Small Engine Mechanics


Quick Facts: Small Engine Mechanics
2017 Median Pay $35,990 per year 
$17.30 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2016 79,300
Job Outlook, 2016-26 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 3,800

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Small Engine Mechanics Career, Salary and Education Information

What Small Engine Mechanics Do

Small engine mechanics inspect, service, and repair motorized power equipment. Mechanics often specialize in one type of equipment, such as motorcycles, motorboats, or outdoor power equipment.

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Small Engine Mechanics

Duties of Small Engine Mechanics

Small engine mechanics typically do the following:

  • Discuss equipment issues, maintenance plans, and work performed with customers

  • Perform routine engine maintenance, such as lubricating parts and replacing spark plugs

  • Test and inspect engines for malfunctioning parts

  • Adjust components according to specifications

  • Repair or replace worn, defective, or broken parts

  • Reassemble and reinstall components and engines following repairs

  • Keep records of inspections, test results, work performed, and parts used

 

Small engine mechanics work on power equipment ranging from snowmobiles to chain saws. When equipment breaks down, mechanics use many strategies to diagnose the source and extent of the problem. Small engine mechanics identify mechanical, electrical, and fuel system problems and make necessary repairs.

Mechanics’ tasks vary in complexity and difficulty. Maintenance inspections and repairs, for example, involve minor adjustments or the replacement of a single part. Hand calibration, piston calibration, and spark plug replacement, however, may require taking an engine apart completely. Some mechanics use computerized equipment to tune racing motorcycles and motorboats.

Mechanics use a variety of hand tools, including screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers, for many common tasks. Some mechanics also may use compression gauges, ammeters, and voltmeters to test engine performance. For more complicated procedures, they commonly use pneumatic tools, which are powered by compressed air, or diagnostic equipment.

Although employers usually provide the more expensive tools and testing equipment, some mechanics may be required to use their own hand tools. Some mechanics have thousands of dollars invested in their tool collections.

The following are examples of types of small engine mechanics:

Motorboat mechanics and service technicians maintain and repair the mechanical and electrical components of boat engines. Most of their work, whether on small outboard engines or large diesel-powered inboard motors, is performed at docks and marinas where the repair shop is located. Motorboat mechanics also may work on propellers, steering mechanisms, marine plumbing, and other boat equipment.

Motorcycle mechanics specialize in working on motorcycles, scooters, mopeds, dirt bikes, and all-terrain vehicles. They service engines, transmissions, brakes, and ignition systems and make minor body repairs, among other tasks. Most work for dealerships, servicing and repairing specific makes and models.

Outdoor power equipment and other small engine mechanics service and repair outdoor power equipment, such as lawnmowers, edge trimmers, garden tractors, and portable generators. Some mechanics may work on snowblowers and snowmobiles, but this work is highly seasonal and regional.

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

Technicians who work primarily on large trucks and buses are described in the profile on diesel service technicians and mechanics.

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


Work Environment for Small Engine Mechanics

Small engine mechanics held about 79,300 jobs in 2016. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up small engine mechanics was distributed as follows:

Outdoor power equipment and other small engine mechanics: 37,600

Motorboat mechanics and service technicians: 23,400

Motorcycle mechanics: 18,300

The largest employers of small engine mechanics were as follows:

Motor vehicle and parts dealers: 30%

Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores: 14%

Self-employed workers: 12%

Repair and maintenance: 11%

Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries: 10%

Small engine mechanics generally work in well-ventilated but noisy repair shops. They sometimes make onsite repair calls, which may require working in poor weather conditions. When repairing onboard engines, motorboat mechanics may work in cramped and uncomfortable positions.

Work Schedules

Most small engine mechanics work full time, although seasonal workers often see their work hours fluctuate. Most mechanics are busiest during the spring and summer, when demand for work on equipment from lawnmowers to motorboats is the highest. During the peak seasons, some mechanics work many overtime hours. In contrast, some may work only part time during the winter, when demand for small engine work is lowest. Many employers try to keep work more consistent by scheduling major repair work, such as rebuilding engines, during the off-season.


How to Become a Small Engine Mechanic

Small engine mechanics typically enter the occupation with a high school diploma or postsecondary nondegree award and learn their trade through on-the-job training.

