Small-Engine Mechanic

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Small-Engine Mechanic


Everyone knows about mechanics. They repair cars, trucks, and motorcycles. That is common knowledge. What is not common knowledge is that some mechanics are trained specifically to work with small engines. These small-engine mechanics work with motorcycles, chainsaws, lawn mowers, inboard and outboard motors, garden tractors, boats, snowmobiles, snow blowers and other small gasoline- and diesel-powered machines.

Small-engine mechanics are always busy. They work diagnosing, repairing and servicing the mechanical, electrical and electronic systems and components of small engines. They meet with the owner of the malfunctioning engine and try and determine what the problem is. They ask questions and physically inspect the engine to determine the nature and extent of damage.

After a careful inspection, the mechanic repairs as much as they can, repairs or put in new parts as necessary, and does things like make adjustments, and replace worn valves, pistons, and bearings. Some may also mend damaged bodies by hammering out or filling in dents and welding broken parts.

Some of the small-engine mechanic's job is to maintain the small engines. Both the preventative and the restorative treatments are important to maintaining a healthy engine. During routine equipment maintenance, mechanics follow a checklist including the inspection, cleaning, and lubricating of the engines. Following inspection, mechanics usually repair or adjust parts that do not work properly, or replace unfixable parts. Routine maintenance is normally a major part of the mechanic's work.
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Small-engine mechanics need good hearing, eyesight and manual dexterity, as well as mechanical aptitude. Successful small-engine mechanics are interested in keeping up-to-date with changing technology. They enjoy precise work that is varied and challenging and are analytical, fit, and methodical in their approach to each task undertaken.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Review work orders and discuss work to be performed with supervisor
  • Inspect and test engine, motors and other mechanical components using test devices to diagnose and isolate faults
  • Adjust, repair or replace mechanical or electrical system parts and components using hand tools and equipment
  • Test and adjust repaired equipment for proper performance
  • Perform scheduled maintenance service on equipment
  • Advise customers on work performed and general condition of equipment
  • Determine estimates of repair cost
  • A small-engine mechanic has a lot of tasks to look after. They solve difficult as well as obvious problems, ensuring that an engine runs well and safely. They also must communicate clearly to the client the problems and adjustments made. Much of a small-engine mechanic's day is spent inspecting, repairing and testing small engines. They might work in teams, but often work alone. They work in workshops which are usually noisy and dirty, exposed to exhaust and power tools. Most work a 40-hour, five-day week, however, they may have to work some evenings, weekends or holidays, depending on the employer.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Small-engine mechanics work in motorcycle repair shops, small-engine repair shops, dealerships, or for companies that manufacture small engines, as well as from their homes.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Small-engine mechanics may advance to service manager or shop foreperson positions, or they can open their own garages, service stations or automobile performance shops.

  Educational Paths  
Small-engine mechanics receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a small-engine mechanic, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the small-engine mechanic a certificate of completion.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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