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Become A Heavy Duty Mechanic

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Working As A Heavy Duty Mechanic

  • Repairing and Maintaining Mechanical Equipment
  • Getting Information
  • Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • $44,520

    Average Salary

What Does A Heavy Duty Mechanic Do

Diesel service technicians and mechanics inspect, repair, or overhaul buses and trucks, or maintain and repair any type of diesel engine.

Duties

Diesel service technicians and mechanics typically do the following:

  • Consult with customers and read work orders to determine work required
  • Plan work procedures, using technical charts and manuals
  • Inspect brake systems, steering mechanisms, transmissions, engines, and other parts of vehicles
  • Follow checklists to ensure that all critical parts are examined
  • Read and interpret diagnostic test results to identify mechanical problems
  • Repair or replace malfunctioning components, parts, and other mechanical or electrical equipment
  • Perform basic care and maintenance, including changing oil, checking fluid levels, and rotating tires
  • Test-drive vehicles to ensure that they run smoothly

Because of their efficiency and durability, diesel engines have become the standard in powering trucks and buses. Other heavy vehicles and mobile equipment, including bulldozers and cranes, are also powered by diesel engines, as are many commercial boats, and some passenger vehicles and pickups.

Diesel technicians handle many kinds of repairs. They may work on a vehicle’s electrical system, make major engine repairs, or retrofit exhaust systems with emission control systems to comply with pollution regulations.

Diesel engine maintenance and repair is becoming more complex as engines and other components use more electronic systems to control their operation. For example, fuel injection and engine timing systems rely heavily on microprocessors to maximize fuel efficiency and minimize harmful emissions. In most shops, workers often use hand-held or laptop computers to diagnose problems and adjust engine functions. 

In addition to using computerized diagnostic equipment, diesel technicians use a variety of power and machine tools, such as pneumatic wrenches, lathes, grinding machines, and welding equipment. Hand tools, including pliers, sockets and ratchets, and screwdrivers, are commonly used.

Employers typically provide expensive power tools and computerized equipment, but workers generally acquire their own hand tools over time.

For more information on technicians and mechanics who work primarily on automobiles, see the profile on automotive service technicians and mechanics.

For more information on technicians and mechanics who work primarily on farm equipment, construction vehicles, and rail cars, see the profile on heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians.

For more information on technicians and mechanics who work primarily on motorboats, motorcycles, and small all-terrain vehicles, see the profile on small engine mechanics.

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How To Become A Heavy Duty Mechanic

Most diesel technicians learn informally on the job after a high school education, but employers increasingly prefer applicants who have completed postsecondary training programs in diesel engine repair. Although not required, industry certification can demonstrate a diesel technician’s competence and experience.

Education

Most employers require a high school diploma or equivalent. High school or postsecondary courses in automotive repair, electronics, and mathematics provide a strong educational background for a career as a diesel technician.

An increasing number of employers look for workers with postsecondary training in diesel engine repair. Many community colleges and trade and vocational schools offer certificate or degree programs in diesel engine repair.

Programs mix classroom instruction with hands-on training, including the basics of diesel technology, repair techniques and equipment, and practical exercises. Students also learn how to interpret technical manuals and electronic diagnostic reports.

Training

Diesel technicians who begin working without any postsecondary education are trained extensively on the job. Trainees are assigned basic tasks, such as cleaning parts, checking fuel and oil levels, and driving vehicles in and out of the shop.

After they learn routine maintenance and repair tasks and demonstrate competence, trainees move on to more complicated subjects such as vehicle diagnostics. This process can take from 3 to 4 years, at which point a trainee is usually considered a journey-level diesel technician.

Over the course of their careers, diesel technicians must learn to use new techniques and equipment. Employers often send experienced technicians to special training classes conducted by manufacturers and vendors to learn about the latest diesel technology.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is the standard credential for diesel and other automotive service technicians and mechanics. Although not required, this certification demonstrates a diesel technician’s competence and experience to potential employers and clients, and often brings higher pay.

Diesel technicians may be certified in specific repair areas, such as drive trains, electronic systems, or preventative maintenance and inspection. To earn certification, technicians must have 2 years of work experience and pass one or more ASE exams. To remain certified, diesel technicians must pass a recertification exam every 5 years.

Many diesel technicians are required to have a commercial driver’s license so they may test-drive buses and large trucks.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Diesel technicians frequently discuss automotive problems and necessary repairs with their customers. They must be courteous, good listeners, and ready to answer customers’ questions.

Detail oriented. Diesel technicians 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. Mechanics need a steady hand and good hand-eye coordination for many tasks, such as disassembling engine parts, connecting or attaching components, or using hand tools.

Mechanical skills. Diesel technicians 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. Diesel technicians must keep workspaces clean and organized in order to maintain safety and ensure accountability for parts.

