Many young boys and girls have clocked in hundreds of miles on their hands and knees, rolling their big toy tractor-trailer trucks around on the floor. Others might have enjoyed playing with their own miniature dump truck or backhoe in their sandbox. At the time, you probably didn’t think about how real-world equipment was fueled. Unlike the toys that were powered by a toddler’s energy, life-sized, larger equipment is typically powered by diesel fuel. Without a doubt, as you became older, perhaps you developed a passion for working on diesel engines. As many repair or restore their own equipment as a hobby, have you considered doing it for a living? What would be expected of you as a diesel mechanic? Do you have the skills required to excel in this field?
Diesel mechanics play an integral part in keeping our economy rolling, literally, down the road. As our truckers depend on diesel mechanics to repair their large tractor-trailer rigs, our farmers will also depend on you to keep their farm equipment operating smoothly. Road crews will count on you to keep bulldozers and road graders in good working order. Diesel mechanics also repair and maintain buses and large cranes. In addition, some vehicles and light trucks are powered by diesel fuel.
You may begin your career in performing basic preventative maintenance duties, such as oil changes and replacing hydraulic fluids, flushing fuel systems, tune-ups, tire inspections, and rotations, along with testing ignition and emission systems. You will perform minor repairs, maintain parts inventory, and help to maintain accurate records on all repairs. You may also be expected to keep the shop clean!
As your experience progresses, you will be responsible for a variety of tasks such as, diagnosing and repairing brake systems, performing regular diagnostic tests, rebuilding engines and transmissions and repairing electrical components, steering systems and cooling systems, as well as, troubleshooting and repairing all other complex mechanical problems.
Do you have the capabilities needed to work as a diesel mechanic? Advancements in modern technology demand some knowledge of computers and diagnostic equipment as you will be working with sophisticated electronics and complex computer systems within today’s diesel vehicles. You will also need excellent hand-eye coordination, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, in addition to physical strength and manual dexterity. Diesel mechanics also need excellent customer service skills, a valid driver’s license (CDL may be required), and may need to provide their own hand tools. You will need to be familiar with the use of pneumatic tools, gauges, hydraulic jacks, welding torches, and lathes.
There are a variety of businesses that employ diesel mechanics. Naturally, some mechanic shops specialize in only diesel-fueled transportation; however, other companies such as bus, utility, and freight companies hire their own mechanics to work on their equipment. Government agencies also hire their own employees to work on state vehicles and equipment. Occasionally, a diesel mechanic must travel to roadside breakdowns to make repairs, or perhaps, to a soybean field to repair a farm tractor.
The working environment within a diesel-mechanical shop is not exactly ideal. It can be excessively noisy, and you will be subject to diesel fumes and the like. Heavy lifting is often required, and you can expect a few skinned-up knuckles and burns. And, if you are particularly clumsy, steel-toed shoes are recommended!
If you are interested in this field, please see our list for the Best Online Schools for Diesel Mechanics.