The Diesel Mechanic
You know the kind of heavy-duty vehicles that shake the ground when they pass? Like flatbed trucks, bulldozers and cranes?
Most are powered by diesel engines – which is what makes them rumble.
Diesel engines are different than the gasoline-powered engines most of us have in our cars. Diesel engines are efficient and durable, and they stand up better to the rough life of an industrial-sized, industrial-strength vehicle. Diesel engines are rugged and hard-working and tend to last a long time — as long as they have the help of a good diesel mechanic.
That’s where you come in!
As a diesel mechanic — also known as a diesel technician — you handle everything from a quick oil change to the updating of an exhaust system to reduce pollution. You have to know how to take apart and rebuild an entire engine. You also need to know how to deal with electrical systems to make any electrical repairs.
Like your typical car, diesel vehicles are now equipped with computerized systems. So these days, diesel mechanics also work with computer diagnostic software.
Heavy-duty farm equipment such as tractors and harvesters run on diesel engines. Road construction equipment like bulldozers, diggers and dump trucks do too.
Ships, barges and other marine vessels often have diesel engines as well, which is particularly important in coastal Georgia — especially in a giant deepwater port like Savannah.
Which means: There’s a lot of work out there for good diesel mechanics. The job is important to the economy. It also makes for a pretty awesome career.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIESEL MECHANIC IN GEORGIA
Diesel mechanic jobs typically include the following day-to-day tasks.
- Talk to your customers or team members to understand any problems and assess what needs to be done
- Use shop equipment to get those big vehicles up on lifts so you can work on them easily (and safely)
- Inspect all the major systems on the vehicle to make sure they’re functioning properly — think steering, transmission, brakes and more
- Go through a standardized checklist to diagnose a problem
- Use diagnostic tools or computer software to diagnose a trickier problem
- Replace broken or malfunctioning parts
- Use power or hand tools — everything from pneumatic wrenches and welding equipment to sockets and screwdrivers
- Do regular maintenance tasks like changing oil and checking batteries
- Take the vehicle for a test-drive so you know it’s running smoothly and your work is done
WHAT IT TAKES TO BECOME A DIESEL MECHANIC
This is what those in the trade say you need to be:
- Well organized. When you take apart and rebuild an engine, you want to make sure you end up with the same number of pieces as you started! So you need to keep your workspace neat and orderly, with all your tools and parts clearly labeled.
- Strong. There’s a lot of heavy lifting in the diesel mechanic shop. Diesel engines go in massive vehicles, and they have big, heavy components to match. You might need to lift and maneuver these heavy metal parts into place. The tools you use can weigh a lot, too.
- Good at solving problems. Being a diesel technician is all about understanding exactly what the problem is — and then knowing how to fix it. Engines are really complex. Just one little problem can cause a bunch more problems all through the system. It’s up to you to figure out what that first little problem is. You’ll be doing a lot of troubleshooting.
- Good with your hands. It’s no surprise that diesel mechanic jobs are hands-on. You’ll need steady hands and good hand-eye coordination to fit pieces into place and manipulate small, delicate parts and pieces.
- People friendly. While you might imagine spending most of your time in the shop, a good mechanic will also need the skills to interact with customers in a way that keeps them coming back. You will need to be good at both listening (so you can understand the problem) and talking (so you can communicate the problem).
IS THIS YOU?
Here are some things to consider as you decide whether diesel mechanic jobs are right for you.
- Good worker protections. Many diesel mechanics are in unions, and the job typically offers better-than-average benefits (such as insurance). That’s especially valuable if you’re looking for a long-term career than can help support a family.
- Lots of work opportunities. Diesel engine vehicles can be found in all kinds of industries, all over the country, in big cities and small towns. They operate all year round. So you will have plenty of future options for where you live and work, and you’ve always got a good chance at finding a job.
- Working as a diesel mechanic can be hard on your body. Along with lifting heavy engine parts, you might find yourself twisting your body into some weird positions to reach the spot you’re trying to fix.
- Diesel fuel and fumes can be hazardous, causing rashes or headaches in the short term, and more serious health problems in the long term. Diesel mechanics need to take safety precautions to avoid being exposed too much.
A FEW DETAILS OF INTEREST
How much do diesel mechanics make?
The average diesel mechanic salary in Georgia is $44,840 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2016).
How do you become a diesel mechanic?
In the old days, nearly all diesel mechanics learned on the job. You’d graduate high school and go straight to the shop, where you’d begin developing your skills with the help of some experienced pros.
You might start out by doing easy, basic stuff like checking oil and sweeping the shop and slowly take on more challenging tasks. After a few years of learning, you would be considered a pro.
That career path still exists, but it’s not as common. A lot of employers are looking for candidates who have extra training. So if you want to be a strong candidate for the best jobs, you probably want to find a diesel mechanic school.
You can find diesel mechanic training programs at technical and trade schools and community colleges. These are shorter programs where you can earn a certificate or a two-year degree.
In diesel mechanic school, you learn how to read technical manuals, use diagnostic software on the computer, conduct repairs, make the most of your equipment and more.
You can also polish your resume with certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. This certification isn’t necessary, but it will make you look good! That means better job, higher pay.
Before you can earn certification, you’ll need to have at least two years of work experience and pass an exam.
FIND A DIESEL MECHANIC SCHOOL IN GEORGIA
APPLY FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
If you’re a high school senior and want to learn how to be a diesel mechanic at one of Georgia’s technical colleges, why not apply for a Trade Five Scholarship? Take me to that application NOW >
OUTLOOK FOR DIESEL MECHANICS
Good news for future diesel mechanics: Between 2014 and 2024, diesel mechanic jobs are expected to increase by 12% – which is faster than average. That’s a great outlook.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
When you’re a diesel mechanic, you spend a lot of time with your toolbox. Here’s a list of “7 Things Every Diesel Mechanic Must Have in Their Tool Box.” And that’s only the beginning. Search “Diesel mechanic toolbox tours.” (You’ll see what we mean…)
LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
Download this handy PDF for some facts on-the-go.