Automotive Technical Writer: Job Description

Posted by
Elmira in Technical Writing on 4/27/20226 min read

automotive technical writer at work

Technical writers work in a wide range of industry-specific fields like IT, banking and finance, machine building, medical equipment, automotive technologies, etc. Any industry which implies description of standard operating procedures in the form of instructions, specifications, user manuals, and other documentation requires technical writing services.

However, if you say ‘I am a technical writer,’ you will see your friends smile at you with that very polite kind of smile, meaning ‘Ok, he is a technical something’ or ‘Ok, she is some kind of writer.’ This blog is intended to explain what this profession is about on the example of automotive technical writing.

What Is Automotive Technical Writing

Automotive technical writing means writing on topics concerning innovative technologies in the automotive industry. This implies writing reviews for new products for:

  • cars,
  • trucks,
  • recreational vehicles or RVs,
  • motorcycles,
  • scooters,
  • complex specialized vehicles (like diggers, bulldozers, and other construction vehicles),
  • etc.

The new products can be:

  • spare parts,
  • tools,

and (what’s more important) smart gadgets like:

  • voice-enabled tech,
  • navigation devices,
  • augmented reality (AR) dashboards,
  • advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS),
  • etc.
  • But why writing for specialists who already have a great experience in the field? Well, even a very profound knowledge requires every day updating, and people who want to be ‘on tops’ have to know the state-of-the-art technologies.

    Another reason why automotive technical writing is necessary is the need to ‘translate’ the technical jargon of specifications into consumer-friendly language. The thing is that people would rather read a blog, which looks like a story (not like a textbook), or a one-page quick-start guide than a 100-page manual.

    For example, a potential customer wants to know what the features of AR dashboard are so as to further make a decision on the purchase. If you provide the customer with a technical report on the ‘leverage of AR possibilities for the automotive industry in the recent 10 years,’ most probably, you will lose the customer (even though a team of high-caliber specialists have made an input in writing this report).

    But if you illustrate the advantages of an AR dashboard with simple and clear examples, you will get the customer interested. Just explain in a couple of words how an AR dashboard will help this lady park her SUV without bumping into the curb, and this will make her day. Or, just show the beginner driver how AR will visually highlight road signs, human or animal presence on the road by arrows and pictograms on the display. This will surely facilitate driving and increase driver awareness.

    The idea behind automotive technical writing is to simplify complex things, whether it is a new app, a fixing issue, or a product recommendation.

    person writing down notes

    Who Is an Automotive Technical Writer?

    The profile of an automotive technical writer includes two major elements. He/she has to be a ‘car geek’ or, putting it differently, have a technical background so as to be able to cover automotive gear and products. Employers must admit that this ‘superpower’ is quite a rare thing among writing people because you are either a writer or an expert in ‘nuts & bolts.’ Finding these two things (writing skills combined with technical knowledge) in one person might turn out to be a challenging task for a head hunter.

    Still, employers often highlight it as a major requirement when they post vacancies online.

    Most companies want to get onboard a specialist who can use and test products professionally and then contribute articles based on personal experience.

    Among the required qualifications, the most important are technical skills, a reader-friendly writing style, critical thinking necessary to analyze and compare products, and a practical approach to work (like that of an automotive service advisor) based on testing the reviewed products.

    The knowledge of CAD programs will be regarded as a definite advantage for a job applicant. Computer-aided design programs, like AutoCAD, BricsCAD, etc., are used to create technical drawings to illustrate technical documents (design and detailed design docs, specifications, and datasheets). CAD skills are important for automotive technical writers as they often need to illustrate their review or post by a relevant drawing which looks professional for an experienced user and clear for a beginner. In this regard, the job is similar to that of an engineering technical writer who is focused on design.

    Skills of Automotive Technical Writer

    A typical day of an automotive technical writer is a combination of creativity and routine. While each day brings new issues to be investigated and new discoveries to be made, there is a certain scope of ‘routine’ work to be done. There is a minimum of feature articles per month, each with a certain word count and a set of requirements from SEO and marketing specialists that must be met; otherwise the story will be ‘invisible’ to the search engines and, consequently, for the readers.

    So, if you are an automotive product writer, you will always be updated on the latest auto tech news, features, and systems. Keeping up with the cutting-edge technologies is exciting until you have to put your experience on paper.

    Imagine you have to write a blog on vehicle repair with the replacement of a part. The first thing you have to keep in mind is that writing a blog review is quite different from the service manual writing you might have become used to. You have to keep things concise, user-friendly, and clear.

    At the same time, you are to follow the guidelines of SEO and marketing specialists. Your story will not ‘work’ if you don’t supply it with the necessary keywords and links. Interlinking the new review with other stories in the blog will increase the average time the reader spends on the site and, consequently, boost your position in the search engine rating.

    Besides, to make your content more appealing to the reader, you are to illustrate it with interactive materials. A short and informative video will be a perfect solution. Using video content can be facilitated by the ClickHelp tool, which allows inserting videos even in PDF docs.

    The same refers to photography skills. Readers prefer stories where the ‘blocks’ of text are separated by photos. It is important that an automotive technical writer is familiar with photography basics (light, composition, etc.) as quite often, it is only the author of the text who can make the right photo from the right angle and position so that the viewers can see what is in focus.

    Getting back to the example of vehicle repair with the replacement of a part, it should be noted that certain things can still remain unclear even if you have a technical background and have spent a whole day investigating the issue. In this case, industry contacts will be a huge plus. It will save you hours of time if you can contact someone who can explain ‘how this part should be fixed to that protruding part on the casing.’

    In addition, it will be quite valuable if you are so creative as to generate new ideas that will serve as topics for future articles. This will create good grounds for your cooperation with the other teams.

    automotive writer infographics

    Conclusion

    An automotive technical writer sounds like a new profession; however, it has been in demand in the industry for quite a long time. Since the automotive industry is a constantly expanding dynamic field, it is becoming more and more associated with electronics and IT. As a result, it is becoming more complex and requires more documentation to be issued while vehicles are getting ‘packed’ with more software. This has to be explained to the target audience using clear and customer-friendly language, and the job of the automotive technical writer is to speak and write this language, making people’s lives easier.

    Good luck with your technical writing!
    ClickHelp Team
    Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

     

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