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.

Duties

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.

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Work Environment

Motorboat mechanics and service technicians maintain and repair the mechanical and electrical components of boat engines.

Small engine mechanics held about 76,300 jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up small engine mechanics was distributed as follows:

Outdoor power equipment and other small engine mechanics                            34,900
Motorboat mechanics and service technicians 24,900
Motorcycle mechanics 16,600

The largest employers of small engine mechanics were as follows:

Motor vehicle and parts dealers 33%
Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores  13
Repair and maintenance 11
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries                                                 11
Self-employed workers 9

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.

Education and Training

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 Council is 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.

Personality and Interests

Small engine mechanics typically have an interest in the Building and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a small engine mechanic, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Small engine mechanics should also possess the following specific qualities:

Customer-service skills. Mechanics must discuss equipment problems and repairs with their customers. They should be courteous, good listeners, and ready to answer customers’ questions. In addition, self-employed workers frequently depend on repeat clients for business.

Detail oriented. Mechanical and electronic malfunctions often are due to misalignments or other easy-to-miss errors. Mechanics must account for those types of problems when inspecting or repairing engines and components.

Dexterity. Many tasks, such as disassembling engine parts, connecting or attaching components, and using hand tools, require a steady hand and good hand–eye coordination.

Mechanical skills. Mechanics must be familiar with engine components and systems and know how they interact with each other. They must frequently disassemble major parts for repairs and be able to reassemble them properly.

Troubleshooting skills. Mechanics, especially marine equipment and motorcycle specialists, must be able to identify problems in increasingly complicated mechanical and electronic systems using diagnostic equipment. They must be familiar with electronic control systems and the appropriate tools needed to fix and maintain them.

Pay

The median annual wage for small engine mechanics was $37,840 in May 2019. 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 $24,300, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60,070.

Median annual wages for small engine mechanics in May 2019 were as follows:

Motorboat mechanics and service technicians $41,330
Motorcycle mechanics 37,600
Outdoor power equipment and other small engine mechanics                              36,100

In May 2019, the median annual wages for small engine mechanics in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries                                                 $39,120
Repair and maintenance 38,230
Motor vehicle and parts dealers 38,110
Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores 35,470

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.

Many employers try to keep work more consistent by scheduling major repair work, such as rebuilding engines, during the off-season.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of small engine mechanics is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, 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 efficient—but also more sophisticated. Thus, maintaining and repairing these engines and parts will require more workers.

Motorcycle mechanics adept at repairing electric motorcycles, new to the commercial market, may see increasing opportunities over the decade.

Mechanics who work on outdoor power equipment and other small engines will continue to be in demand because of the widespread use of these engines in gardening, tree work, landscape construction, and similar activities.

Job Prospects

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

For More Information

For more information on outdoor power equipment and other small engine mechanics and training programs, visit

Equipment & Engine Training Council

To learn about job opportunities for small engine mechanics, contact local motorcycle, motorboat, and lawn and garden equipment dealers; boatyards; and marinas. Local offices of the state employment service also may have information about employment and training opportunities.

FAQ

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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