Skip to main content
2 answers
Asked 6259 views Translate

what composes the day-to-day life of an automotive engineer?

i have always been interested in cars and i want to know what it would be like to design them. i also want to know what kind of money i can expect to make. #engineer #mechanical #automotive #cars

+25 Karma if successful
From: You
To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you


2 answers

Updated Translate

CareerVillage’s Answer


This is an excerpt from Mark Ward, Publisher / Master Ford Technician / ASE Master Certified / Diesel Specialist (see source here):

A day in the life of an automotive technician:

He starts off his day awaking from a short nights rest, accompanied by all the aches and pains his profession induces on his body. His back is tight, his leg’s slightly numb, and his hands ache of cuts and scraps. He sits on the edge of the bed while trying to build enough strength to get up and get on with his day.

He see’s his wife and kids sleeping in their little rooms and with a smile, he heads to the shower. He returns to his room where he retrieves from the closet yet another neatly hung uniform with his name on it and gets dressed. He heads to the kitchen to fill his mug he got from some convenient store with coffee. And with no time to spare, he kisses his kids and wife gently and heads out the door.

He has a little trouble getting his ride to start as it is ailing from numerous troubles that he has never got around with the money or the time to fix it. Running a little behind, he skips his chance to stop and pick up some breakfast as he always does. He is running a little low on fuel, but thinks he can make it to work on what he has, and hopes he will have the opportunity to make a little money today to fill it up on his way home.

He arrives at work in the parking lot and is surrounded by new cars that he will never afford to buy himself and parks in the back of the lot where the Dealer prefers he hides his old ride. He begins his long walk to the service area through the back doors along with his fellow co-workers. He notices that each and every one of them is either slightly bent over or limping from their injuries that this profession has caused.

He heads to his box, unlocks it and heads to the time clock while lighting his morning smoke. He clocks in, and heads to the dispatch booth in hopes of getting his first job. All the while, he notices that everyone in the shop is doing the same. He pulls a ticket and notices that it is a warranty ticket and it is a waiter. He puts out his smoke and heads back to the parking lot to retrieve the car. He opens the door and notices that the seat is too far forward and must be moved back. He places the seat cover and floor mat in their respected spots. He then gets into the car and pulls it around into his stall.

He gets out of the car, reads the ticket one more time and then starts his diagnostic process. The sounds in the shop resemble a production line, so he knows he must fix it quickly so he can move on to his next car. His first step is to retrieve a scan tool from the shops tool inventory. He sets off to find it and discovers that someone else is already using it. He then heads off to find the shops other one, only to find it is currently in need of repair, so he must wait for the only working one the shop has to offer.

20 minutes pass and he finally gets his turn. He hooks up the scan tool and retrieves his code and it is an unfamiliar one to him, so he heads to the library to retrieve a shop manual to aid in the diagnostic process. On his way to get the manual, he see’s many cars moving in and out of the shop. He see’s this as others are getting done before him and the pressure to produce starts to raise its ugly head. He comes to a conclusion as to what is the concern with the car he is working on, and heads to the parts counter. The line is long and the parts guys seem like they are moving at the great speed of a snail. He waits his turn in line and then finally is next to ask for his part. The part’s assistant listens to his plea, and then he starts to look up the part. His catalog system is not quite showing the exact part and asks for an engineering number off the old part. He heads back out to his car across the shop. He see’s that the part can not be easily accessed from the view he has, so he must remove it to see the numbers. This takes him 15 minutes, but he gets the number and heads back to parts. The parts guy mentions that he must order the part because it is not in stock. So they jot down the RO information, and then he heads back to the car to reinstall the part to move onto his next car. He has wasted over an hour in a half with this car and advisors to service writer of the parts situation. The writer takes it from there and the tech returns the car back out front for the customer.

