Speedy boat motors, powerful truck machinery and fuel-efficient car engines can purr under the touch of a skilled diesel mechanic. The career offers relatively high pay and good benefits, according to the National Institute for Women in Trade. Workers have the flexibility to choose employers and tasks because of the profession's high demand in the 2000s.
As the job title implies, the chief attribute needed by a diesel mechanic is good mechanical skill, which makes it easier to understand and handle engines, transmissions and other vehicle systems. Manual dexterity allows you to efficiently disassemble, repair and reassemble components. Troubleshooting skills rely on visual inspection to uncover the root of a problem, while technical know-how helps with diagnostics and repair using electronic equipment. Because the position deals with customers, co-workers and managers all day, people skills are a must. You must be able to sympathetically relate to customer problems and accurately describe repair methods.
When working on a new project, a mechanic figures out what to do by listening to customers explain the problem, searching for the possible cause and proposing solutions, estimating the time and money it will take. A customer's written approval can then initiate the actual repair. You may have to raise the vehicle to fix its underside. Driving the vehicle can then test whether your efforts succeeded. Another important responsibility is periodic maintenance, such as by checking the battery and tuning up the engine so it operates at maximum efficiency.
The big employers of diesel mechanics include freight trucking, local government, auto repair and maintenance, and motor vehicle wholesalers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The profession's higher-than-average rate of injury and sickness demands protective clothing, such as noise-deadening earplugs. Also important is following safety procedures, such as keeping customers away from service areas and watching out for parts that are hot or greasy. Overtime work is common, and in 24-hour service facilities, work shifts may include nights, weekends and holidays.
For some jobs, all you need is a high-school diploma, especially if you’ve taken courses in auto repair and electronics. Many employers, however, demand post-secondary training, ranging from a six-month certificate to a two-year associate degree in diesel technology. With advancing technology, many experienced workers also take specialized training courses sponsored by manufacturers and vendors. Certification in specific areas, such as drive trains or electronic systems, is available from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Mechanics who test-drive large vehicles, such as trucks and buses, need a commercial driver’s license.
- National Institute for Women in Trades: Diesel and Truck Mechanics Program
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Diesel Service Technician or Mechanic
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Work Environment for Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images