How to Become a Diesel Mechanic
Diesel vehicles are rugged and reliable, provide excellent torque and offer better fuel economy than gas engines. They provide the power for all kinds of vehicles from the heaviest trucks to compact cars. Diesel mechanics are the professionals that keep them running. This site can provide you with all the information you need to become a qualified diesel mechanic and jumpstart a great career.
“Where can I find schools near me?” I hear you ask. We have information on all the best schools in each state.
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What are the Steps to Becoming a Diesel Mechanic?
A diesel mechanic works on buses, trucks and diesel equipment, conducting inspections, maintenance, and repairs to keep them in good working order. The industry is currently growing across the U.S. as more people rely on trucking to ship goods. You can become a diesel mechanic in about two years or less and earn a great salary while enjoying good job security.
What is a Heavy Diesel Mechanic?
A heavy diesel mechanic, or a bus and heavy truck mechanic, is a trained professional who works on vehicles and equipment with diesel engines. This includes heavy trucks, buses and diesel equipment used in certain industries, like farming or construction. Mechanics maintain, inspect and make repairs to these vehicles and equipment.
The work of a diesel mechanic varies a little bit by job and employer. Generally, though, there are several regular duties:
- Working with customers to discuss repairs and maintenance work
- Inspecting all parts of a diesel vehicle, including the engine, transmission and brake systems
- Planning and making repairs or replacing parts
- Following technical plans and manuals
- Following checklists for maintenance, inspections and repairs
- Using diagnostic tests
- Test-driving vehicles to diagnose problems
Diesel mechanics use power tools and heavy equipment. The work is often physically demanding and requires heavy lifting and getting into uncomfortable positions to reach parts. This job can also be dangerous, but risks are minimized when safety procedures are followed.
How Long Does it Take to Be a Diesel Mechanic?
It does not take long to learn to become a diesel mechanic. This is a career that requires training but not a four-year degree. Most educational programs for diesel service and technology are two years or shorter in duration. Some take a year or less to complete and confer certificates or diplomas.
Other programs confer associate degrees and usually take two years to complete on a full-time basis. The benefit of this longer option is that you will have a degree and more opportunities for advancement in your career. For instance, with a degree you may qualify to work in management or sales.
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Diesel Mechanic?
To be a diesel mechanic you will need a lot of specialized skills. You can get them all in training. If you attend an appropriate academic program or get on-the-job training, you will learn how to use the tools of the trade, how to do inspections, how to do routine maintenance and how to make repairs and change parts.
In addition to the specific training required to do this job, you will also need to be good at working with your hands and dexterous enough to get into tight, awkward spaces. You need to be strong enough to lift heavy objects. You should also be good at problem solving, critical thinking and communication.
What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Truck Mechanic?
Most states do not have any specific qualifications that truck mechanics must meet before they begin working. However, most employers do have requirements. They may only hire mechanics holding a certain degree, who have been through an approved or accredited training program or who are certified.
You can become a mechanic by either completing a post-secondary academic program or by finding a master mechanic to train you on the job. It’s also a good idea to follow up your education and training with certification through the National Association for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
How Much Money Does a Diesel Mechanic Make a Year?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), diesel service technicians and mechanics earned a median salary of $47,350 per year in 2018. Those in the industry who make the most earned up to $72,000 per year. Master mechanics, those with master level certification from ASE, earn these higher salaries.
Wages are highest for bus and truck mechanics in Alaska, Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, Connecticut and Hawaii. Metropolitan areas with the highest wages include New York, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles.
Diesel mechanics have specialized skills as compared to automotive mechanics and technicians. The latter earn an average of $40,710 per year and up to $67,000 annually, according to the BLS. So, diesel mechanics do earn more than standard auto mechanics.
Is There a Demand for Diesel Mechanics?
The BLS reports that growth in the industry for diesel service and technology is about average. Positions are increasing at a rate of five percent across the U.S. This is faster growth than what is being seen for auto mechanics, an industry that is actually shrinking a little. Truck mechanics, however, are in increasing demand because of the growth in trucking.
What is the Best School for a Diesel Mechanic?
The best school for becoming a diesel mechanic is the one that best meets your needs. There are a lot of options, so choose a program and school based on location, tuition costs and how long it will take to complete. You may also want to look at schools with programs that are accredited or recognized by ASE.
The Universal Technical Institute (UTI) is a school with diesel programs throughout the U.S. and that is certified by ASE’s National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation. UTI offers a few different options for diesel training, including areas of specialty and manufacturer-specific programs, like Cummins, Freightliner and Peterbilt.
The cost of a diesel mechanic program depends on the school and the specific program. Tuition costs range from a few thousand dollars to over ten thousand. There may also be extra costs for tools. Certificate and diploma programs cost less than two-year degree programs. Some schools offer scholarships to defray all or some of the costs of training.
How Do I Become a Successful Diesel Mechanic?
The way to become a successful diesel mechanic is to begin with a good training program and to work hard to learn, practice skills and get certified. While no education is strictly required, most employers prefer to hire mechanics who have completed an approved program. A two-year degree will give you the most opportunities for finding a job. And having certification after you graduate, or working toward it, will also make you a more desirable job candidate.
There are many companies and groups that hire qualified diesel mechanics: local governments, public transit systems, school districts and school bus manufacturers, trucking companies, truck manufacturers and any company that has its own fleet of trucks.
Landing a job as a diesel mechanic should not be difficult if you have the right training. Qualified workers are increasingly in demand everywhere, from cities to rural areas and in all states.