Learn How To Become A Motorcycle Mechanic

Perhaps you’ve had a lifelong passion for motorcycles. You know them inside and out, with your friends often asking you for help when something goes wrong with their ride. Maybe you’re the person that people rely on for advice about buying a new one. You can take your expertise to the next level by learning how to become a motorcycle mechanic.

There are several approaches you can take. You can look for a job without any training. You can also go the certification route. Finally, you get a degree at a post-secondary institution. Each one has its pros and cons in terms of the investment in time and money.

What a Mechanic Does

A mechanic is like a detective. You get a bike that doesn’t run, or if it does, something is wrong. Your job might entail simple repairs and routine maintenance. It often involves testing your work and following up with the necessary paperwork. Some individuals specialize in one or several motorcycle manufacturers. Others stick with the vintage models and do restoration work on the classics.

The work is often seasonal, coinciding with the warmer months of the year. That is unless you live in California. There’s a good reason why the state tops the country in ownership with over 842,00 bikes. Then, you might have a full-time gig, year-round. Some shops keep their crew busy during the off-season with time-consuming projects like rebuilds.

You may work on a 2 or 3 wheel motorcycle. Your workload may also include scooters or dirt bikes, depending on the shop. You may also have to fix other components such as sidecars or trailers. It’s essential, therefore, to have an understanding of small engines in general as well as some basic physics.

Experience and Educational Requirements

You can typically get a position with only a high school diploma and experience working on motorcycles. Many start by doing the so-called grunt work of changing oil or spark plugs. Everyone has to begin somewhere. You may get some on-the-job training to supplement what you’ve already learned about bikes. You may also get employment as an apprentice.

You can also opt to pursue training from a post-secondary institution such as a community college or technical school. These programs cover all aspects of small engine repair to give you a rounded education.

It’s an excellent option if you want to follow this career path. It’ll give you an edge over someone who hasn’t had any previous training. Like automobiles and other vehicles, the technology in motorcycles has advanced rapidly. Computer knowledge is essential with newer models and even the equipment you use for diagnostics.

Many manufacturers offer product-specific certification programs so that you can specialize. It’s also an outstanding way to stay on top of changing technology. You can learn about new models hitting the market to give you—and your shop—an edge when it comes to drumming up new business. Harley-Davidson and Honda Motor are the top dogs in the industry, making them a good place to start.

Another way you can improve your skill set is through certification from the Equipment & Engine Training Council. You can get advanced-level training on different types of motors and systems. These credentials aren’t mandatory, but they will show that you’re serious about how to become a motorcycle mechanic.

Many certification programs have specific requirements for maintaining your status. It may mean retesting after a particular time or taking additional courses to stay current.

Details of a Motorcycle Training Program

A typical training program will cover the basics of internal combustion first. It’ll explain the terminology applicable to mechanics in general, such as torque and horsepower. You’ll also learn the operation and differences between two- and four-stroke engines. You’ll get your hands dirty by disassembling and assembling motorcycles.

A complete certification program will also delve into other systems of a bike, including the electrical, ignition, and cooling components. The structure and design of motorcycles will give you additional information from which to draw when troubleshooting.

There are other perks for going this route. Students often get discounts at part shops that can make the venture worthwhile. Many schools have partnerships with the major motorcycle brands so that you can add to your credentials. You’ll also get an opportunity to work on used motorcycles from different manufacturers.

What you learn about bikes can also apply to other engines such as cars, boats, and ATVs. That can open up some additional career paths. These points make a strong case for choosing formal certification versus on-the-job training alone. Fortunately, the principles are similar to make the segue move into another industry easy.

Supplementing Your Training

While not essential, coursework related to your job is also helpful for troubleshooting and understanding the new technology. Engineering, physics, and electronics can give you a stronger knowledge base. Another option is to take it all the way with an associate degree. That will help your chances of employment if you’re pursuing work in more competitive markets which usually pay better too.

The advantage of this route is that you’ll have the opportunity to work with the latest advances. You’ll also get computer experience in a more relaxed setting. That’s better than trying to figure out a software program while a customer is anxious that his bike gets done.

Bear in mind that motorcycle mechanic certification programs often have admission requirements too just like any other field of study. You may need to have an apprenticeship before an institution accepts you. To be fair, schooling isn’t cheap. However, you may qualify to receive financial aid to help afford it. Unless your employer is paying, you’ll have to ante up for a non-degree certification program.

The proverbial elephant in the room is safety. Whether you pursue a certification program or get a degree, you’re also going to learn about the measures you need to take to keep you and others injury-free. You’ll know what protective gear you must have along with the training of how to use the equipment correctly.

Traits of the Successful Motorcycle Mechanic

You must have a keen mechanical sense to do well in this industry. A thorough knowledge of the entire workings of a motorcycle is imperative. The systems interact and can affect the performance of other components. It also takes excellent troubleshooting skills to identify problems to work quickly and efficiently.

The same advice applies to the tools that you use. Often, you’ll have to work with a wide range of items from voltmeters to wrenches. You must be dexterous and able to work in sometimes cramped or demanding conditions. Physical strength helps for removing a rusted bolt or retrieving parts for your next repair job.

Job Outlook

The $34 billion motorcycle industry has seen steady growth in recent years. It coincides with the uptick in ownership to 8 percent of households in 2018. With that growing demand, the employment prospects look promising with the potential to increase in the coming years. However, training is the key. You’re more likely to get a job and keep it if you have the knowledge and education.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average annual income in May 2018 was $36,790. The highest-paid mechanics get closer to $60,000. The top states for employment are California, Texas, and Florida, reinforcing the seasonal factor of this industry. However, you’ll get the highest wages if you look for work in Nevada, Missouri, and California.

Becoming a motorcycle mechanic is a smart way to make a living doing something that you love. Not everyone can say that about what they do. Making yourself marketable with training and education can make all the difference between applying for a position and getting it. It’ll also make you everyone’s best friend when it comes to keeping their rides in top shape.