Strength. Diesel technicians often lift heavy parts and tools, such as exhaust system components and pneumatic wrenches.

Troubleshooting skills. Diesel technicians must be able to use diagnostic equipment on engine systems and components in order to identify and fix problems in increasingly complicated mechanical and electronic systems. They must be familiar with electronic control systems and the appropriate tools needed to fix and maintain them.

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Heavy Duty Mechanic jobs

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Average Length of Employment
Master Mechanic 5.6 years
Head Mechanic 4.7 years
Equipment Mechanic 4.4 years
Lead Mechanic 4.3 years
Fleet Mechanic 3.7 years
Generator Mechanic 3.7 years
Mechanic Driver 3.6 years
Field Mechanic 3.5 years
Diesel Mechanic 3.5 years
Mechanic 3.5 years
Service Mechanic 3.3 years
Bus Mechanic 3.3 years
Marine Mechanic 3.2 years
Truck Mechanic 3.1 years
Crane Mechanic 3.0 years
Shop Mechanic 2.9 years
Junior Mechanic 2.2 years
Mechanic Helper 2.0 years
Top Employers Before
Mechanic 22.5%
Technician 5.3%
Welder 5.0%
Cashier 3.1%
Apprentice 2.6%
Top Employers After
Mechanic 18.8%
Technician 5.5%
Driver 3.6%
Supervisor 3.2%
Welder 2.9%

Heavy Duty Mechanic Demographics

Gender

Male

89.9%

Female

8.6%

Unknown

1.5%
Ethnicity

White

79.0%

Hispanic or Latino

12.6%

Asian

6.0%

Unknown

1.7%

Black or African American

0.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

40.0%

Carrier

25.0%

Portuguese

5.0%

Chinese

5.0%

Bosnian

5.0%

French

5.0%

Hmong

5.0%

Mandarin

5.0%

Arabic

5.0%
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Heavy Duty Mechanic Education

Schools

Universal Technical Institute

26.9%

University of Phoenix

6.4%

Salt Lake Community College

6.4%

Community College of the Air Force

5.1%

Nashville Auto Diesel College Inc

5.1%

Coahoma Community College

3.8%

A-Technical College

3.8%

Broward College

3.8%

College of Alameda

3.8%

Delgado Community College

3.8%

Portland Community College

3.8%

Rock Valley College

3.8%

State University of New York College of Agriculture & Technology at Morrisville

3.8%

The Academy

3.8%

Lincoln Technical Institute

2.6%

Roanoke-Chowan Community College

2.6%

Charter College

2.6%

Norfolk State University

2.6%

Lincoln College of Technology - Denver

2.6%

Capella University

2.6%
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Majors

Automotive Technology

34.2%

Business

13.1%

Precision Metal Working

4.7%

Criminal Justice

4.7%

Electrical Engineering Technology

3.9%

General Studies

3.9%

Industrial Technology

3.3%

Education

3.3%

Aviation

3.1%

Computer Science

2.8%

Electrical Engineering

2.8%

Mechanical Engineering

2.8%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

2.8%

Mechanical Engineering Technology

2.8%

Computer Information Systems

2.8%

Heating And Air Conditioning

2.8%

Heavy/Industrial Equipment Maintenance Technologies

2.5%

Graphic Design

1.4%

Accounting

1.4%

School Counseling

1.1%
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Degrees

Other

46.5%

Associate

17.8%

Certificate

14.3%

Bachelors

10.9%

Diploma

6.3%

Masters

2.9%

License

1.0%

Doctorate

0.4%
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Top Skills for A Heavy Duty Mechanic

DieselEnginesEngineSafetyVehicleIssuesPreventiveMaintenanceTrailersHeavyEquipmentLoadersAirCompressorsHydraulicSystemsTroubleShootingElectricalSystemsCaterpillarCustomerServiceForkliftsConstructionEquipmentGradersCumminsHandToolsWaterPumpsRoutineMaintenance

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Top Heavy Duty Mechanic Skills

  1. Diesel Engines
  2. Engine Safety
  3. Vehicle Issues
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Remove and replace fuel lines also injectors on diesel engines.
  • Complied with state vehicle requirements, including engine safety and combustion control standards.
  • Communicated with customers regarding vehicle issues and potential repairs.
  • Perform other procedures as needed and to assign preventive maintenance paperwork to the correct vehicles.
  • Maintained wheeled vehicles, their associated trailers and material handling equipment systems.

Top Heavy Duty Mechanic Employers

Heavy Duty Mechanic Videos

City of Edmonton Jobs: Trades - Heavy Duty Mechanic

Heavy Duty Mechanic Job Opportunities at the City of Edmonton

Career Choices - Heavy Equipment Operator

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