Career and Job Search Guide

Diesel Service Technician and Mechanic

Diesel-powered engines last longer and get better fuel economy than gas-powered engines. Diesel engines can be found in buses, trains, and large trucks and more are being placed in passenger trucks and cars.

Diesel mechanics, which includes truck and bus service technicians, fix diesel engines not performing properly. Some specialists repair engines found in bulldozers, tractors, and other heavy equipment while some repair passenger vehicles powered by diesel engines.

Diesel mechanics must be flexible to satisfy customers' demands and be adaptive to the latest technologies. Diesel mechanics often perform all kinds of repairs from major engine overhauls to repairing electrical problems. Maintaining a diesel engine is becoming more complicated since more engine controls are electronic and computerized. One example is the increasing usage of microprocessors in diesel engines, which improve fuel economy by controlling fuel timing. Moreover, mechanics are now installing catalysts and emission filters to comply with state and federal pollution control regulations. More mechanics are now using laptop computers to determine engine malfunctions and fine tune engines.

Mechanics maintaining their company's trucks or machinery conduct numerous preventative checks. During these checks, mechanics usually inspect wheel bearings, steering systems, brakes, and other vehicle systems. If any problems are detected, mechanics perform the necessary repairs.

To complete engine repairs, diesel mechanics utilize pneumatic wrenches, welding equipment, grinding tools, vehicle hoists, and handtools such as wrenches and screwdrivers. They also use computers to diagnose problems. Repair shops usually purchase expensive computers and power tools; however, mechanics often use their personal hand tools.

Work environment. Mechanics usually work in brightly-lit, ventilated repair shops. Some shops are not as comfortable, but many shops are equipped with showers and personal storage facilities for mechanics. Most mechanics work inside repair shops, but sometimes they are required to service trucks on the shoulder of the highway. Diesel mechanics often lift and carry heavy loads, remove parts coated in dirt and grease, and work in unnatural body positions while performing maintenance. Mechanics can prevent serious injuries by following safety rules but bruises and slight cuts occur frequently. Mechanics sometimes work in teams or receive assistance from an apprentice.

Diesel mechanics usually work 40 hour weeks, but those running their own shops usually work longer days. More repair shops are expanding the hours their shops are open to better cater to their customers. Mechanics working for shops that repair bus and truck engines 24 hours a day often work nights and weekends.