Nearly four years after first being administered, the Specialty Equipment Market Association's (SEMA) Custom Wheel & Tire Specialist Exam-the ``Z5''-has become a benchmark examination for tire technicians.
Since May 2004, as many as 1,200 to 1,400 technicians have taken the test, said Ellen McKoy, SEMA senior director of dealer relations, who is in charge of SEMA's certification programs.
Developed with the help of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the Z5 exam measures real-world knowledge and skills for tire and wheel professionals who install custom applications on cars and light-duty trucks.
``We tapped into a well of demand for recognition,'' Ms. McKoy said. ``A lot of tire and wheel technicians work side-by-side with other automotive technicians, and many of those technicians have been ASE-certified. The Z5 test provides tire and wheel technicians with recognition in the marketplace.''
The test was revised about a year ago with aid from the ASE, the Tire Industry Association (TIA) and various participants in the tire and wheel industries, Ms. McKoy said.
Normally SEMA certification exams are revised every three to five years, but the federal mandate for tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) made it necessary to revise the Z5. ``TPMS was only on the horizon in 2004,'' she said.
It's typical for SEMA to ask a dozen or so people, representing the ASE and a good cross-section of the industry at hand, to help develop and revise its certification tests, Ms. McKoy added. ``This was a collective effort, and they were pleased to participate in our process,'' she said.
The Z5 test is completely different in focus and design from TIA's certification programs, said Kevin Rohlwing, TIA senior vice president of education and technical services.
``TIA is totally focused on original equipment fitments and general safety guidelines, whereas the SEMA test is focused on custom wheels,'' Mr. Rohlwing said.
Also, the Z5 is strictly a written test, whereas TIA certification involves both a written exam and hands-on demonstrations of skill.
``We believe very strongly that having a multiple-choice written test levels the playing field and makes it very objective in evaluating an individual's knowledge and skills,'' Ms. McKoy said.
She and Mr. Rohlwing agreed that the Z5 and the TIA certification tests exist as friendly counterparts. ``We complement each other, rather than compete with one another,'' Ms. McKoy said.
SEMA takes advantage of ASE certification testing in that it offers its certification tests, Z1 through Z5, at the same times and places as ASE tests are administered, Ms. McKoy said. The next testing date for the Z5 and other SEMA certification tests will be May 13, with a registration deadline of March 21. The tests will be offered at more than 700 test centers in the U.S. and Canada.
For facts, registration forms and other materials about the Z5 exam, visit www.sema.org/certification.