Small engine mechanics repair the motors of equipment pieces that are smaller than automotive motors. Things such as lawn mowers, chainsaws, garden tractors and even motorcycles are examples of some motors that a small engine mechanic would repair. Many small repair mechanics work independently; others are employed by repair service shops, government offices, factories or large companies. This field offers a diverse amount of different employment opportunities.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported in 2008 that small engine mechanics who worked on outdoor equipment, such as lawnmowers and chainsaws, earned an average hourly wage of $13.91. Of this group, the middle 50% earned between $11.24 and $17.03. The 10th percentile earned less than $9.12 and the 90th percentile earned more than $20.40. Mechanics employed by supply stores earned an average of $13.66 per hour. In this area of specialty, mechanics who were self-employed earned a lower average salary than those who were employed by shops or companies.*
Mechanics who specialize in working on motorcycles earned an average of $15.08 per hour, with the middle 50% earning between $12.10 and $19.20. The 10th percentile earned less than $9.76, while the 90th percentile earned more than $24.27. Small engine mechanics who repair motorboat engines earned an average hourly wage of $16.60 in 2008. The middle 50% averaged wages between $13.31 and $20.68. While the 10th percentile earned less than $10.74, the 90th percentile earned more than $25.41 per hour. Boat dealers employed the highest number of motorboat mechanics, with average wages in dealerships at $16.48 per hour.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Small engine mechanics not only repair equipment, but they also perform maintenance checks. When employed by large companies, factories or government departments, the equipment owned by such places is usually subject to routine maintenance and safety checks. Mechanics study how the piece of equipment works, listen to the motor and identify problems. Adjustments, part replacement or fixing is often required. In order to perform repairs and maintenance, mechanics must own a variety of hand tools.
Some small engine mechanics also work on small vehicles. Tractors, motorboats and motorcycles all contain many more mechanical components than just the engine. These mechanics are also responsible for repairing other parts, such as transmissions and alternators. This job requires more than simply repairing or servicing; mechanics must know how one part connects to another and how these parts all work in accordance with the engine. Knowing the components and structure of each small vehicle or equipment is vital for proper diagnostic purposes.
Training and Education Requirements
In order to become a small engine mechanic, a person must have a mechanical aptitude, or desire for working in the field. Many small engine mechanics receive their training on the job. Usually a general knowledge of mechanical structures, an interest in the field and desire to learn will motivate employers to hire an individual. Employers will usually always require proof of a high school diploma or GED. Once on-the-job training and experience are acquired, small engine mechanics may be able to find higher paying positions elsewhere. Some mechanics choose to take a short training course for the area of specialty they choose. Instructors frequently offer these short classes, instructing interested individuals about procedures for maintenance and repair.
Small engine mechanics who desire to work on motorboats or motorcycles will usually seek education at a vocational college. Several technical colleges also offer certificate or Associate degree programs in these specialty areas. While earning a degree is not always a mandatory requirement with every employer, most companies prefer mechanics who have a formal education and degree or certificate to prove it. Earning a degree or certificate will show motivation, desire and competency in the field. Companies who do not require a formal certificate or degree will offer training before employment begins, also training usually continues during employment.
There are no certifications or licensing divisions that regulate the practice of these professionals. Since small equipment is not considered a safety concern regarding transportation, as are automobiles, there are no regulations for licensing mechanics who work on these motors. Mechanics who work on motorcycles or motorboats may seek further safety certifications by the companies they work for, if it is required. While the ASE is the only well-known licensing provider for mechanics, they do not cover small equipment, motorcycles or small non-transportation vehicles.
One of the most popular professional associations for mechanics is Master Mechanics. Since this association applies to automotive and diesel mechanics, most small engine mechanics would not benefit from a membership. Most of the professional associations found are part of a large company that may employ these mechanics. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers is the only professional association that small engine mechanics would have interest in joining. By joining this association, mechanics will be connected to a wealth of information and a network of thousands of other professionals in their line of work. Important information about codes, regulations and other updates are frequently posted by this association. To join, mechanics must fill out a membership application form and submit the required fee.
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