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Diesel Mechanic Career Guide

Do you love solving problems and fixing things? Do you love cars and trucks even more? Then we think you’ll thrive in a career as a diesel mechanic!

A diesel mechanic is s a mechanic who has chosen to specialize in working on vehicles with diesel engines. To become a diesel mechanic, it is advantageous, but not a necessity, to have completed postsecondary education. Diesel mechanics will receive on-the-job training, with those who haven’t completed postsecondary education having a longer training period.

The structure of the U.S. economy does not solely depend on Wall Street; it is also critically dependent upon the supply chain process of transporting products throughout the country using heavy-duty diesel trucks. Diesel mechanics keep those semis and buses on the road, every day of the year, and that keeps our country’s infrastructure stable and secure.

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Diesel Mechanic Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Overview

What a diesel mechanic actually does

A diesel mechanic is a mechanic who has chosen to specialize in working on vehicles with diesel engines. Such vehicles include big rigs, tractor trailer trucks, and buses. A diesel mechanic must have a detailed understanding of how engines, transmissions, and other parts work on vehicles powered by diesel engines. Diesel mechanics typically work for trucking or bus companies, or for automotive repair shops specializing in vehicles with diesel engines. Regardless of where they work, their typical duties and responsibilities include:

  • Running diagnostic tests on vehicles that have diesel engines
  • Analyzing the results from the diagnostic test
  • Checking the vehicle lighting systems
  • Test driving the vehicles to gauge their performance and safety
  • Replacing vehicle engines, steering mechanisms, transmissions and braking systems
  • Performing maintenance on service trucks (or any other vehicle with a diesel engine)
  • Maintaining detailed records of any serviced vehicles (including what work was undertook)
  • Maintaining a parts inventory
  • Advising customers on correct care for their diesel engine
  • Adhering to an inspection procedure checklist and guidelines

Why they are needed

Like any other machinery, diesel vehicles need to be correctly maintained and taken care of. Whether it be to change fluids, tires or breaks. Or to use diagnostic tests to find find faults with engines, steering, transmissions or lighting systems. Diesel mechanics have the unique skills to address these problems The economy relies heavily on the transportation of goods across the world. Therefore, diesel mechanics are needed to ensure that this trade can happen, by keeping vehicles well maintained and repairing when necessary.

Pros and cons of a career as a diesel mechanic

Pros:

  • Becoming a diesel mechanic is relatively easy career to enter, making it accessible to most people
  • There are lots of opportunities within the industry. For example, diesel mechanics can work for themselves or they can work in garages of various sizes
  • For as long as we continue to use diesel vehicles (e.g., buses or trucks), there will always be a demand for diesel mechanics
  • Like many mechanical jobs, working in a repair shop/garage offers a friendly and cohesive working environment

Cons:

  • It can be a hazardous career, as diesel mechanics will work with large tools that produce heat and sparks. They may also have to lift heavy objects and work with flammable material
  • Diesel mechanics may have to work in a noisy or hot environments, which can be unpleasant at times. However, they will wear safety and protective clothing
  • Diesel mechanics may have to work long hours when they have an emergency or the client has a tight deadline
  • There can be fierce competition for diesel mechanic jobs (top tip: to reduce competition, achieve some form of relevant postsecondary education!)

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of diesel mechanics is projected to grow 3% from 2019 to 2029. This increase in employment is expected because as more freight is shipped across the world, additional diesel-powered trucks will be needed to carry this freight. Employment is also expected to increase as diesel cars and light trucks are becoming more popular, and therefore more diesel mechanics will be needed to repair these.

Career paths

To become a diesel mechanic, you will need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. High school or postsecondary courses in automotive repair, electronics and mathematics provide a strong educational background and excellent job opportunities for diesel mechanics.