He returns back to the dispatch booth to draw another ticket. By this time, it is 9:30 and he has made no money at all. Feeling the mounting pressure to produce he quickly heads back out into the lot to retrieve his next car. The car requires a test drive to reproduce the symptom, so a test drive it will get. He notices that the brakes via the customer concern are pulsating and is accurate so he knows that the rotors must be turn with the possibility of needing additional brake system repairs. He pulls the car in to his stall and sets the lift. He removes the wheels and performs his inspection. He creates his parts list and heads to parts to make his estimate. The lines are still long, so he tries to wait patiently for his turn. During his wait, the mid-morning food truck enters the shop. Most of the techs flog the truck to get something to eat and so does he. Again, he is faced with a line to pay as the lunch on wheels is self serving. He notices that he does have enough money to pay for his purchase, and knows that he needs gas to get back home tonight, so he charges it like many other of the techs do, then they pay off their weekly tab on Friday after they get paid.

He then heads back to parts to get his prices and availability. Parts has most of the stuff he needs so he relays this info to the advisor’s who are very busy running back and forth taking care of the customers who continue to over run the service desk. The advisor sells the job, tells the tech, then the techs heads to parts to retrieve what he needs. The parts counter guy tells him his is missing one part, but will have it by this afternoon. The tech takes what they have now, and heads to the car. He starts his repairs knowing that it will be this afternoon before he can finish completely, but he hurries anyway hoping he can fix other cars while this one is waiting for parts.

He gets half way through the repair and is called to the dispatch booth for a quickly needed repair that has been in the shop before but has returned for the same concern. He did not work on this car the last time in and notices that the technician who did work on it, is busy doing a shopping list of maintenance work and is making his day. He takes the car anyway, and heads back out into his stall and prepare to bring the car in. Having no place to put it, he puts his brake job back together unfinished and pulls it outside so he can use his only lift to raise the new car. He inspects the car after it is raised and notices that it has an oil leak coming from the rear main area. The tech before him had replaced the pan gasket, but not fixing the source of the leak, being the rear main seal. He informs the advisor of his findings and the advisor tells him that since it is a police vehicle they will need it done ASAP. He heads to parts to retrieve the seal. After the wait and to his amazement, they have the part. He then heads back out to start his repair.

He will need the transmission jack for this repair and notes that the Trans guys are using them. He asks for an estimated time to be able to use one and they inform him of a 45 minute time before being ready. He heads back to his car and starts removing everything needed to pull out the transmission to gain access to the damaged rear main seal. This takes him some 30 minutes and knowing he has a few minutes, he eats his cold mid morning meal off the food truck. The service mgr comes by to ask him why he is not busy. The tech informs the manager of his progress and delays. The manager insist that he find something to do while he is waiting for the trans jack, so he heads to dispatch to draw another car. The car he draws is a recall paying 0.3hr, so he heads to parts and gets the necessary part, then heads back to his box and sets it down. He then runs out to the parking lot to get the car, which does not start due to a dead battery. So heads back into the shop and gets his jumper box and goes back to the car. After starting it, he pulls it into the shop and installs the part. He mentions to the advisor that the battery was dead and ants to know if they want him to find the source of the dead battery. The advisor tells him just to leave it running after you get the recall repair done as they have no time to deal with it currently. 35 minutes have past, so he pulls the car out and leaves it running as he was instructed to do and heads back over for the trans jack. He pulls the jack over into his stall across the shop and starts his repair. He gets the repair done within 2 hours then checks his repair. The manager also comes over to check the repair and after the go ahead from the manager, he pulls the car back outside.

He receives notice that the part he was waiting on had arrived so he heads to parts and retrieves it, then back out to his stall and prepares to put it on. He pulls his brake job back in, puts in on the lift, and removes the wheels. He finishes the repair and test drives it to insure the repair fixed the concern. He realizes that he spent more time on this repair pulling it in and out then it paid to repair it. The pressure mounts to produce as lunch time comes around. He decides to skip lunch knowing he must make some money, plus, he did not have the money to spare to eat anyway.

