A career as a small engine mechanic can be a dependable way to earn a living. The majority of small engine mechanics specialize in a specific type of engine. Motorcycle and boat motor repair are popular choices, and the specialist should be able to fix the occasional lawn mower, chainsaw, or garden tractor as well. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of small engine mechanic jobs to grow at the average rate of 7 percent through 2018. The average pay rate for a small engine mechanic was around $15 per hour as of May 2008.
Get your high school diploma or GED. While some repair shops do not require this, the majority do require at least a high school education.
Decide if you would like to specialize in a type of small engine repair--motorcycles, marine engines, outdoor power equipment or other types of small engine. This will help to determine the next steps to take toward this type of career.
Enroll in a small engine repair program. While schooling is not required by law, the majority of shops do require you to have training. Generalized small engine mechanic programs are available, but these tend to be more rare than specialized programs in marine engine repair and motorcycle repair. Take advantage of any opportunities to get additional education, training and hands-on experience in diagnosing and fixing small engine problems.
Apply to a small engine repair shop. You may also find employment in some vehicle repair shops as a small engine specialist. The application process may include some hands-on tests of your ability, so be prepared to show what you know. You may be asked to take apart an engine or diagnose a problem before you are hired.
Prepare for and take more training. A repair shop may send you to a specialized one- to two-week course to increase your proficiency on a particular model of engine. This is very common in brand-oriented shops such as Harley-Davidson repair shops. Additional training and education will make you a better mechanic and will prepare you for career advancement.