Employers are increasingly preferring to hire mechanics with postsecondary education in diesel engine repair, which can be completed at a community college or vocational school. Mechanics without postsecondary education will require more supervision and on-the-job training. This on-the-job training includes learning routine maintenance and repair tasks to begin with. Once they show more confidence, they move on to more complicated subjects, such as vehicle diagnostics. However, this process can take 3 to 4 year and mechanics without postsecondary education will therefore face stronger competition because training is expensive and time-consuming.

After completing all relevant training, diesel mechanics may want to consider getting certified. Although not essential, certification demonstrates competence and experience. Certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is the standard credential for diesel mechanics. Diesel mechanics may choose to be certified in specific repair areas, such as drivetrains, electronic systems, and preventative maintenance and inspection. To earn certification, mechanics must have 2 years of work experience and pass one or more ASE exams. To remain certified, diesel mechanics must pass a recertification exam every 5 years.

Example Job Titles for Diesel Mechanic

Below is a list of common job titles in the Diesel Mechanic field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for diesel mechanics was $48,500 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,990, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $74,090.

The highest paying industry was the local government, which had a median annual salary of $57940. Next was wholesale trade, which had a median annual salary of $49,940. Finally, the automotive repair and maintenance had an median annual salary of $46,320 and truck transportation had a median salary of $44,970.

Autonomy and Flexibility

Like most vocational trades, the level of autonomy and flexibility for diesel mechanic will vary depending on the amount of experience and education they have. A diesel mechanic starting out their career with postsecondary education is likely to have more control over their work than a diesel mechanic starting out with no postsecondary education. Similarly, a diesel mechanic with over 10 years experience in the industry will have far more autonomy and flexibility than mechanics who are just starting out. Overall, mechanical careers are focused on self-directed and independent work, so diesel mechanics should have good autonomy and flexibility.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be an diesel mechanic, based on average annual salary and number of jobs available are:

  1. Kansas, where the average annual salary is $50,255
  2. Arizona, where the average annual salary is $51,068
  3. Wyoming, where the average annual salary is $49,998
  4. Idaho, where the average annual salary is $53,007
  5. Alaska, where the average annual salary is $51,435

The worst states, according to Zippia, are Massachusetts, Maryland, Hawaii, Missouri and the District of Columbia.

Work environment

The largest employers of diesel mechanics in the United States was the truck transportation industry, which employed 20% of all diesel mechanics. The wholesale trade industry employed 14%, automotive repair and maintenance employed 9%, the local government employed 9% and 4% of diesel mechanics in the U.S., are self-employed.

Some diesel mechanics will run their own shops and garages.. However, most diesel mechanics will work for employers. Often, diesel mechanics will have to stand or kneel for long periods of time. They will work in well-ventilated and well-lit repair shops, but these shops can be noisy. Occasionally, they will have to travel to repair vehicles on the roadside or at worksites.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Diesel Mechanic careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Diesel Mechanic career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Diesel Mechanic.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

There has been no scientific exploration into exactly what personality types will make a successful diesel mechanic. However, the Myers Briggs personality type of ISTP, or otherwise known as ‘the craftsperson’, is likely to be a successful diesel mechanic. These types of people are able to tackle problems within their immediate environment (e.g., faulty breaks, broken lighting systems), with an innate mechanical ability. ISTPs are typically very attentive to detail, independent and adaptable which are key skills for a diesel mechanic.

Accomplishment and mastery

Diesel mechanics have lots of skills to learn throughout their training, so there is high skill accomplishment and mastery. Furthermore, diesel mechanics need to resit their certification exams every five years, which means they must keep on top of their learning and skills – this further increases accomplishment and mastery.

Meaning and contribution

Diesel mechanics with the correct education and experience can do meaningful work that greatly contributes to the lives of others. Without diesel mechanics, worldwide transportation of the good we use in everyday life would not be possible, as there would be no one to repair and maintain the vehicles.

Life fit

Diesel mechanics will usually work routine business hours, meaning that it is a career that offers an excellent life fit. However, some may have to work evenings, weekends and/or overtime depending on where they work or who they work for.