Education

Motorboat and outdoor power equipment mechanics typically begin work with a high school diploma and learn on the job, although some of them seek postsecondary education. High school or vocational school courses in small engine repair and automobile mechanics are often beneficial.

Motorcycle mechanics typically complete postsecondary education programs in motorcycle repair, and employers prefer to hire these workers because they usually require less on-the-job training.

Training

Trainees work closely with experienced mechanics while learning basic tasks, such as replacing spark plugs or disassembling engine components. As they gain experience, trainees move on to more difficult tasks, such as advanced computerized diagnosis and engine overhauls. Achieving competency may take anywhere from several months to 3 years, depending on a mechanic’s specialization and ability.

Because of the increased complexity of boat and motorcycle engines, motorcycle and motorboat mechanics who do not complete postsecondary education often need more on-the-job training than that needed by outdoor power equipment mechanics.

Employers frequently send mechanics to training courses run by motorcycle, motorboat, and outdoor power equipment manufacturers and dealers. These courses teach mechanics the most up-to-date technology and techniques. Often, such courses are a prerequisite to performing warranty and manufacturer-specific work.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many motorboat and motorcycle manufacturers offer certification specific to their own models, and certification from the Equipment & Engine Training Councilis the recognized industry credential for outdoor power equipment mechanics. Although not required, certification can demonstrate a mechanic’s competence and usually brings higher pay.

Motorcycle mechanics usually need a driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Small engine mechanics frequently discuss problems and necessary repairs with their customers. They must be courteous, be good listeners, and always remain ready to answer customers’ questions.

Detail oriented. Small engine mechanics must be aware of small details when inspecting or repairing engines and components, because mechanical and electronic malfunctions are often due to misalignments and other easy-to-miss causes.

Dexterity. Small engine mechanics need a steady hand and good hand–eye coordination for many tasks, such as disassembling engine parts, connecting or attaching components, and using hand tools.

Mechanical skills. Small engine mechanics must be familiar with engine components and systems and know how they interact with each other. They often disassemble major parts for repairs, and they must be able to put them back together properly.

Organizational skills. Small engine mechanics keep workspaces clean and organized in order to maintain safety and ensure accountability for parts.

Troubleshooting skills. Small engine mechanics use diagnostic equipment on engine systems and components to identify and fix problems. They must be familiar with electronic control systems and the appropriate tools needed to fix and maintain them.


Salaries for Small Engine Mechanics

The median annual wage for small engine mechanics was $35,990 in May 2017. 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 $22,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $58,050.

 

Median annual wages for small engine mechanics in May 2017 were as follows:

Motorboat mechanics and service technicians: $38,960

Motorcycle mechanics: $35,680

Outdoor power equipment and other small engine mechanics: $34,370

In May 2017, the median annual wages for small engine mechanics in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries: $36,930

Motor vehicle and parts dealers: $36,680

Repair and maintenance: $34,650

Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores: $33,580

Most small engine mechanics work full time, although seasonal workers often see their work hours fluctuate.

Most mechanics are busiest during the spring and summer, when demand for work on equipment from lawnmowers to boats is the highest. During the peak seasons, some mechanics work many overtime hours. In contrast, some mechanics may work only part time during the winter, when demand for small engine work is lowest.


Job Outlook for Small Engine Mechanics

Overall employment of small engine mechanics is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth rates will vary by occupation. Boat engines, as well as engines and parts for outdoor power equipment, have become more sophisticated and efficient. The maintenance and repair of these engines and parts will demand workers to perform these services.

Job Prospects

Job prospects are expected to be best for candidates who have completed postsecondary training programs.

Employment projections data for Small Engine Mechanics, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 79,300

Projected Employment, 2026: 83,100

Change, 2016-2026: +5%, +3,800


Careers Related to Small Engine Mechanic

Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

Automotive service technicians and mechanics, often called service technicians or service techs, inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks.

Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics

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

Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians, also called mechanics, inspect, maintain, and repair vehicles and machinery used in construction, farming, rail transportation, and other industries.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Automotive Service Technicians and MechanicsPostsecondary nondegree award$39,550
Diesel Service Technicians and MechanicsHigh school diploma or equivalent$46,360
Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service TechniciansHigh school diploma or equivalent$49,440

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Small Engine Mechanics,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/small-engine-mechanics.htm