What Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics Do

Diesel service technicians and mechanics (also known as diesel technicians) inspect, repair, or overhaul buses and trucks, or maintain and repair any type of diesel engine.

Duties

Diesel service technicians and mechanics typically do the following:

  • Consult with customers,  read work orders, and determine work required

  • Plan work procedures, using technical charts and manuals

  • Inspect brake systems, steering mechanisms, transmissions, engines, and other parts of vehicles

  • Follow checklists to ensure that all critical parts are examined

  • Read and interpret diagnostic test results to identify mechanical problems

  • Repair or replace malfunctioning components, parts, and other mechanical or electrical equipment

  • Perform basic care and maintenance, including changing oil, checking fluid levels, and rotating tires

  • Test-drive vehicles to ensure that they run smoothly

Because of their efficiency and durability, diesel engines have become the standard in powering trucks and buses. Other heavy vehicles and mobile equipment, including bulldozers and cranes, also are powered by diesel engines, as are many commercial boats and some passenger vehicles and pickups.

Diesel technicians make major and minor engine repairs, and work on a vehicle’s electrical and exhaust systems to comply with pollution regulations.

Diesel engine maintenance and repair is becoming more complex as engines and other components use more electronic systems to control their operation. For example, fuel injection and engine timing systems rely on microprocessors to maximize fuel efficiency and minimize harmful emissions. In most shops, workers often use hand-held or laptop computers to diagnose problems and adjust engine functions.

Diesel technicians also use a variety of power and machine tools, such as pneumatic wrenches, lathes, grinding machines, and welding equipment. Hand tools, including pliers, sockets and ratchets, and screwdrivers, are commonly used.

Employers typically provide expensive power tools and computerized equipment, but workers generally acquire their own hand tools over time.

Technicians and mechanics who work primarily on automobiles are described in the profile on automotive service technicians and mechanics.

Technicians and mechanics who work primarily on farm equipment, construction vehicles, and railcars, are described in the profile on heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians..

Diesel technicians usually work in well-ventilated and sometimes noisy repair shops. They occasionally repair vehicles on roadsides or at worksites.

Injuries and Illnesses

Diesel service technicians and mechanics often lift heavy parts and tools, handle greasy or dirty equipment, and work in uncomfortable positions. Sprains and cuts are common among these workers. Diesel technicians need to follow some safety precautions when in the workplace.

Work Schedules

Most diesel technicians work full time. Overtime is common, as many repair shops extend their service hours during evenings and weekends. In addition, some truck and bus repair shops provide 24-hour maintenance and repair services.

How to Become a Diesel Service Technician or Mechanic

Diesel technicians initially learn to perform routine maintenance and repair tasks.

Although most diesel technicians learn on the job after a high school education, employers are increasingly preferring applicants who have completed postsecondary training programs in diesel engine repair. In addition, obtaining industry certification may be helpful because certification demonstrates a diesel technician’s competence and experience.

Education

Most employers require a high school diploma or equivalent. High school or postsecondary courses in automotive repair, electronics, and mathematics provide a strong educational background for a career as a diesel technician.

Some employers prefer to hire workers with postsecondary education in diesel engine repair. Many community colleges and trade and vocational schools offer certificate or degree programs in diesel engine repair.

These degree programs mix classroom instruction with hands-on training and include learning the basics of diesel technology, repair techniques and equipment, and practical exercises. Students also learn how to interpret technical manuals and electronic diagnostic reports.

Training

Diesel technicians who begin working without any postsecondary education are trained extensively on the job. Trainees are assigned basic tasks, such as cleaning parts, checking fuel and oil levels, and driving vehicles in and out of the shop.

After they learn routine maintenance and repair tasks and demonstrate competence, trainees move on to more complicated subjects, such as vehicle diagnostics. This process can take from 3 to 4 years, at which point a trainee is usually considered a journey-level diesel technician.

Over the course of their careers, diesel technicians must learn to use new techniques and equipment. Employers often send experienced technicians to special training classes conducted by manufacturers and vendors to learn about the latest diesel technology.

Pay

The median annual wage for diesel service technicians and mechanics was $47,350 in May 2018. Oregon is higher at $51,000(2018).  The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,200, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $72,180

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