He heads to dispatch to pull another ticket only to find that they do not have any work at this time that fits his specialty level. So he waits for one to arrive and kills this time cleaning up his stall that he does not get paid to do anyway. Finally after a 20 minute wait the dispatcher calls him to her booth to hand him another ticket. This ticket is another warranty ticket and it has a shopping list of concerns. He heads back out to the lot to retrieve the car and test drives it to duplicate the concerns. The list entails rattles, broken interior trim, water leak, and an intermittent electrical problem. He addresses each of the concerns one at a time. The rattle was from a converter shield which he repaired with a clamp that he got from parts. The broken interior trim piece was a door handle which he had to order. The water leak was from the trunk seal which he had to order. And the intermittent electrical problem was still under investigation. He spends the next 2 hours trying to find the source of the electrical problem. He calls hotline during this time and they give him two areas to investigate, both turning up dead ends. The heat of the day drags on, and the clock has reached 3:30. Everyone in the shop is busy working on their cars and it seems like none of them are having any troubles at all. The tech feeling the pressure continues to rush trying to at least repair something to the finish, in hopes of being paid. His aches and pains of his profession are setting in on his body. His attempts of finding the electrical problem require him to remove the dash to inspect a splice. He spends the next hour in a half pulling it out to gain access, then spends another 20 minutes just finding the splice that was incorrectly marked via the electrical manual. He calls hotline back only to find that there was a revision in the service manual about the incorrect location of the splices. The hotline engineer apologizes for the error and he returns to the car. Now it is 5:00pm and most of the techs are busy cleaning up getting ready to head home after making their day financially. He finds the bad slice finally, and makes the need repairs. Realizing it is after 5:00 he informs the advisor of his progress and is told he can finish it tomorrow. He cleans up and heads to the time clock to clock out. Then he heads to his car limping the whole way with his aches and pains. He gets in is car and has trouble getting it started then heads to the gas station to give it a splash of much needed fuel. He only has 7.00 dollars and the price of fuel is 1.98 a gal. He crunches, but uses all of his money hoping it will get him through the week.

After he fuels up, he reviews his day knowing that he only flagged 5.2hrs, thanks to the generous pay from Ford warranty, knowing he has his work cut out for him for the rest of the week. He arrives home only to discover that his caring wife has prepared some type of hamburger helper in a skillet as that was all they could afford this week. His kids jump in his lap happy to see him as he tries to take his old worn out boots off and places them next to his kids worn out shoes. They sit down to dinner together and he hears stories of how the family’s day went. He finds out that one of his children is getting a cold and must go to the doctor soon. Knowing he can not afford the insurance, he assures the wife that he find a way to come up with the money somehow. After dinner, he notices the day’s mail sitting on the counter and see’s that most of it is bills.

He steps outside to take a smoke knowing he has to come up with money this week to live on, so he heads to his garage to finish a vehicle that his neighbor brought over needing repaired. He spends much of the night only stopping at 10:00 to come in and tuck his kids in bed and kisses the wife who goes with them. He then heads back out in to the garage to finish up. At around 12:30 he finishes up and heads into the bathroom to clean up before retiring to bed. His body is worn down and he aches all over.

The next morning he starts this viscous cycle all over again. He first calls his neighbor to report that the car is finished, only to find out they do not get paid until Friday, so he will have to wait to be paid. So he lines up another vehicle for later that night, so he can at least make something. He returns to work and has a similar day as the previous one until Friday rolls around. He finds out that he flagged 31.6 hrs for the week and after uniform fee’s and taxes, that his check will not be enough to pay the bills. So he is totally relying on side jobs to help with expenses. He takes Saturday to take his small child to the local clinic only to find that she will need a prescription and the bill was more than he can muster with what he has left. So they bill him for the rest and they head to the drug store to get the prescription filled. Having trouble starting the car like always, he decides that he must work the weekend as well to drum up enough money to at least get the in dire needed fuel pump for his car. He makes some money, and has to dip into what he had left from his check to pay for the rest. He has less than 20.00 left for the week and the stress mounts.

They return home and spend the rest of their weekend together except for dad is busy working on side jobs to make ends meat. He realizes that his family is really living without his presence and this hurts him so. Finally late Sunday night, before the kids go to bed, his daughter who is recovering from being sick says to her dad as she sits on his lap “daddy, when are you ever going to spend time with us and take us to the zoo???”

Being a professional technician today, at least everyone has been in this story or is in it now. The drive to continuing to do this profession weakens when you get to work and see your GM walking around in expensive shoes that cost more than a weeks groceries at your house, telling you that you need to produce more for the store. The constant tool jockeys arriving every week at your store wanting payment for over priced tools you had to buy just to work on today’s cars. The ever rising cost of health care that you can’t afford on your ever decreasing income. The constant reduction in warranty pay times as the jobs becoming increasing harder to do. The price of transportation just to get back and forth to work is in many ways overwhelming to some. Just the general cost of living for a technician is usually more than they make. They dealer says they can’t afford to pay them for what they are worth, but manage to go home to a more than 1 million dollar home every night while many techs go home to their rented apartment or trailer or house that they can barely afford.

