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Taking ASE Tests

My ASE patches
My ASE patches

Car mechanics need your opinion. I finished another round of taking ASE tests. I am currently certified in a grand total of 14 different areas.

I also have 2 more that I let lapse in collision repair and compressed natural gas, because every five years, I have to recertify in each individual area.

It has become a seemingly never-ending circle of re-certification and test taking. And this time around, I may not renew all 14. First of all taking the tests costs money.

This last round, taking 4 tests cost me over $100. Recently like many my pay was reduced in order to save jobs. I’m back to making what I did in

1987. The costs of ASE tests remain the same. At my current employer to receive senior technician pay grade, you must have at least six ASE certifications.

ASE certified mechanic
ASE certified mechanic

The fact that I have gone way past the minimum number causes some friction between me and other technicians that struggle with taking the tests.

I have met many mechanics that were excellent at what they do, but just didn’t have test taking skills to pass the exams. The technician a, technician b, both or neither format used throughout the tests can be tricky.

In trying to help some fellow technicians pass the exams that refuse to purchase up to date ase study guides, I have found that often, they know the answer to the question. However, they spend too much time on each individual question until they talk themselves out of the correct answer.

When I take these tests, I use the stick and move tactic. If I can’t answer the car question quickly I come back for it after completing that section.

The older I get the harder it is to pass the re-certification exams. Automotive technology and the auto repair business are advancing faster than my training sessions.

In fact in the last four years I’m primarily a heavy-duty truck technician. Working on diesel engines and air brakes for long periods of time can make it harder to pass the ASE car certifications for light vehicles.

Why Keep Taking ASE Tests

ASE Recertification
ASE Recertification

I know you believe that I have the freedom of speech to discuss this topic as I wish, but it’s not true. Expressing my opinion could land me in trouble with the good folks at ASE. Also let me clarify that I have supported ASE and their program for more then 2 decades.

ASE states on their about page that they were originally created in 1972 as a non-profit company.  They also state that the company was created so that the automotive consumer would be able to identify qualified mechanics.

This may be a good rule of thumb, but as I mentioned above some of the best mechanics I have ever met have trouble taking ASE tests. The auto repair business embraced ASE certifications so they could hang a sign in their waiting area that would instill a sense of confidence in their customer base.

When I took the auto repair tests in the last round, there were only about 45 mechanics at the test center. There use to be more than 200 mechanics during the spring and fall test sessions. I don’t know if it’s a sign of the economic times and people don’t have the money to take the tests or if there’s something else brewing.

Maybe ASE is losing its popularity as people become ad blind to the signs hanging in front of the shops. This is where you come in. As an automotive technician I would like to know how YOU feel about this subject. If you see a sign that says, we employ ASE certified mechanics are you more likely to trust the auto repair business they work for. Do you even consider the qualifications of the car mechanics that work on your vehicle?

When I ask friends and family this car related question their answer is usually, what’s ASE. When I question them further about their experiences with auto repair shops and how they find them, the answers are usually about the same as well.

If the guy fixes my car good I go back. If he does a bad job or tries to sell me too much I go somewhere else. How do you feel about the subject, should I keep taking ASE tests or just get the minimum to keep my job. Please leave your comments below.

27 Replies to “Taking ASE Tests”

  1. Warren Tracy

    From Warren: Here most drivers don’t know what ASE is and dose.
    For the most part, people today, look for the cheapest way out.

    I have found that even some not all ASE certified mechanic’s are no good at anything, except taking money. But I’ve seen just as many good ones out there too!

    As far as re-testing and re-testing, I think all that is is to justify a job for someone and to make your life
    miserable wile doing it. most mechanic’s certified or not are shade tree’ers as I call them. They can do the job and do it right (IF they have all that is needed to do it right).

    For years now the auto industry has bent over back words to keep the I.G.O. and the weekender out of it. So they have to go to dealerships, to get the work done. And that’s the size of it. That is the way I feel about it. – Warren Tracy

  2. Brendan Bartholomew

    Hi Mark,

    As always, another great newsletter! To answer your question, I can’t say that it’s ever been in my mind to wonder about whether the mechanic I’m taking my car to has ASE certification. One reason for this is that I’ve been taking my car to just two places (a local shop with a great track record and the Ford dealership) for many years now, and haven’t needed to shop around for a new mechanic.

    When going to a dealership, one just assumes that the bureaucracy forces them to have certain levels of certification. Meanwhile, with the local shop I go to, the guys always do such a good job, and I’m so impressed with their integrity, that there’s never been any reason for me to wonder about their certification or lack thereof.

  3. Hariwhit

    I think the certification is important when you first start out in your career;but after a few years its not necessary unless there is a big change in technology. Honesty is the best certification a person can have and it is tested everyday free of charge.

  4. charles hover

    Hi Mark,
    I think all these tests other than the medical field is a true waste and another way for government to control and make extra money. like the A+ certificate for computer technician.

    So many of them can take a test and pass. but what does that mean… really They can pass a test are they really knowledgeable, are they honest. Hell no not even the medical profession are but at least the law can and will go after them.

