Diesel engines have powered heavy equipment, large trucks and buses for many years. Today, diesel engines are also becoming common in light vehicles, pickup trucks and passenger cars. A diesel engine mechanic’s job is to become an expert at servicing, repairing and maintaining these specialized engines. Much of the heavy equipment used in the construction, transportation and farming industries, such as bulldozers, cranes and tractors are powered by diesel. There are over 260,000 jobs nationwide for diesel technicians in almost every area of the country.
Training and Certification
To become certified as a diesel engine mechanic you need to study automotive repair, including automotive electronic systems, and specifically diesel engine maintenance. Training includes safety training on heavy equipment to prevent accidents or injuries. The nationally recognized certification for mechanics is from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). You may decide to certify in more than one area such as drive train, electrical systems, diesel engine repair and so on.
If you are going to be working on specialized equipment your employer may occasionally send you to training programs run by equipment manufacturers.
Qualifications for Becoming a Diesel Engine Mechanic
High School classes in mathematics and English are helpful, and even better is a high school background in physics and automotive repair. Community Colleges offer classes that run from 6 months to 2 years in diesel engine mechanics and automotive repair and can lead to a certificate or an associate’s degree. The best courses offer apprenticeships or hands-on repair opportunities.
It is helpful, and sometimes required, to be in good physical shape because the work can be physically demanding. Generally, you also need to hold a commercial driver’s license as mechanics are required to test drive vehicles from time to time. Any practical automobile repair experience is also helpful.
Once you are in a job, you will progress from small tasks to bigger tasks with a view to becoming a journey-level diesel mechanic usually within three to four years. It is possible to become a journey-level mechanic with three to four years of on-the-job training but it is much better to graduate from a formal certification program. A master technician holds certifications in several areas of automotive repair, has several years on the job experience and re-certifies every five years to remain current in the industry.
Responsibilities of a Diesel Engine Mechanic
Day to day duties for diesel engine mechanics include regular engine maintenance. Diesel mechanics handle a variety of tasks and need to understand the intricacies of micro-processor controlled fuel injection systems, emissions and pollution standards and regulations, and sensitive timing components.
Mechanics use a variety of tools for performing maintenance, including welders, pneumatic wrenches, and lathes to examine and repair brakes, steering systems, exhaust systems, wheel bearings and other mechanical parts. They use computerized analysis tools to diagnose and repair vehicle electrical systems, perform wheel alignments, fuel injection adjustments and other computer controlled functions. Today’s diesel mechanic is likely to be caught with a computerized diagnostic tool in one hand and a wrench in the other.
Diesel mechanics may work inside a shop or they may find themselves travelling to perform roadside repairs or to various depots to service fleet vehicles. Many repair shops offer 7-day repair capability so mechanics may find themselves on call, working a rotating shift, working weekends and getting weekdays off, or working a flexible schedule that changes weekly.
Job Prospects for a Diesel Engine Mechanic
Because the use of diesel engines is so prevalent in powering heavy equipment there is a large selection of different industries to choose from, everything from the automotive industry to a specialized application like meat packing that uses diesel powered machinery in the everyday course of doing business. Construction, transportation, city and civil engineering such as road and bridge building, all depend on heavy equipment.
An experienced and motivated diesel engine mechanic has plenty of advancement opportunities including shop supervisor, service manager, or an independent repair consultant.