1930s.
At first, they didn’t get very popular due to the high cost and poor reliability.
The idea was worked on for a long time until in the 1960s it became possible to install the HVAC systems in luxury cars.
With the progress in technology, the costs for HVAC systems decreased.
So today climate control systems are available even in the cheap vehicles as a standard system.
The car’s climate can be adjusted inside the vehicles by drivers or passengers.
They can regulate the flow of air, choose the direction of the vents, set the temperature, etc.
Everyone can feel comfortable in the car no matter where they sit.
For drivers and passengers, climate control may seem simple and easy to manipulate.
What’s happening inside the vehicle though is far more complex than that.
A set of electronics is used to warm and cool, dry or humidify the air.
While passengers are in control of some of the process, most of the climate control actions are managed by electronic and actuation devices.
The HVAC systems comprise such components as compressor, evaporator, condenser, dryer, etc.
Depending on the manufacturer, the features and components may differ.
The principle, however, remains similar.
The refrigeration cycle includes the use of liquid refrigerant and regulates the air temperature.
Other parts circulate the air through the system.
They include filters, hoses, belts, and flaps.
An automotive HVAC tech is responsible for keeping all these parts operational and working smoothly.
The Work of the Automotive HVAC Tech
Automotive HVAC techs deal with inspection, installation, repairing, and maintenance of the climate control systems.
They usually service passenger cars, light, and heavy trucks, agricultural machinery.
The automotive HVAC experts are knowledgeable both in mechanical parts and complex electronic units.
They can determine flaws in the HVAC systems in the vehicles of domestic and foreign carmakers.
They can also deal with both older and latest models.
Automotive HVAC technicians know how the air temperature is controlled, and are certified to work with the refrigerants safely.
They can identify various malfunctions in the system including leaking hoses, broken cables, or worn-out belts.
They are also knowledgeable in sophisticated equipment that can help test and determine more complex issues.
Automotive HVAC technicians use various computer software to test the system and identify flawed details.
They can also estimate the damage and determine whether repair or replacement will be needed.
Automotive HVAC techs are usually employed by the repair shops or run their own.
Dealerships, private vehicle services, car rentals, etc., can also hire the techs.
With deeper knowledge and more extensive experience, they can deal with other tasks except for working with vehicles.
For instance, they can be in charge of HVAC equipment and components maintenance, the supply of materials, etc.
Automotive HVAC Technician Requirements
Since the HVAC systems are highly automated, the techs should be proficient in computer technology.
They should know how to handle the computer-aided control systems and electronics.
They should have advanced maintenance diagnostics skills and assess and use the test outcomes.
Automotive HVAC techs are mechanics, so they should be proficient in this area.
They should be aware of maintenance, repair, and servicing of their equipment.
They should know how to read the layouts.
The focus is on engines and automotive HVAC parts.
The specialist should possess good manual skills.
This is particularly important for the techs working with automotive HVAC systems since the engine section is a small unit.
Based on the data of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the automotive HVAC techs should have some post-secondary education.
Specialized degrees are not demanded though.
It is required to have some practical experience and training.
Having specialized certificates can also be required.
The technicians are expected to have close attention to detail, be physically fit, and able to keep their workplace well-organized.
Knowledge of customer service can be a plus.
Steps to Start a Career as an Automotive HVAC Technician
Automotive HVAC technicians aren’t required to have a degree or specialized training.
The minimal requirements include basic education.
However, having certificates or a degree can help get a better position and higher salary.
High school diploma or equivalent (4 years):
The technicians need to work on their mechanical, electronics, and computer skills.
Classes connected with automotive repair can be extremely useful.
Besides, technicians can take math and science classes.
Apprenticeship or part-time work in the car-repair shops can serve as a good basis for future work.
Extended education (a few months to 4 years):
The techs should gain extended job training and get a thorough understanding of the job.
During this training, they are expected to improve their technical competence.
There are programs available at community colleges or vocational schools for which they can apply.
Automotive HVAC techs should take practical sessions and theoretical classes in courses such as:
- Workplace safety.
- Automotive HVAC equipment and systems.
- HVAC electronics.
- Automotive climate control and testing.
- Airflow dynamics.
- Dynamics of fluids.
- Federal and state codes and regulations.
The technicians can also obtain certifications or degrees which take from several months to 4 years.
The schools which are authorized to offer such training should be accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).
Earn specialized certifications:
If the automotive HVAC techs would like to increase their chances of getting a better position and better pay rate, they can obtain additional certificates in the industry.
Automotive Service Excellence certification (ASE):
This certificate is standard.
This certification includes eight main groups.
One is A7 heating and air conditioning.
Techs who get certified in more than one group and have appropriate experience can get master mechanic.
This will improve their chances of employment.
Car dealers provide training programs and certificates for maintenance of their products.
Car parts producers also offer similar programs for servicing their stock.
Section 609 refrigerant recovery:
Automotive HVAC techs are required to be certified in the safe handling of refrigerants by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE):
There are various training programs and certifications available for automotive HVAC experts.
The required license can be different in every state and depends on the position.
If the technicians work for a licensed company, most of the times they won’t need a license.
Those who run their businesses should get acquainted with the requirements and obtain the necessary licensure accordingly.
Salaries of Automotive HVAC Techs
Geographical factor, as well as education and experience, can influence the salary of the automotive HVAC techs.
On average, these technicians make $21.02 per hour, which is $43,730 per year.
This is the BLS data.
Based on Payscale information, the personal reports of the employed technicians say that they make from $10.44 to $26.73 per hour.
That is $23,429 and $62,229 annually accordingly.
The average salary nationwide is $39,000.
On average, the entry-level technicians earn 22% less than mid-career experts.
They make 1% less than the average workers.
Experienced technicians make 18% more than the average, while senior experts earn 31% more.
The highest wages of the automotive HVAC technicians are offered in Lexington Park (CA), Fairbanks (AK), Austin (TX).
Among the highest paying cities also are San Francisco, Bridgeport, Oakland.
The higher wages are determined by the living costs in some cities.
The hot weather can also determine the payment since in such cities HVAC systems are used more often.
Therefore, they would need more frequent maintenance or replacement.
The most high-paying states are Washington, D.C., Alaska, Connecticut, Washington, and Maryland.
Across these states, the annual wages vary from $59,350 in D.C. to $55,910, in Alaska.
Overview of the Career
According to BLS, the demand for automotive technicians will increase by 6% by 2026.
45,900 new positions are expected to appear from 2016 to 2026, which depends on the increased number of vehicles.
Today, more electric cars appear in the market.
The manufacturers highly rely on automation and electronics.
So, the automotive technicians will be expected to have skills in installation and servicing of HVAC systems in such cars.
They include hybrid cars, electric and self-driving vehicles.
The knowledge of the older models of the vehicles will be still required.
According to Payscale, the automotive HVAC technicians report that service positions can often help get promoted to service advisors.
Supervisors at the shops, and other management positions can be also available.