How to Learn Auto Repair

Mechanic working on 57 Chevy

You can learn auto repair from reading books in combination with hands on experience.

About 30 years ago I entered a co-op program sponsored by General Motors Corp that used this exact process. They called it A.S.E.P. (Automotive Service Educational Program). The automotive training was in two separate modules.

Local college classes that pushed learning from books and blackboards for half a day and the other half applying what we learned in a General Motors dealership service department. Several other manufacturers including foreign cars made in the United States like Nissan and Toyota offer similar programs.

Automotive Service Education Program

I still continue my education to this day with reading new material and attending update sessions offered by local aftermarket suppliers.

In the constantly changing automotive repair business you’ll find that the learning process is never over. I still learn something new almost every single day. If you don’t keep up with the constant stream of new technology your value as an employee begins to drop.

Along with your pay check in some cases. Below are some reviews of books I have read on some of the most important subjects. At the bottom are videos available on DVD or you can stream them on-demand for less then 3 bucks. It’s hard to find automotive knowledge any cheaper than that.

Learning About Electrical Auto Repairs

First up is Tracy Martin’s guide to automotive electrical systems. He is very good at simplifying and explaining the principles that will help you diagnose and repair complicated car electrical systems.

Mechanics strong in this area can make good money. I purchased this guide when I was about to take the ASE re certification test for light duty automotive electrical.

I was surprised that it was more practical real world stuff then theory. This book details the various tools, like automotive meters and test lights that you will use to evaluate and troubleshoot many vehicle systems.

Also included are several hands on projects that take you on a learn auto repair guided tour of the standard auto electrical system. Not only does this reinforce some theory, but also demonstrates how to fix specific real world problems. Tracy is a retired teacher and does a great job keeping you on track.

Training for Automotive Engines

If they had textbooks like this when I was doing my automotive training I think that learning to fix cars would have been much easier. The books cover the theory and service of modern engines.

I stress the word modern, because it includes information on variable valve timing systems, hybrid and other advanced technology.

You learn how components are designed and function to support operation. Lots of realistic line drawings and pictures that pull things together are included.

I have to be honest with you. The older editions are cheaper, but still provide value. I purchased the 3rd edition written by Elisabeth Dorries. The 6th edition is written by Certified Master Automotive Technician Ken Pickerill.

The book in my opinion was the easiest thing I ever read on the subject of auto repair. If you go over to amazon looking for material about fixing cars keep look out for both of these authors.

Elisabeth Dorries is an ASE Certified Master Machinist, plus an  automotive technician. She’s a member of SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), STS (Service Technicians Society) and NACAT (North American Council of Automotive Teachers). Ken Pickerill has achieved L1 certification, a feat I have yet to achieve. He’s also an instructor at Southern Illinois University.

Learning how to Fix Car Brake Problems

This automobile braking systems bible is great for the do it yourself mechanic or an entry-level technician studying for the certification test in brakes.

However, it’s possible for professional mechanics to learn a few things as well. I have this older version by Cliff Owen. Don’t get sticker shock. The link on the left takes you to a page where you can get the book used or even rent it.

This is a huge two-volume course that includes a classroom manual to detail the theories and operation of the total brake system. Also covered in-depth is the important sub-systems and individual components.

Combine this with the corresponding shop manual to provide real-world diagnostics and repair information covering the most common brake systems. This is the most comprehensive book I have ever seen on automotive brake system repair subject.

And yes you guessed right, it helped prepare me for the ASE (A5) certification exam.

A real nice addition is the included ASE challenge questions at the end of each chapter of this shop manual. These books will help you learn auto repair on the system that is most important to drivers. If you’re going to be a mechanic you’ll be performing a ton of brake jobs.

Together the classroom and shop manuals offer all the information needed to understand, diagnose, and repair most problems that could occur with today’s brakes systems. Foreign cars as well as domestic and of course anti lock brake systems are covered in depth.

Fixing Check Engine Lights

This next book pales in comparison to the three above books, but the price is dirt-cheap and the information is solid. If fixing cars is a hobby then this book is perfect for learning about check engine light diagnosis.

This manual teaches you all about the Second-Generation On-Board Diagnostic System. After you read this subject specific guide you will understand your vehicles OBD II system.

See what to do when the service engine light comes on. Complete instructions for reading the code to diagnosing and fixing the problem are included. I liked the fact that not only the generic codes where covered but also manufacturer specific codes are covered as well.

This is handy if you set a weird code and your basic scan tool displays the code number but no definition. This is what happens when you set a manufacturer specific code. This book has solid information and is perfect for intermediate and beginner skill levels.


Bookmark this learn auto repair page or share with a friend. If you get one of these books you will want to come back for more.


Learn Auto Repair with Streaming Videos

Additional Articles about Careers in Automotive Repair

I have three more reviews on this next page. The topics covered are auto body repair, engine performance diagnosis and manual transmission overhaul and repair. These books will help you learn car repair. People have been asking me how I got started in the car business and what kind of formal training I went through. This next page describes the steps I took to advance my auto repair career.

We have a new guy in the shop that recently graduated from a trade school. He brought in his automotive technology book to let us see it. Here is a review of the book he used to learn about cars.

Taking ASE tests is financially and emotionally painful. Give yourself the best chance at passing, and buy yourself some ASE study guides.

If you want to learn auto repair work on your own vehicle. Take a look at my video that showcases online car repair manuals and how to use them.

You can find out what else is available on this auto repair website and soak up more knowledge. Discover why I decided to hand out auto repair advice on the Homepage for