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Small Engine Mechanics and Repair Technology/Technician


Insider Info

What to Expect

Students of small engine mechanics gain a mix of classroom, lab and shop experiences. Students work on snowmobiles, motorcycles, chain saws, outdoor power equipment and more.

Most programs teach you to diagnose and repair problems. To do this, you need to understand two- and four-cycle engines and basic electricity. Other courses cover fuel and carburetor systems, transmissions, and power train systems. Some programs also cover computers on the job and effective workplace communication.

Many students work in a related field while taking the program. That way, students can customize the training to meet their employer's needs.

Since she got her first bicycle, Laryssa Black has been fascinated by machines that move.

"Even though all I wanted to do was jump on my new prize, I felt I had to examine every aspect of this confusing concept to me at the time -- how a bicycle moves by peddling, and stops by applying the brakes." Her curiosity eventually led her to a college motorcycles and powersports program. It's a 32-week program.

"I pretty much knew nothing about engines: how they worked, how gasoline made vehicles move," says Black. "Every day in this course I learn something new that makes all these mechanical issues understandable."

As a woman in the program, Black has faced some struggles. Although the numbers of women in skilled trades is increasing, they are still a minority. Sometimes she feels that she's not taken seriously. However, this only motivates her to work harder to impress her professors and peers.

"The gender of a person doesn't distinguish who's going to be naturally better at any trade," says Black. "I've also heard from a couple mechanics that women tend to be gentler. I appreciate customer's vehicles (motorcycles, snowmobiles, lawn mowers, etc.) and treat them as my own. If you care about what you're working on, people will notice."

Black belongs to a group of women in skilled trades at her college. She has found a role model in the group. She values having someone to talk to who understands her situation. "It is amazing how one person can have such an impact on one's life."

David Graves has been riding motorcycles most of his life. He wanted to learn more about how they work. So he studies engine technology at Cedar Valley College in Lancaster, Texas. The program requires 27 credit hours.

Students can apply what they've learned right away, says Graves. His program offers short lectures, and then students get hands-on training.

Graves says homework is light. However, there are some tests and occasional readings.

Students typically receive a tool list before classes begin. Graves had most of the tools already, and he borrows the rest from the school. This helped him keep costs down.

Black spent about $300 on textbooks, steel toed boots and safety goggles for her program. She recommends taking good care of your equipment so it lasts a long time.

How to Prepare

High school math helps to prepare students for small engine mechanics, says Graves. It also helped that Graves was into motorcycles. "It helps to be able to work on your own stuff."

Black recommends taking high school chemistry and physics. Memorizing the chemical symbols helps because they are used for battery acids and gas mixtures. Any technology courses with drills and automotive courses will help you become familiar with the tools.

"Taking these courses in high school, I can confidently say, reduced the course load of the basics I had to learn at the beginning of the year," says Black.


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