  5. ZR2-Blazer Slayter

    I try to do as many repairs as I can myself to avoid the situation all together. Sometimes, something is over my head and I take it in. I never ask to see the mechanics credentials (that worked on my car) but have seen the list of certifications in the office area.

    I even thought about requesting the mechanic with the most certifications to work on the blazer. Although I never did make the request my thought was that mechanic must know his stuff! So I guess it may mean something to me?

  6. RayF

    I think that a mechanic needs to be certified. Every 5 years seems excessive to me. Follow the money. ASE wants your money, that’s all they care about. I just recerted and there were at least 200 participants there with me. Hmmmm, 200 x approx $100 cha ching 20 grand and that was just at 1 test center. I say 10 year recetification is sufficient.
    By the way, I have asked many family members and friends if they know what ASE is and none have known.

  7. Steve Stromwell

    Hi Mark, I am a DIY guy and when I can’t fix it I look to find the very best. And ASE says a lot of who you are. I do not want to spend my money on the education of the inexperienced and uneducated tech.
    If ASE is doing it’s job it should be a good source of what’s new and important. Thanks for the Great Newsletter. -Steve

  8. Chuck

    who wants to look like Brad Pitt anyway. I don’t look for certs. I go with the guy who shows me he/she knows what they are talking about and has updated equipment to keep up with all the changes. keep up the good work

  9. adrian

    hey my boss work as mechanic 15 years now ,own a shop never ever has done any ase test he belive this is just wasting money,his customers list in computer is now over 1000 nobody ever ask for ase credential

  10. Andrew Haga

    I can tell you one thing about ASE I needed them to get the job, (the first time) but since have found that my experience has the most impact on whether or not I get the job, raise or other major changes in my career.

    I don’t mind retaking the tests every 5 years but the one thing I do mind is the cost and my current employer doesn’t really seem to care whether or not I remain certified and won’t pay for me to take them either.

    In fact I am the only technician who has any ASE certification at work, but that is because I keep hoping that some day it will matter that I take these costly tests.

  11. Josh

    hey guys i got a quick question. can i take the ase tests even though i dont have 2 years experience yet? i graduated college in the auto tech program and have 6 months at my current place of employment. can i take the test now and just get the certification in 6 months when my 2 years are complete or does it not work that way?

  12. Mark

    Josh: Keep in mind that formal training does count towards experience. If you graduated from a 2 year program and have done six months hands on that should meet the requirements. Best thing would be to call the ASE registration 800 number and talk to a representative. ASE is motivated to get you in and start your testing as soon as possible!

  13. Mark B

    I am an ASE certified Master Tech. And I can tell you this. The technology changes so fast in out industry that if you only recertified every 10 years you probably would not pass the recerts. I don’t like the cost but it is a matter of pride to me to keep them current. I have never been out of work and the Certifications are not what keep s me employed but it does show that you take pride in your skills and the field with which you work.

    Great thread Mark!

    Mark B

  14. Keith


    I am an ASE certified Master Tech, with L1, P2 and C1 certifications also. I stopped “turning wrenches” in 1992, but have always worked in the automotive industry. I never really considered ASE certification until I took a desk job with General Motors in 2000, and they required that the person in my position be at least “working towards” ASE Master Technician status. I took the A1- A8 tests and passed them all the first time around. Shortly thereafter I left that job for family reasons, moved to a different state and took a “temporary” job to make ends meet. In 2005 when it came time to re-certify, I missed the registration deadline by a couple of days.

    Guess what? In the spring of 2005 I received a great offer for a new job, but it required that I be a currently certified Master Technician. I missed out on that opportunity because I had let my certification expire. I registered for the tests in May, purchased the MOTOR AGE Study Guides, and spent all my spare time for the next couple of months studying them. I passed all 8 recertification tests.

    I thought that even more certifications might help my job search, so in the summer I signed up for the L1, P2 and C1 tests in the fall. I passed all of those on my first try also.

    I had not been an actual technician for 13 years, but by studying the Motor Age study guides, I was able to pass ALL the tests on the first try. The study guides really help.

    My thoughts on the ASE Tests? I know EXCELLENT technicians that would not be able to pass any of the tests due to poor reading skills. I have always been good at taking tests, and reading comprehension is one of my strong points. Yes, you have to understand how a car works in order to pass the tests, but you also have to have good reading skills.

    The cost of the tests should really be insignificant for a good technician making decent money, but it still hurts me when I look at the $130 I ponied up last month to register for the recertification tests. Now I am getting ready to spend another $205 on Motor Age study guides. The good news is that I can sell the study guides on Ebay after I pass the tests and get a good chunk of that money back.

    The bottom line for me is that having the certification can open doors that wouldn’t be open otherwise. I don’t plan on ever letting them expire again. I strongly recommend the Motor Age study guides, I doubt I would have passed all the tests without them.

    – Keith F., Knoxville TN

  15. Mark

    Keith: My hats off to you for taking all 8 at the same time. I have done this before and for me it was a long night and a painful memory. I now break them up and will not take more then 4 at a time to preserve my sanity.