Who will thrive in this career?

One of the most important things a diesel mechanic can be is physically fit. This is because they will need to stand or kneel for long periods of time and may have to lift heavy equipment. Similarly, you will thrive as a diesel mechanic if you have excellent hand-eye coordination, as this will allow you to use the complexed tools with greater ease.

Those who can communicate will with others will thrive as diesel mechanics. This is because they will be able to communicate with other people who work in the garage (e.g., reception staff, other mechanics or technicians) and they can provide excellent customer service. Finally, the ability to pay attention to detail is paramount. This is because even the smallest problems need to be diagnosed and fixed, so a careful eye is needed to spot these issues.

Who will struggle in this career?

Similarly as to what is mentioned above, you are likely to struggle with working as a diesel mechanic if you are physically unfit, as you will not be able to keep up with the demands of the job. Similarly, if you prefer more ‘modest’ working conditions (e.g., sitting down in an air conditioned office), then you may struggle with the working conditions of repair shops of garages. Finally, a lack of attention to detail means you will struggle as a diesel mechanic, as you need to be able to spot and diagnose even the smallest of problems. If you cannot do this, it is very unlikely that you will make a successful mechanic!

Requirements

Skills and talents

As well as physical strength, fitness and stamina, to become an diesel mechanic, you will need skills and talents such as:

  • Attention to detail, as running diagnostic tests and spotting issues requires someone who can notice even the smallest imperfections
  • Customer-service skills, as diesel mechanics will have work closely with paying customers. They must leave a lasting impression, be courteous and be able to effectively communicate problems and solutions
  • Dexterity, as diesel mechanics will need to use a variety of tools which requires a steady hand and good hand-eye coordination
  • Troubleshooting skills,  as diesel mechanics must use diagnostic equipment on engine systems and components in order to identify and fix problems in mechanical and electronic systems
  • Critical thinking skills, as diesel mechanics must be able to diagnose problems in vehicles and determine necessary repair strategies

Education

To become a diesel mechanic, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent. High school or postsecondary courses in automotive repair, electronics and mathematics provide a strong educational background and excellent job opportunities for diesel mechanics.

Employers are increasingly preferring to hire mechanics with postsecondary education in diesel engine repair, which can be completed at a community college or vocational school. Mechanics without postsecondary education will require more supervision and on-the-job training. This on-the-job training includes learning routine maintenance and repair tasks to begin with. Once they show more confidence, they move on to more complicated subjects, such as vehicle diagnostics. However, this process can take 3 to 4 year and mechanics without postsecondary education will therefore face stronger competition because training is expensive and time-consuming.

Certifications

After completing all relevant training, diesel mechanics may want to consider getting certified. Although not essential, certification demonstrates competence and experience. Certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is the standard credential for diesel mechanics. Diesel mechanics may choose to be certified in specific repair areas, such as drivetrains, electronic systems, and preventative maintenance and inspection. To earn certification, mechanics must have 2 years of work experience and pass one or more ASE exams. To remain certified, diesel mechanics must pass a recertification exam every 5 years.

Many diesel technicians are required to have a commercial driver’s license so that they may test-drive buses and large trucks.

How to Become

Summary

A career as a diesel mechanic is one that is suitable for those who are looking for an accessible career that offers many progression opportunities and a cohesive working environment.

Immediate action

Like all trades work, having experience in the field is helpful. So, we recommend you contact local garages and repair shops to see if you can help out. It is also advisable to check out what courses you local schools and colleges offer.

Education and learning

To become a diesel mechanic, it is advantageous to have postsecondary education, although it is not a necessity. Diesel mechanics will receive on-the-job training, with those who haven’t completed postsecondary education having a longer training period.

Skill development

Diesel mechanics will receive on the job training, which teaches them all the skills they need. It is also advisable to diesel mechanics become certified. Mechanics will need to resit exams every 5 years to maintain their license, which means that their skills are always developing.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Diesel Mechanic careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

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