Recreational vehicle service technicians inspect, service, and repair motorized power equipment. They generally work in well-ventilated and noisy repair shops. They sometimes make onsite repair calls, which may require working in poor weather conditions. Although most work full time during regular business hours, seasonal work hours often fluctuate. Workers are often busiest during the spring and summer, when use of the vehicles is the highest.
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Recreational vehicle service technicians typically do the following:
Recreational vehicle service technicians regularly work on power equipment ranging from snowmobiles to chainsaws. When equipment breaks down, mechanics use many strategies to diagnose the source and the extent of the problem. Small engine mechanics determine mechanical, electrical, and fuel problems and make necessary repairs.
Recreational vehicle service technicians’ tasks vary in complexity and difficulty. Many jobs, such as maintenance inspections and repairs, involve minor adjustments or the replacement of a single part. Others, including piston calibration and spark plug replacement, may require taking an engine apart completely. Some highly skilled mechanics use computerized equipment for tasks, such as customizing and tuning racing motorcycles and motorboats. Recreational vehicle service technicians use a variety of hand tools, including screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers, for many common tasks. Some mechanics also may regularly use compression gauges, ammeters, and voltmeters to test engine performance. For more complicated procedures, they commonly use pneumatic power tools, computerized engine analyzers, and other diagnostic equipment. Although employers usually provide the more expensive tools and testing equipment, mechanics are often expected to buy their own handtools. Some mechanics have thousands of dollars invested in their tool collections.
A growing number of recreational vehicle service technicians complete formal postsecondary programs in small engine repair. Employers prefer to hire these workers because they usually require significantly less on-the-job training. Because of the limited number of postsecondary programs, however, employers often have difficulty finding qualified workers.
As a result, many recreational vehicle service technicians begin work with a high school degree and learn on the job. Generally, employers look for candidates who have completed courses in small engine repair, automobile mechanics, and science. Some employers may hire applicants with less education if they have adequate reading, writing, and math skills.
Trainees work closely with experienced recreational vehicle service technicians while learning basic tasks, such as replacing spark plugs or disassembling engine components. As they gain experience, trainees move on to more difficult tasks, such as advanced computerized diagnosis and engine overhauls. Achieving competency may take from several months to three years, depending on a mechanic’s specialization and ability.
Because of the increased complexity of boat and motorcycle engines, motorcycle and marine equipment mechanics often need more on-the-job training than outdoor power equipment mechanics.
Employers frequently send mechanics to training courses run by motorcycle, motorboat, and outdoor power equipment manufacturers and dealers. Courses may last up to two weeks, teaching mechanics the most up-to-date technology and techniques. Often, these courses are a prerequisite for warranty and manufacturer-specific work.
Recreational vehicle service technicians generally work in well-ventilated but noisy repair shops. They sometimes make onsite repair calls, which may require working in poor weather conditions. When repairing onboard engines, motorboat mechanics may work in cramped and uncomfortable positions.
The median annual wage of recreational vehicle service technicians was $31,790 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $20,310, and the top 10% earned more than $49,680.