Zev Kornbluh is a car mechanic with 50 years of experience in America and Israel.
Please describe your position and field
I am a hands-on working manager at a car repair shop. My duties include wheel alignment (mostly after accidents); correcting difficult steering and vibration problems and wheel balance; working after other mechanics have broken bolts or ruined threads in different parts of the car; cutting, fitting, and welding on new catalytic converters; cutting, fitting, and welding to make up new aluminum air conditioning Freon lines; welding; fabricating – whatever the shop needs to finish the car repairs.
I also do pre-purchase testing, which means that I check a used car on behalf of a buyer and seller to see if the car has had damage and what kind of repairs it will need. I try to give the buyer and seller a close estimate of the cost of the repairs and may sometimes advise the buyer not to buy the car if I see frame (chassis) damage that could reduce the value of the car.
What is the best way to find a job in the field of car repair?
I don’t think that a qualified American mechanic will have a hard time finding a job in Israel. An American mechanic working in a US dealership or in a private garage is generally highly skilled in diagnostics of electrical, computer and “roadability” problem solving and has also completed the necessary repairs himself. In Israel, someone with the same skill level and abilities is hard to find. For that reason, a mechanic with American training and experience should be able to find a job here that also allows him to improve his Hebrew in a short time.
What education is needed for your job, both in Israel and the U.S.?
You should have at least a US High School education and about half a year of Ulpan. You’ll learn more Hebrew quickly on the job.
What licensing is required?
Unlike the US where certification is necessary in order for a licensed mechanic to find work, most Israeli employers will not require you to be licensed, although having a license certainly helps. Here, each setting is a little different. Those who are licensed and come with good qualifications start out with a higher position and salary. I don’t think it’s a good idea for new Olim to start their own businesses here immediately – you should work under others for a few years first so that you can get some Israeli experience. Be realistic, and hold yourself back until you learn the local path to success.
In order to open a garage, you do need to have a garage license. You are required to take courses before you can do this.
How important is Hebrew in car repair?
If you want to become a car mechanic in Israel, you should definitely learn Hebrew! You will be happier with yourself and will be much more successful professionally if you have Hebrew skills. Learning Hebrew is a big investment, but it’s definitely worthwhile. Everything is harder without Hebrew.
It’s possible, though, to begin your career here without much Hebrew. I helped someone not long ago who was ready to return to the U.S. because he didn’t know any Hebrew and was having a hard time finding a job, even though he had great auto repair skills. I told him that if he really did have great skills, he should be able to find a job, regardless. One day, we went out looking for a job for him, and he found a job that very same day, even without Hebrew! He even got a great offer because the garage was in need of his amazing skills, regardless of the language he spoke. Maybe soon – this year – he will have learned enough Hebrew on the job to work his way up to being a service manager.
What experience should an Oleh bring to Israel, in order to find a job in auto repair?
If you come with just a little experience, you can find an entry level job, but it’s a long struggle to work your way up from there. It’s preferable to first go to a technical school and get your certification as a licensed auto tech overseas, and then make Aliyah. That way, you’ll have a much easier time finding a well paying job in Israel.
What is the market like?
If you’re a good mechanic, you’ll find that you have many employment options. In general, when you meet an English-speaking mechanic in a shop, he’s one of the top people employed there.
Are there any upcoming areas of specialty you would recommend?
To be a general mechanic (without any specialties) in Israel, you’re competing with many other people for the same job, and it’ll be hard for you to improve your job status. In order to stand out from the competition, you need to learn one or two of the following specialties: air conditioning, wheel alignment, painting or strong body skills. The best skill to learn is computer diagnostics and whole car electronics, including immobilizer and code problems, all electric window, dash, air conditioning and electronic fuel diagnostics. It’s hard to find people with specialties in those areas, and there are many good jobs and salaries waiting for the right, qualified person.
Are there any technical differences to be aware of, between Israel and the US?
In Israel, the mechanic does not provide his own tools – the shop provides them for him. This is actually a bad arrangement, because not enough tools are provided and this makes work harder. I brought my own tools from the U.S., and it makes a world of difference. I often lend my tools to my fellow mechanics, and keeping track of the tools isn’t easy. However, the boss replaces all the broken and lost tools for me, at my word.
What is the average salary range?
In Jerusalem, a mechanic can make anywhere between 3,500 and 7,000 NIS a month. In the center of the country, you can make up to 8,000. Each workplace has different benefits. The best benefits are at dealerships, where there are usually better salaries, clean working conditions, uniforms, and incentive systems that compensate you for good and quick work. In smaller places, conditions generally aren’t satisfying, long-term. You should learn and grow at a smaller shop, and then move on to a better place with a better salary.
Is there anything else you would like to share with new Olim?
Always remember why you are coming to Eretz Yisrael. There may be challenges and sacrifices and you have to work in the grease — but at least you are here in the Holy Land!
If you’d like more information, fee free to contact Zev at [email protected] .