Ever wonder what it’s like to be a diesel mechanic?
Diesel engines power some of the biggest players in our economy. From construction and mining to agriculture and manufacturing, diesel equipment and trucks keep some of the world’s most important industries running.
Our dependence on diesel engines creates exciting opportunities for those who work on them. Keep reading to learn all about the life of a diesel mechanic, including their day-to-day responsibilities, compensation, and more.
First Things First: What Is a Diesel Mechanic?
Diesel mechanics (often referred to as diesel technicians) inspect, repair, and overhaul trucks, buses, and any vehicle with a diesel engine. Bulldozers, cranes, and dump trucks are just some of the vehicles they commonly work on.
These mechanics possess in-depth knowledge of vehicle electrical systems, engines, and all of their working parts. Strong analytical skills, familiarity with technology, and the ability to think on their feet and are just a few of the common traits diesel techs are known for. On any given day, they may complete a variety of tasks, from performing basic maintenance to using a computer to adjust engine functions.
Diesel Mechanic Job Description
So what exactly does a diesel mechanic do? This varies based on industry, location, and level of experience. However, common responsibilities of diesel mechanics often include:
- Reading work orders and meeting with customers to explain the repair process
- Mapping out work procedures using technical manuals and charts
- Reading and interpreting diagnostic test results to identify problems and determine the solution
- Inspecting various parts of vehicles, including transmissions, engines, steering mechanisms, and brake systems, while following checklists to ensure all important parts are examined
- Replace malfunctioning parts
- Performing basic maintenance and care, including tire rotations, oil changes, and checking fluid levels
- Test-driving vehicles to ensure everything is working properly
Diesel mechanics rely on a variety of tools to complete their work (be sure to check out this list of 125+ tools for diesel mechanics!). This includes diagnostic software and wrenches. In addition to using power tools, they use basic hand tools such as screwdrivers, sockets and ratchets, and pliers. Employers typically provide specialized heavy equipment, but diesel mechanics are expected to have their own set of hand tools.
An important aspect of a diesel mechanic’s job is following safety procedures. Diesel techs work with large, powerful equipment that can be dangerous without following proper safety procedures, such as wearing protective eyewear, never placing hands, tools, or other objects near an engine while it’s running, cleaning their work area properly, and disconnecting the battery when working on electrical systems.
When it comes to the work environment, diesel mechanics commonly work in the following industries:
- Truck transportation
- Wholesale trade
- Local government (excluding education and hospitals)
- Marine industry
A small percentage of diesel mechanics are self-employed. However, many works in a repair shop setting and at times will repair vehicles at worksites or on roadsides. To learn more about specific diesel careers, check out this list of types of diesel mechanic jobs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers are increasingly preferring applicants who have completed post-secondary training programs in diesel engine repair. Additionally, obtaining industry certification may be helpful because certification demonstrates a diesel technician’s competence and experience.
Universal Technical Institute’s 45-week Diesel Technology program was designed to provide you with the knowledge, skills, and hands-on experience required by today’s diesel industry. The program, which can be completed in less than a year, provides students with the opportunity to learn to diagnose and repair diesel fuel systems, perform hydraulic services, and receive hands-on training with equipment from leading brands in the industry.
Additionally, UTI’s diesel program is master certified by the ASE Education Foundation. As a graduate of the program, you’ll be well prepared to complete ASE examinations and can substitute your training for one year of the two years of work experience required to become ASE certified.
After completing your core program, you may choose to complete one of UTI’s diesel advanced training programs. Created in conjunction with leading manufacturers, these programs are designed to simulate a real-world working environment and provide you with the specialized knowledge needed to work for a specific manufacturer.
- Cummins Power Generation program
- Cummins Engines program
- Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) Finish First
- Fendt Technician Academy program
- Peterbilt Technician Institute (PTI)
Diesel Mechanic Salary & Job Outlook
If you’re considering a career as a diesel mechanic, you may be wondering, “How much does a diesel mechanic make?”
Like most fields, a diesel mechanic’s salary is dependent on several factors, including location, industry, and experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for diesel service technicians and mechanics was $50,200 in May 2020.29 This means half of the diesel technicians earned more and half earned less. Keep in mind that salary depends on several factors, including experience, employer, demand, and cost of living in the area.
The job outlook is another important factor to consider when exploring a career path. According to the BLS, there are more than 28,000 estimated average annual job openings in the U.S. for bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists.43
Due to the growing popularity of diesel cars and light trucks, diesel mechanics will be needed to repair and maintain these vehicles. Additionally, more freight is continuing to be shipped across the country with diesel-powered trucks wherever trains and pipelines are not available or economical, which creates opportunities for diesel mechanics. The BLS states that workers who have completed post-secondary education should have the best job opportunities,1 followed by graduates of accepted high school automotive programs.
Overall, the future looks promising for those interested in becoming a diesel mechanic. As the field continues to grow and advance due to changes in technology, those skilled in the trade can pursue exciting opportunities.
Start Your Diesel Training at UTI
UTI’s 45-week Diesel Technology program is offered at campus locations across the country. To learn more, visit our program page and request information today.
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