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How to Become a Small Engine Technician & Mechanic

Find out how to become a small engine mechanic. Go over the training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in small engine repair.

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Should I Become a Small Engine Mechanic?

Small engine mechanics maintain and repair motors in machinery such as lawnmowers, boats, and motorcycles. Mechanics may specialize in a type of product, such as outdoor power equipment, or they may have a general working knowledge of all small engines. Job duties of a small engine mechanic will likely include routine maintenance on small engines, the inspection and testing of parts and systems, and the repair or replacement of worn or broken components. They must also keep records for engines they work on.

Most small engine repair mechanics work in repair shops, although some work directly upon boats in the water. While most mechanics are employed by repair businesses, some mechanics are self-employed. Mechanics may work full-time or seasonally; even for full-time mechanics, the number of hours worked weekly can vary by season. Small engine repair shops may be noisy and dirty. Boat mechanics who work on location may have to make repairs in uncomfortable positions.

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Career Requirements

Education High school diploma or its equivalent
Experience None needed (entry level)
Key Skills Problem-solving, mechanical repair, and customer service skills; knowledge of tools necessary for repair tasks; manual dexterity; good eyesight for close work
Salary (2014) $35,740 (average salary for small engine mechanics)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine.

Step 1: Finish High School

Most small engine mechanics begin with at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. A basic education offers knowledge in a variety of areas. These include the English language, which is useful for communicating with customers and understanding instructions, and mathematics, which can be useful in comprehending technical aspects of repairs.

Success Tip:

  • Take mechanical courses. Some high schools offer vocational courses in mechanical repair and fabrication. Since employers sometimes have problems finding trained individuals, this level of education in repair may offer an advantage in gaining employment.

Step 2: Consider Postsecondary Education

High school graduates who want to begin formal training or add to their knowledge and skills in small engines may consider enrolling in college degree programs. Students can choose certificate or associate's degree programs offered by community colleges and technical schools. These programs typically last between six months and two years.

Introductory courses in these programs cover concepts in tools and safety. Students then begin training in electrical systems and engine operation. Some programs offer students the opportunity to specialize in different types of engines, such as motorcycle engines or outboard motors. Programs also cover engine diagnostic issues and problem-solving techniques.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Upon completion of preparatory programs, graduates might look for employment with motorcycle, boat, and outdoor equipment repair companies. Job seekers can also look to marinas, equipment rental companies, and repair facilities for work. Most new hires receive at least some on-the-job instruction in work that is specific to that which they will perform for their respective employers.

Step 4: Keep Up with Technology

In order to stay abreast of technological changes, small engine repairers may want to consider attending annual manufacturer or industry seminars. These seminars and conferences may be found through local community colleges or industry media. In addition to helping small engine mechanics keep their skills current, these meetings can provide a venue to test new tools for service work and find out about emerging trends.

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