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Small Engine Repair Career, Job and Training Information

Small Engine Repair Career and Job Highlights

  • Employment growth is this industry is projected to stay on pace with the average for all occupations, and those with mechanical training should face good opportunities.
  • Because many vehicles are seasonal, like motorcycles, motorboats, and outdoor power equipment, workers may work less in the winter or service other types of equipment.

Small Engine Repair Career Overview

Just like other engines, breakdowns are common place with small engines found in motorcycles, motorboats, and other equipment. Workers will repair small engines in all types of power equipment, from motorcycles to chain saws.

Small engines, just like their large engine counterparts, need regular service to reduce the frequency of malfunctions and maintain optimal performance. To perform regular maintenance of equipment, mechanics abide by a checklist to ensure that the brakes, electrical systems, fuel injection systems, plugs, carburetors, and other parts are operating properly. As mechanics inspect the equipment, they will make repairs and adjustments as needed to ensure the device is functioning properly. A big part of a mechanic’s job is routine maintenance.

When equipment fails, mechanics rely on different methods to locate and identify the precise problem. Mechanics are known for their ability to quickly analyze mechanical, fuel, and electrical problems. To quickly and correctly diagnose a problem a mechanic must be a good problem solver and have an excellent understanding of how the equipment works.

Mechanics that work in large service shops typically will employ advanced diagnostic equipment as the first means of checking the equipment. Advanced computerized equipment allows the mechanics to view a performance report and compare it to normal measures. Once the problem has been identified, the mechanic will repair, replace, or adjust the equipment. Some repairs involve only minor adjusting, or replacing of just one part, like a carburetor or a fuel pump. On the other hand, if an engine must be completely overhauled it will take hours to take the engine apart and replace old valves, pistons, bearings, and other parts on the inside. Some of the most skillful mechanics may use advanced components and the newest computerized equipment to service racing motorcycles and motorboats.

As always, hand tools like wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers are utilized by small engine mechanics. When special repairs require their use, mechanics will use power tools, such as drills and grinders. Devices such as computerized engine analyzers, compression gauges, ammeters and voltmeters, allow mechanics to find bad parts and tune engines. Heavy vehicles like motorcycles, snowmobiles, or motorboats may be raised by hoists. Mechanics utilize service manuals to get directions and specifications to aid them in making repairs.

As imagined, motorcycle mechanics service motorcycles, but they also work on motor scooters, mopeds, dirt bikes, and all-terrain vehicles. In addition to engine repair, mechanics might service transmissions, brakes, and ignition systems and as well as make minor body repairs. Typically workers will find an area of specialty, focusing one type of equipment, but they may work on other projects that are related to their area of expertise. Since dealers typically only work on the products they sell, mechanics will only work a few different makes and models.

Marine equipment mechanics, also known as motorboat mechanics, make repairs and adjustments on the electrical and mechanical equipment of inboard and outboard boat engines. For the most part, small boats have removable outboard engines that can be taken into the shop for repairs. Bigger boats have diesel powered engines, such as cabin cruisers and commercial fishing boats, and their engines, whether inboard or inboard-outboard engines, are rarely removed. The majority of these repairs will be made on site at the dock. Additionally, marine equipment mechanics might service propellers, steering mechanisms, marine plumbing, and other boat equipment.

Outdoor power equipment and other small engine mechanics work on outdoor power equipment, like lawnmowers, garden tractors, edge trimmers, and chain saws. Additionally, they might work with other equipment like go-carts and generators. Small engine repairers might even work on devices such as snow blowers and snowmobiles in the northern part of the country, but this work is strictly seasonal.

Repair shops are normally well lit and ventilated but at times may become noisy due to the testing of engines. One must be able to work outside in the elements as a motorboat mechanic works on docked boats or at the marina. Work on a boat’s engine may also require working in an uncomfortable position to reach the engine.

Work may be seasonal, especially in the North, as the number of boats, lawnmowers, and motorcycles in use or needing repair decrease during the winter, resulting in work weeks of less than 40 hours for many mechanics. However, most mechanics will take long engine overhaul projects during the winter, or they might choose to service snowmobiles and snow blowers. If demand is great, workers might work much more than 40 hours in a week.