  16. Matt

    I am a recent ASE certified technician in 2 areas. It cost me about $80 to take these tests with their registration fees included. I agree that our career field changes dramatically in a short period of time and I could understand and would have no problem with having to recertify every 2 or 3 years BUT… the cost involved is out of control and there’s no excuse for it. With the advent of computer based testing these tests should be offered for $10 each with the ability to know if you passed immediately after taking the test. They seem to be over complicating this system for no reason. I also see no reason that the tests can’t be administered orally to those that have trouble with test taking or have learning disabilities. I agree that there are great tech’s that do not have the reading aptitude to pass the tests, and this discourages them from attaining certification.

  17. Daniel Toney

    I agree with you about the costs of taking ASE tests. I am ASE Master with L1 and passed tests on the first try. Spending almost $500 to take all 9 tests was expensive, but in the end, if you pass, your employer will reimburse you for the expense which makes it all worthwhile. At least the recerts are not as long and you can be in and out in a short amount of time.

  18. automan_1954

    I have been a tech for over 35 years and I never had the extra money to get the master certification. All I have is an AC certification. If I had the option of more pay with more certifications I would have done it, but the places I worked at would not increase my salary.

  19. Ralph Perales

    Hello Mark.
    I work a dealership and am the Master Tech/Foreman. Before I got into this industry I was working in Construction and during that time I excelled to my finale position, before leaving, Superintendent. I had always had Mechanical skills and finally put them to better use. The Union employees that I would hire at times were crappy craftsmen, but the union gave them the license to steel. Even though in the Auto Industry there is no union, there is ASE. I put myself through UTI to up my knowledge quickly and yes there are up and coming ASE certified students that have no experience with cars going into this field,but are certified. I have a Tech in the shop that has over 20yrs, but cannot touch certified work orders due to not being dealer certified. He is very able to do the work and I have him do it when we are in a crunch. One opinion is that Certification and ASE is a device that Owner use to keep from paying proper wages and when you comply drag there feet to reward you. Twenty five cents per hr per ASE is all they pay. I can go on and on. Hey Mark I carry a L1 and just let my Smog Cert drop. Oh and have no current ASEs. ASE are like the State say that giving undocumented drivers a license make them a better driver. Are we that stupid to swallow all that crap. MAZDAUSA

    • Mark Gittelman

      Ralph: Thanks for taking the time to post your point of view. I worked at 2 union auto repair shops so far in my 30 year career. One was a teamster shop and the other was under auto workers amalgamated. Never reaped any benefits from either. All of my ASE’s are up for renewal this year and I’m not sure I will participate this time around?

  20. Matthew Minock

    I can say to a customer trust me I know what I am doing. That customer has to take my word for it. I say I know what I am doing then I back it up with ASE CERTIFICATES. It is an assurance. I feel there is not anything wrong with back up. ASE is good. You can not just pass the test if you do not know the material. Ultimately, I have been a shop owners since I was 23 years old and I am now 36 years old. I never had any certificates. I did need them people trusted me and my actions outspoken my words. Truly, I feel it would of been easier with certification. As a result, even though I do not need to take these exams I have as of today passed A1-A6-A8. It’s a true sense, I do know what I am doing. Pride, knowledge, confidence can definitely equate to success. I plan on taking all 8 to become a master tech and L1 because diagnostics is my passion.

    • Mark Gittelman

      Matthew: I value your opinion and perspective, as for me, the next generation of technicians. I do remember when I was younger that notifying people of my master technician status seemed to instill confidence.

  21. J. J.

    Yes, I know this is an old topic. ASE tests are too expensive. The cost is not equal to the effort to create or provide the tests. Currently the tests are on a computer based system using Prometric’s format. I recently paid 110.00 dollars for just one L1 recert, including a registration fee and test fee. That one test should only cost about $50 max total. I only make $12 an hour, and to me 110 is a big chunk of pay gone for no reason.

    ASE’s are worth very little as far as getting more pay in a shop, 10 or 25 cents more per hour if that. They want experience, knowledge, productivity, and the job done right the first time, mostly experience. Having ASE does not necessarily make a one tech more qualified than another without ASE’s. I know of many non certified techs (or grease monkeys, or mechanics and-or friends) that can work circles around master techs. But I also know some master techs that can repair any vehicle out there.

    That said. I am a master tech, certified A1 to A8 with L1, for 10 years, and have an A.S. degree in Automotive Technology. And yet everyday I find that there is still more to learn about cars and the industry. The ASEs I’ve passed at least give me more pride in myself if not worth more money. I guess I’m glad that the ASE certs exist, I just wish that they didn’t cost so bleeping much. That’s my rant.

    • Mark Gittelman

      JJ: Good rant. One thing you didn’t mention that I struggle with is re-certifying every 5 years. I understand the need to keep up on new technology, but the re-certification process has became a burden I can no longer handle. Since they moved to computer based testing the nearest test center is hours away. Plus with a total of 16 certifications I’m always due for a retest. Am I going to spend my time driving to test centers or providing for my family. Besides, no one has asked to see my ASE certifications in 10 years. That’s my rant.

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