Once you find the right electric vehicle (EV), you may need the right EV mechanic. Although EVs generally require less upkeep than cars with an internal combustion engine, they aren't maintenance-free.
The closest dealership or manufacturer’s service center for the brand you’ve chosen is often the logical and best choice. But if you choose to go another route, here's what you need to know about finding a good electric car mechanic.
Can mechanics work on electric cars?
EV user manuals typically recommend following a regular schedule for some of the same services conventional cars require, such as tire rotation — which is particularly important given the weight of EV batteries — wheel alignment, and occasional brake servicing. Can a mechanic skilled at maintaining conventional cars handle these basics? Some no doubt can.
But most experts recommend seeking out an EV mechanic. They'll be familiar with your routine needs and capable of spotting any potential problems. Additionally, an EV mechanic won’t be lost if you need more extensive repairs. The sophisticated electric systems and software on electric cars call for special skills and equipment that a shop focused on conventional cars simply won’t have.
A shortage of EV savvy mechanics
As you begin your search, keep in mind that the number of EV mechanics in the U.S. hasn’t yet caught up to demand. It may take some persistence to find the best person or repair shop for the job. Reasons for the current shortage include:
- Electric car adoption is growing quickly — but hasn't yet reached the tipping point for independent mechanics. It's difficult for some mechanics to justify the cost of acquiring the special training, tools, and technology it takes to work on EVs when the majority of their customers still have conventional cars. This may be especially true in areas of the country where EV adoption has lagged.
- Some EV manufacturers have been slow to share “scan tools” with independent mechanics. These are digital devices that allow mechanics to see trouble codes from an EV’s computer system. This trend may be changing, however, thanks in part to the “right to repair” movement and recently proposed legislation.
- Electric cars present new safety hazards and cost hurdles for the educational institutions that have historically trained mechanics. Many high schools, community colleges, and technical schools are still in the process of determining how best to address both the unique safety hazards that come with EVs’ high-voltage systems and the expense of buying sophisticated equipment for EV trainees to use. In the meantime, students at most of these institutions have little to no exposure to EVs, which has made for a weak pipeline of new auto techs.
What to look for in an EV mechanic
Great EV mechanics may be in short supply, but they’re out there. Be on the lookout for qualifications that top EV mechanics often share, such as:
- Credentialing from ASE, ACDC, and/or hands-on training. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is generally viewed as the gold standard for training and certifying auto technicians of all kinds, and the organization offers a certification program specific to electric cars. However, only about 3,100 out of the 229,000 auto technicians who are currently ASE-certified have completed that intensive EV program. Another credential to look for is from the Automotive Career Development Center (ACDC), which trains mechanics specifically on hybrids and EVs. That organization offers a map of repair shops where staff have received ACDC training. You can also ask your mechanic if they’ve received factory training at an EV dealership or service center before branching out on their own.
- Specialization in a particular manufacturer. While the technology behind gas-powered engines is fairly standard across brands, the technology that different EV manufacturers use varies greatly. If a mechanic says they work on all EVs, proceed with caution (unless you're just inquiring about a basic maintenance task like changing an air filter or rotating tires). You might ask follow-up questions to determine how the person or team has built such a broad base of knowledge and acquired the necessary technology to service multiple EV brand systems.
- Recommended on EV driver forums (or through old-fashioned word-of-mouth). EV manufacturers and models have enthusiastic driver communities whose members readily share information online and off. Find other drivers of your EV brand, and you’ll likely find the best repair options, too.
- Appropriately equipped. EV mechanics need special equipment to properly diagnose and resolve EV issues, such as insulation and resistance meters to troubleshoot motor generator unit problems. Gauge whether the shop appears high-tech enough for your EV. You can also ask about the process and equipment they plan to use to complete the work you need done, and then do some research to assess their approach.
- Passion for EVs, the latest technology, and learning in general. It may sound obvious, but you can usually tell how enthusiastic a service provider is based on their reaction to your car and its needs. The best auto technicians for electric cars tend to — you guessed it — enjoy working on electric cars. They don’t grumble about the increase in electrics on the road; they proactively embrace it. They're undaunted by advances in both auto software and hardware, and are pushing themselves to stay ahead of the learning curve as the auto industry reimagines what a car can be.
Electric cars generally require less upkeep than other cars, and much of it can be done by a conventional mechanic. But when you do need a specialized electric car mechanic, make sure they have the right training and equipment to do the job – and shop around early, because EV-trained mechanics are currently in short supply.
To learn more about EV maintenance, visit our EV resource center at www.Chase.com/EV.