Small Engine Repair Career Training and Job Qualifications

Because most motorcycles and motorboats are quite complex, most employers look to hire graduates of a formal small engine repair training program. However, there are not many postsecondary programs that specialize in small engines and thus many applicants will learn the tricks of the trade on the job, in other related positions, or from an online small engine repair course. To get a job as a trainee, one must have a good mechanical ability and understanding of two and four stroke engines. Quite a few trainees learn the fundamentals thanks to their interest in and hobby of working on automobiles, motorcycles, and motorboats. Still many learn of mechanics thanks to highs school programs or postsecondary programs.

Experienced mechanics teach trainees the basic service tasks by showing them how to replace ignition points and spark plugs, or dissembling, reassembling and running tests on the equipment. With time and experience, trainees will learn how to do harder tasks like using computerized diagnostic equipment and doing overhauls of engines. It may take beginner as many as 3 years of training and on the job experience to learn all the tricks of the trade related to repairing motorcycle and motorboat engines.

Manufacturers and distributors typically hold courses related to motorcycles, motorboats, and outdoor power equipment and employers will make sure their trainees attend these short training opportunities. These courses are designed to enhance the trainee’s abilities and while providing them with additional information and instruction on repair techniques of newer models, and can last up to 2 weeks. Typically these courses serve as prerequisite to carrying out warranty related work for manufacturing and insurance companies.

A preferred applicant is one with a high school degree, but those possessing less education will be considered assuming they can adequately read, write, and make mathematical computations. Many students are hired on as part time help throughout the summer by equipment dealers to aid in the assembly of new equipment and carry out minor repairs. Courses offered in high school related to small engine repair, science, business calculations, and small engine repair are all very useful.

An understanding of the mechanics of small engines is important to have since the engine’s performance, the vehicle’s display dash and many other parts of motorbikes and boats are controlled by electronic parts.

There is nothing more important to workers than their set of hand tools. Most experienced workers have their own tools and will have spent thousands of dollars acquiring their own tools. However, more complex and expensive tools such as computerized engine analysis machines are provided by the shop.
Skills developed by working on small engines lend themselves to other related areas like automotive repair, diesel service and other larger mobile devices. One can become a shop supervisor or manager by gaining experience and demonstrating leadership like qualities. Other workers prove to be good salesman become sales reps for shops or start their own repair business.

Small Engineer Repair Job and Employment Opportunities

It is projected that the growth for small engine repairers will increase on pace with the average for all jobs up until 2012. The majority of the positions will only be openings caused by workers leaving the industry for a different job or retirement. Those who have gone through training programs designed for mechanics should face favorable conditions.

Through 2012, the disposable income of individuals is projected to gradually grow allowing more and more people the opportunity to purchase boats, outdoor products, and motorbikes. This will create a demand for more services rendered by mechanics in order to maintain and keep products functioning properly. Additionally, every day service to equipment will provide a steady diet of work. Improvements in technology will cause the period between service checks to grow, yet the demand for more and more workers qualified to perform such work will grow.

Sales of motorcycles are still growing as they become increasingly popular, and thus the need for more motorbike mechanics will continue to grow along with the demand for motorbikes. Today motorcycles are most popular with the younger crowd, ranging from 18 to 24 years, following the historical trend. However, the popularity of bikes is growing with those 40 years and older. As history suggests, the older age groups has more money to spend on luxuries like bikes and boats.

In the next ten years the group most responsible for boat purchase is expected to grow, that being the population of those 40 years or older. This increase will help the demand for boats grow, and thus aid in maintaining the need for good quality mechanics.

Growth in the industry will also be aided by the relatively new phenomenon of building more and more single-family homes, each requiring the purchase of individual lawn care equipment, which will help the demand for mechanics grow. Although, it is important to note that the need for more lawn care equipment will be curbed by the movement to smaller yards and the use of lawn care companies. Additionally, customers will likely just replace cheap equipment as opposed to paying for repairs, and this will contribute to curbing the growth of mechanics.

Historical Earnings Information

In 2002, the average hourly wages of motorbike mechanics was $13.02. The middle 50 percent of mechanics made anywhere from 10.14 to $16.65. The bottom 10 percent made below $8.17, and the top 10 percent made in excess of $21.04 and hour.