What Is a Small-Engine Mechanic?

Feb 17, 2021 ·
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Do you love working with your hands? Do smaller engines and equipment fascinate you? If so, and you enjoy diagnosing problems, using tools, and fixing equipment so it runs as it was designed to, a career as a small-engine mechanic may be for you.

What Is a Small-Engine Mechanic?

A small-engine mechanic works to diagnose and repair small two- and four-stroke gasoline engines. Small gasoline engines supply power to countless products across various industries. However, small-engine mechanics generally fall into one of two categories:

Small Engines in Powersports

  • Snowmobiles
  • Small watercraft / marine outboard
  • Go-karts
  • Minibikes
  • Dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles

Small Engines in Landscaping Equipment

  • Mowers (powered push and ride-on)
  • Chainsaws
  • Blowers
  • Weed trimmers / edgers
  • Wood chippers

Small gasoline engines also power small generators and water/utility/sump pumps. When you start to look, it’s amazing how many small engines are in use today!

Where Does a Small-Engine Mechanic Work?

With such widespread use, the need for a mechanic to service and repair this equipment is inevitable. A small-engine mechanic may work anywhere from a powersports dealership or an equipment repair shop, to a municipality where they troubleshoot, service, maintain and repair small gasoline engines.

Small-engine mechanics often travel to a customer’s location to complete their work. For example, the equipment used in lawn care and landscaping sees very hard use, and when it breaks down the company owner loses money by the hour. It isn’t uncommon for small-engine mechanics that specialize in lawn equipment to receive calls from business owners when they need help quickly!

In situations like this, a repair shop may dispatch a small-engine mechanic to the customer’s location to complete the work as quickly as possible.

Small-Business Owner

Small-engine mechanic and small-business owner go hand-in-hand. If you’re looking for an opportunity to combine an entrepreneurial spirit with your love for hands-on work, a small-engine repair business could be a good fit.

Opening a small-engine repair shop does not have the excessive initial startup costs that many other repair shops have, such as lifts, tire machines, brakes lathes, etc. In fact, many small-engine mechanics start their business out of their personal garages!

Skills and Knowledge Needed

A successful small-engine mechanic will have advanced knowledge of:

  • Two- and four-stroke engine operation
  • Fuel systems
  • Ignition systems
  • Testing and diagnostic work
  • Drivetrain components (lawn tractors)

Small-engine mechanics may attend a formal training program, or they may gain experience working under an existing mechanic. Mechanical and diagnostic skills develop over time with experience; however an educational program at a small-engine mechanic school can give a small-engine mechanic a solid foundation to build upon.

Common Tasks of a Small-Engine Mechanic

Since small-engine mechanics work on a variety of equipment and products, their day-to-day tasks are rarely the same. From putting a new top end on a two-stroke chainsaw to cleaning a carburetor on a riding mower, small-engine mechanics mainly work on engines and their components. Common tasks include:

Small-engine mechanics can repair everything from motorcycles to lawnmowers.

  • Adjusting valves
  • Rebuilding carburetors
  • Tune up / oil change maintenance
  • Diagnosing no-start / no-run conditions
  • Cleaning / repairing fuel systems

Tool List for a Small-Engine Mechanic

Whether employed at a shop or self-employed, a small-engine mechanic needs basic hand tools. Wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, etc., are all required for success, but what else? Here is a list of common tools of the trade:

  • Compressor
  • Chain sharpener
  • Battery charger / jump starter / load tester
  • Spark tester
  • Compression tester
  • Leakdown tester
  • Valve spring compressor
  • Endoscope
  • Impact gun / wrench
  • Broken bolt extractor
  • Pullers / remover tools
  • Multimeter
  • Carburetor cleaning equipment
  • Torque wrench

Salary Opportunities

Some small-engine mechanics become motorcycle mechanics or technicians. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median wage for motorcycle mechanics was $38,010 in May 2020.30 That means half of motorcycle mechanics earned more and half earned less. Keep in mind that salary depends on several factors, including experience, employer, demand and cost of living in the area.

How MMI Training Can Help You Become a Small-Engine Mechanic

As stated earlier, formal training isn’t required to pursue a career as a small-engine mechanic. But for those who know exactly what they want to do with their career, an instructor-led, hands-on course can be very valuable.

Some of the coursework offered at Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI) won’t apply to a small-engine mechanic, but a lot of it will. Two- and four-stroke engine operation, fuel systems, diagnostic work, etc., will all prove to be very valuable after graduation. There are no set-in-stone career paths for MMI graduates; many graduate and go on to exciting and varied careers after completion of the program.1

Train for a Career in Less Than a Year

In MMI’s 42-week Motorcycle Technician Training program, you’ll learn the foundations of motorcycle, ATV, side-by-side and personal watercraft technology to prepare for a career as a motorcycle technician.7 To learn more, visit our program page and request information to talk with an admissions representative today.

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