A small engine mechanic may work on a wide variety of equipment, including boats, lawn tractors, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, and lawnmowers. They also service and repair smaller outdoor items, such as portable generators and chainsaws. While individuals in this field generally specialize in working on one category of small engines, they tend to have knowledge of other similar types of equipment.
The work environment of a small engine mechanic depends on their specialty. Boats usually need to be serviced on location, so the mechanic must be able to work on them at a dock in any type of weather condition. The engines of boats can also be difficult to access, making it necessary to maneuver one's body in uncomfortable and awkward positions. Most other types of small engines can be brought into a service shop for repair or maintenance, though. The disadvantage of indoor work is that it can be very loud.
The number of hours that a small engine mechanic works per week may vary depending upon location, climate, and the demand for their skills. Because a lot of the equipment that a small engine mechanic repairs is used outside, business tends to slow down when it's cold. Some mechanics are able to service snowblowers and snowmobiles in the winter, when most people aren't using their motorcycles or lawnmowers. The fact that most small engines are only used seasonally and neglected for much of the year means that they're more likely to break down than other types of engines. Mechanics who work with these items spend a lot of time doing routine maintenance like replacing spark plugs and other parts.
When a piece of equipment comes into a shop, the small engine mechanic may need to remove the engine and bolt it to a repair stand. In a large shop, the engine is hooked up to a computerized diagnostic tool. The computer analyzes the equipment's performance and provides a report, which is compared to standard measurements to determine what needs to be fixed. The necessary repair could be minor, such as replacing or adjusting a single part, or it could involve a complete engine overhaul.
A small engine mechanic may work with many other types of tools after the initial diagnosis of a problem. Service manuals are used to get specific information about how to service equipment, because it's impossible to know every detail about a category of engines. The usual power and hand tools are obviously necessary, including drills, pliers, and wrenches. Voltmeters, engine analyzers, and compression gages are a few of the slightly more complex tools that are used on a regular basis. When it's believed that the problem is solved, the mechanic puts everything back together and tests the equipment to make sure.
Another common duty of a small engine mechanic is customer service. They may get explanations from customers of what they think is wrong with the equipment, and the mechanic might need to educate people about how to avoid future problems. The job may involve selling parts to the public. In some work environments there is no contact with clients at all.
It is very common for a small engine mechanic to get continuing education, as technology is constantly changing. Many employers require that their mechanics attend training seminars, which may last a few days or a few weeks. This sometimes means traveling away from home and staying in a hotel for the duration of the classes. The employer typically pays all costs associated with additional training.