Small engine mechanics inspect, service, and repair motorized power equipment.
What they do
Mechanics often specialize in one type of equipment, such as motorcycles, motorboats, or outdoor power equipment.
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.
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.
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.
How to become a Small Engine Mechanic
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Overall employment of small engine mechanics is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, 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.
Similar Job Titles
Chainsaw Technician, Golf Cart Mechanic, Lawnmower Repair Mechanic, Mechanic, Outdoor Power Equipment Service Technician, Service Technician (Service Tech), Shop Mechanic, Small Engine Mechanic, Small Engine Technician (Small Engine Tech)
Motorboat Mechanic and Service Technician, Motorcycle Mechanic, Bicycle Repairer, Locksmith and Safe Repairer, Gas Compressor and Gas Pumping Station Operator
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Outdoor Power Equipment Aftermarket Association - OPEAA is a member-driven organization with the ultimate purpose of facilitating the growth and availability of quality replacement parts and accessories for outdoor power equipment.
- Outdoor Power Equipment Institute - The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) represents the interests of power equipment, small engine, and UTV, golf car, and personal transport vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. We also develop industry standards both in the U.S. and internationally.
Magazines and Publications
Mechanical know-how, hand-eye coordination, and the ability to diagnose engine problems are some of the important qualities held by small engine mechanics. These workers inspect, service, and repair motorized power equipment— usually specializing in one type, such as motorcycles, motorboats, or outdoor power equipment. The repairs they work on can range greatly in complexity— from replacing a single part to rebuilding an engine. They work on all types of problems— fuel system, mechanical, and electrical. Small engine mechanics use both computerized and pneumatic equipment, and also a variety of hand tools— which they usually own themselves. Small engine mechanics generally work in well-ventilated but noisy repair shops— from marina docks to the back of a hardware store. When breakdowns happen, they may make onsite repair calls in all kinds of weather. Although most work full time, spring and summer are the busiest work seasons for these mechanics, and many work overtime to keep up with demand. Winter work hours may be shorter. Employers include motorcycle, boat, and other motor vehicle dealers, lawn and garden equipment stores, and household goods repair and maintenance services. Small engine mechanics usually have a high school diploma or certificate and develop their skills through on-the-job training. It takes mechanics anywhere from several months to several years to become fully proficient. Employers increasingly prefer to hire mechanics with technical training.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org