All the while, we techs see ads for technicians promoting this profession, whether it be for college or trade schools saying how great it is to be a tech these days. We know quite the contrary, and from experience can see through the irony of all this no matter what is brained washed into this profession.

“The rich man is busy dancing, while the poor man is busy paying for the band” comes to mind about this profession. If you lived in or are living this life from above, then you need to stand together and get what you deserve. You are a professional and if you stand idly by crying about your financial state and if you choose to do nothing about it, then you deserve to live that life.

It is time to stop the taking from you and get what you deserve, and then maybe, one day, I will re-write this story to reflect a new day in the life of a technician

Updated Translate

Krisdavis78’s Answer


I'm not an automotive engineer, but here's a great post from someone who has been (the original post is here):

A day in the life of an automotive design engineer

You get to the office 5 minutes late. You don't feel guilty. You were in till 11:00pm last night. There's 3 paper coffee cups and a red bull in the bin. For a position as lowly as the product engineer you are lucky to have a large desk. Looking at it, you know that you don't stand a chance of winning the top 5S work cell and the $20 'home depot' voucher that comes with it. The phone LED is red meaning that you have phone messages in your voice mailbox. Your inbox is also red: "253 unread messages." 120 of them are from yesterday and the rest are messages that still require action.

You are barely 3 minutes into reviewing the D599 latest circuit design when John, the new guy, stops by and asks you if you think that GM would buy-off on a 16 pin connector that does not have USCAR approval. You shrug. 5 minutes later you're back reviewing the circuit and you're worried that you'll never fit all those components on the 1 inch squared circuit board real estate left for you. You're also wondering how you'll ever dissipate so much heat from such a small area.

The phone rings. It's the buyer and he needs your help because the BCG423 is on allocation. There's an 18 week lead time to purchase the part caused by this post recession spring-back. We only purchase 18,000 a year so we don't have enough clout for the supplier to redirect the last of the stock to us."Pawl," can you find a substitute part? It takes 4 months to validate a change so why do people ask us that? In the end you know that you will be compelled to find a replacement and that all testing will be reduced to a single overnight stress test. The customer would never buy off on that so they won't be told.

So you switch gears to finding a substitute for BCG423. SGmicroelectronic makes a nearly identical one, but the power rating is slightly lower. You're nervous about the lower power rating so you speak to your boss about testing over the weekend. Unfortunately, the lab guys refuse to work the weekend so he tells you to get the chip supplier to do the testing for you. Last month we ordered the same supplier to lower all their pricing by 10%.

It's 9:30 am and time for your XT450 meeting in the 'Maui' meeting room. This business just got awarded to our organisation and our General Manager decided that this will be our showcase program. Rumor is that we were the only company that bid on it because everyone else said that the project timing made it impossible to design and test in time for start of production. Your boss wants a plan of how you will design it and test it in 5 months. You swallow hard. Midway through the discussions your mind rolls back into the circuit design you were reviewing. This circuit was due for production release yesterday. You also remembered that you need to book a hotel because tonight you're visiting a supplier. Then you drift off back into XT450 as the discussion turns to when you could have the first prototypes delivered. You say "3 months" but then you kick yourself because in the spirit of the moment you forgot to consider that the last 2 weeks of December are lost. You utter a silent curse.

The XT450 meeting gets interrupted by the purchasing manager who pops her head in to inform you of a mandatory attendance fire-fighting meeting about the BCG423 allocation. You were planning to check on the progress of some test on the ZD project. So you tell her that you'll try to be there in 10 minutes.

The ZD project is fairly complex and your colleague lost many nights of sleep designing it and dealing with the customer's indecision. During the peak, he was consistently working 70 hour weeks and often had to travel in the weekend. He quit 4 months ago and took a job as a calibration engineer with the government. Now you inherited the ZD. Your customer is pissed off at how slow your responses are. You told them that you'd have designs in 1 week. That was last week and Peter, your designer took emergency vacation.

