How To Become A Diesel Mechanic - Lincoln Tech
Diesel power is used in a wide variety of applications and industries. On the transportation side, our nation is crisscrossed daily by millions of diesel-powered 18-wheelers delivering needed products to retailers and consumers. The next time you see a container truck on the highway, look at the front edge of the container roof or at the top. There you might see a refrigeration unit mounted on the container, which in most cases is also powered independently by a small diesel engine.
Those same refrigerated containers being hauled by a truck on the highway are then often loaded onto trains for specialized continental routing, or onto ships for transoceanic voyages, where exposure to the elements and salt corrosion are guaranteed. This heavy duty wear and tear requires constant and careful maintenance by the expertise of a diesel mechanic. And these giant cargo ships, which this global industry relies on, are all powered by diesel engines. The ports where these dock use massive cranes, also diesel powered, to load and unload these ships. Then diesel trucks haul away the newly arrived goods. This cycle repeats itself on almost every coastline worldwide, every day of the year emphasizing the need for skilled diesel mechanics.
Off the streets and waterways, one continues to find diesel engines hard at work. The typical construction site is where you would see a diesel-powered bulldozer, crane or backhoe tackling big jobs. The larger the construction project, the bigger the variety of motorized heavy-duty equipment will be present, and working hard under arduous conditions. Almost all of them will be diesel powered.
Critical and complex infrastructure and structures such as hospitals, airports and public works projects require diesel-powered backup electricity to be available at a moment’s notice -- and it must be 100% reliable. Mission-critical buildings simply cannot operate without that safety net. The Covid-19 pandemic showed us that the diesel mechanic is not just a valuable non-outsourceable resource with critical skills, but that diesel mechanics are themselves considered essential personnel.
During the pandemic, refrigerated diesel trucks carried supplies like vaccines across the nation, and first-responder vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks ran nonstop. The aforementioned hospitals relied on crucial diesel-powered back-up generators There are literally millions of diesels engines in use at any point in time, and the need just continues to grow. This demand has exposed a large shortcoming in our economy: there are not nearly enough skilled diesel mechanics being trained to meet the growing maintenance and repair needs of the diesel industry.
There Is a Shortage of Diesel Mechanics Nationwide
In our recent article entitled “The National Skills Gap Is a Crisis of America’s Own Creation”, we looked at eight in-demand skilled occupations, and the job growth projected for these positions. Simply stated, the growing demand for skilled labor is not being met, as a significant portion of this gap is due to older technicians retiring and fewer new technicians taking their place. This shortage of skilled workers directly threatens national economic growth.
There are two very important takeaways from this article: the first being that focused training in specific skills can help solve the national skills gap, and provide steady, meaningful, and rewarding careers to those who earn it; and the second is that this type of training is simply not available at most four-year colleges. This is where technical schools become indispensable.
An accredited trade school is a great place to learn how to become a diesel mechanic. In 13 to 15 months-time, a trade school student can learn the required theory and then apply their knowledge in a hands-on fully-equipped diesel mechanic school, and do so under the guidance of experienced ASE-certified diesel instructors. Diesel mechanic graduates could then embark on their new careers with a valuable skill, and without the high-level of student debt that many 4-year college graduates are burdened with.
The Skills Needed to Become a Diesel Mechanic
The diesel mechanic trade combines mechanical and electrical knowledge, hands-on know-how, and sound reasoning skills. Individuals who can problem solve and have mechanical and electrical aptitude can become excellent diesel mechanics. The best trade schools that offer this training must cover these key areas of the knowledge base:
- The Diesel Power Cycle & Drivetrain – The diesel mechanic student must develop the knowledge and skills necessary to service the drive trains found on diesel powered truck tractors. Understanding the diesel power cycle, and how that power is transferred through a clutch and manual transmission or through an automatic transmission to the final drive is a must. A diesel mechanic must learn how to diagnose any issues within the drivetrain, and be able to dismantle and repair any component in the system, from the diesel engine out to and including the drive wheels.
- Diesel Engine Control Diagnostics - Electronic engine control systems are at the heart of today’s diesel-powered machines. Computer systems and software programs control modern fuel injection systems, ignition systems, diagnostic checks, and a lot more. Diesel mechanics need to have a solid grasp of the essentials of electronic systems, so they can get right to work on these complex on-board computer networks when they start their careers.
- Air & Hydraulic Braking Systems – Stopping a large truck safely requires heavy-duty braking systems. Students will want to understand the theory and operation of air and hydraulic brake systems as they apply to medium heavy and duty transport vehicles. These systems are large and complex, and learning how to diagnose and repair them correctly is a significant skill.
- Vehicle Electrical Systems (Incl. AC & Accessories) – Diesel students must learn practical theory in basic and solid state circuitry, including body electrical systems, operation and service of automotive storage batteries, automobile charging systems, starting systems, and lighting systems. Students will evaluate components using both conventional and electronic diagnostic equipment. The successful student will develop competencies in diagnosing and repairing these systems.
- Welding Skills - Diesel mechanics are often called on to perform welding procedures on parts of a vehicle’s frame or body. A great Diesel Technology training program should include hands-on training to become competent in this skill.
Diesel Mechanics Require Vital Skills
Serious diesel students will want to pursue a program that teaches the valuable training described above. For those who want to go a step further, there are programs available that teach these skills, plus additional training in Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) alternative fuel systems. Alternative fuels know-how will only continue to increase in importance as we push for a more environmentally-friendly future.
Technicians who train on these programs may find themselves entering the workforce ahead of the curve. Finding the right diesel mechanic training is a vital step in launching a successful career. Learn more about Diesel and Truck Technology, and Diesel and Truck Service with Alternative Fuels Technology programs at LinconTech.edu.