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Become A Locomotive Mechanic

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Working As A Locomotive 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

  • $47,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Locomotive 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 Locomotive 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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Locomotive Mechanic Typical Career Paths

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Top Skills for A Locomotive Mechanic

  1. Diesel Engines
  2. Safety Appliances
  3. Repair Parts
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Diagnose, adjust, repair, and all types of diesel engines.
  • Set up and operate metalworking tools to make and repair parts.
  • Weekend Lead/Supervisor and Quality Assurance Mechanic for a team of locomotive mechanics performing electrical work, calibrations and FRA inspections.
  • Provided routine maintenance, troubleshooting and repair to EMD and G.E.
  • Repair running gears: wheels, springs, hangers, and brake rigging traction motors.

Locomotive Mechanic Demographics

Gender

Male

85.5%

Unknown

10.1%

Female

4.4%
Ethnicity

White

68.7%

Hispanic or Latino

13.4%

Black or African American

9.7%

Asian

5.6%

Unknown

2.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Mandarin

33.3%

German

33.3%

Chinese

33.3%

Locomotive Mechanic Education

Schools

Boise State University

14.7%

West Kentucky Community and Technical College

8.8%

Western Washington University

5.9%

City Colleges of Chicago-Harry S Truman College

5.9%

Indian Hills Community College

5.9%

Amarillo College

5.9%

Universal Technical Institute

5.9%

South Dakota State University

5.9%

Rochester Institute of Technology

5.9%

Black Hawk College - Quad-Cities Campus

5.9%

Hawkeye Community College

2.9%

Western Illinois University

2.9%

Community College of the Air Force

2.9%

Hennepin Technical College

2.9%

Gwinnett Technical College

2.9%

Spoon River College

2.9%

University of Kansas

2.9%

Norwich University

2.9%

ITT Technical Institute-Boise

2.9%

Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana

2.9%
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Majors

Automotive Technology

21.7%

Electrical Engineering Technology

12.0%

Mechanical Engineering

9.8%

Aviation

7.6%

Precision Metal Working

6.5%

Business

6.5%

General Studies

4.3%

Engineering

4.3%

Mechanical Engineering Technology

3.3%

Project Management

3.3%

Criminal Justice

3.3%

Management

2.2%

Computer Information Systems

2.2%

Information Technology

2.2%

Fine Arts

2.2%

Heating And Air Conditioning

2.2%

Communication

2.2%

Electrical Engineering

2.2%

Agricultural Engineering

1.1%

Science, Technology, And Society

1.1%
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Degrees

Other

38.8%

Associate

22.4%

Bachelors

15.5%

Certificate

10.3%

Diploma

6.0%

Masters

5.2%

License

1.7%
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