It's noon. You like noon because people have lunch and leave you alone. You get back to reviewing the D599 circuit. You're getting increasingly nervous about the heat build up. You conclude that you need to prototype it and run some selected development tests. So you mail out the gerbers for quotation. You're impressed at how efficient these auto quote generators are. You're mid way into completing 3 page of the purchase order request form when the phone rings. It's the lab.

They inform you that "the ZD revision 12b stopped working during load dump testing". "Sh*t" you say to yourself, "the change did not work." You semi-jokingly call him an asshole. He chuckles. You try to forget about it and get back to writing the purchase order request form. The phone rings. It's your wife. "Honey, remember to pick up the kids tonight."

You write out a post-it note on your screen with the words 'Janet/John' to remind yourself not to forget them at the sitters again. You get back to your form.

It's 1 pm and the remnants of the smells from microwave dinners linger in the office. Now you're really hungry. Your screen flashes and a meeting reminder pops up:" Weekly engineers' meeting"

You take a bite off your apple and head off to meeting room 'Waikiki.'

This week your boss is stressing the need for you to record your hour-by-hour time allocation daily so that the projects can be billed appropriately. Also, your department scored miserably in a 5S audit with special remarks about "piles of dust collecting parts sitting on your desks." Finally, the president of the company is stepping out of the downtown headquarters and is visiting us. How nice of him. We are instructed to do a good clean up. You ask if it would be a good time to get the chipped 1970s bathroom tiles renovated.

At 2pm you interview a candidate who's fresh out of college. He said that he has no automotive experience but that he learned all about FMEAs at school and that he'd love to try them out on a new design. You don't tell him that his first job would be to rework misplaced resistors on 300 PCBs where our supplier missed the decimal point on our 0.4ohm resistor. He could start on Monday. You're wondering where you'd put him as there's no more desk space. You'll worry about that when he starts.

On your way back to you desk you stop and microwave your dinner. It's KD from last night (with frozen peas added after you heard a program on obesity on the radio). As you're waiting 2:20 minutes for it to warm up, new guy John asks you if the F23 plastic enclosure should be made out of nylon 66. "Absolutely not" you tell him as you recall last January's fiasco with all the tabs breaking off in dry weather.

You get back to your desk. Ketchup squirts on the D599 schematic. No one's looking so you lick it off. You must remember to bring a box of kleenex tomorrow.

The phone rings. The BCG423 allocation issue meeting has been postponed until 2:30 where your online calender is showing you as "available." The meeting is in the "Honolulu" board room.

On your way to the meeting you stop at the lab to see for yourself the issue with the ZD revision 12b. One of the caps seemed to have burst and the room smells of geek perfume (that's the smell emitted by microchips shortly after they make that "popping" sound). You start wondering what Taiichi Ohno would have done if he was in your position.

You stop for a bathroom break. You savour the serenity of having 87 seconds of thinking about nothing.

You get to the allocation meeting 4 minutes late. The general manager is there and asks you what you're doing to fix the supply problem. He uses the tone that implies "you idiot, why did you select a chip from NOsemi, did you not know they are having supply issues?" I point out that the part was designed before the recession.

At 3:45 you get back to your desk. The RED LED is still flashing on your phone. Messages must be piling up. As you glance at your sea of red email, one stands out. It is from Geoff Wilson, your customer, and the subject is URGENT. How original.

You open it. There's a new failure on the KD where your module is signalling an error to the BCM. He needs you down at the design center at 8:00am tomorrow. You don't dare say No.

So you start gathering your stuff to prepare for the meeting. You go to the lab to see if you can borrow the scope. It's out for calibration. You're trying to decide if you should book a hotel and drive there tonight or leave at 5:00am tomorrow.

Your wife calls to remind you to pick up the kids. She is proud when you tell her that you posted a sticky note on your computer.

As soon as you hang up, the phone rings again. This time it's from accounting who point out that you used the wrong cost center number for your purchase order request form and that you'd need to get the right number from the program director.

You're 5 minutes late for picking up the kids.

Your boss stops by your desk and points out that due to the recent surge in design related quality issues, the company is stressing the need for good FMEAS.