Should I become a Diesel Mechanic

I am currently a Professional Computer Geek (PCG). I am self taught with no college education (but I still earn more than my spouse, who has 2 masters degrees in education and counseling).

I have run 2 cars on biodiesel and one on Straight Veg Oil (SVO), but I didn’t do the conversion on the SVO car ( I did this not for $$$ savings but to break our dependence on foreign oil and so kids don’t die and get their legs blown off far from home.

I am >45 years old, tired of what I do for a living and interested in switching careers. I am thinking of buying used diesels, fixing them up, adding SVO capability and selling them with SVO collection ‘kits’.

There is a two year evening course to become a diesel mechanic in a local trade school, but it stresses tractor trailers, boats and industrial engines. This is mostly the same with a school called UTI that is an hour away.

I recently read John Dagel’s book Diesel Engine and Fuel System Repair and I can say ‘I got it’, that is, I think I can do this. Should I spend the cash on the traditional courses, should I

1) Buy a car to work on and just give it a shot.

2) Hire a diesel mechanic to ‘train’ me.

3) Stick with being a PCG.

(If #2, any recommendations/volunteers near zip code 08618?)

None of the above.

  1. Pay to go to a mechanics school
  2. Get a job working in a diesel shop

it really doesn’t matter how you learn, but you do have to be taught the ins and outs of diesel repair.

you mention two schools in your post, then they aren’t an option (at least until JEM adds them to your list?)

since you are self taught, you should realize that it took you several years, and several books to become proficient in computers. the same would apply to you taking the same route at diesel repair, it would take you several years to gain the requisite experience to go out on your own (and be successful and profitable)

the schools you mention teach diesel engine repair. just because it is on a boat, or a tractor is irrelevant. the science is pretty near universal to all diesels.

Consider Harley motorcycle mechanic school. There is one in FL and another in AZ. Harley is still selling plenty of bikes and my guess is that you will have a job waiting for you.

That’s not fair…comparing yourself to someone in education…you’ll always make more money…regards, go for it. We would have fewer jobs overseas if education was a right and not a privy that you had to “hire” someone to teach you. As a retired math teacher I respect and envy your choices…you’ll do fine, regardless. It’s just too bad our society doesn’t realize how valuable you are and provide you with easier, PAYING choices.

PS…start at the top with a growing company that will train and pay you to work with diesels… Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Computer geek/ diesel mechanic. You’re one vluable dude !

thanks all…
I have tried to get Diesel Mechanics that sell on eBay to allow me in the garage to ‘help’ w/ a tuneup on a car I would buy, which I would pay for, but insurance seems to be a stopping point. I will try the local Mercedes dealership this week.
As far as educator’s compensation vs Computer Geek’s wages, getting hired w/o a college degree is getting harder and harder these days. I do agree that folks in public service and social support jobs are under paid. I always told my Honey Bunny to go into banking… she would not listen.

Should you decide to learn on your own, stop by the local community college that offers automotive courses. Ask the department chair for recommendations on text books…be sure to get the publishers names and ISBN numbers. With that information any bookstore can order the books for you.

But here’s another business idea:
a friend placed a cheap add in the local newspaper offering to pick up old used motorized lawn equipment for free. He’d then take the stuff home, repair it, and resell it. He got tons of calls, so many he had to pull the add out of the paper. He even got an old used but still running bulldover!

I vote for community college. There community colleges that train diesel mechanics without gouging students like private schools will.

The bigger question is do you have a mechanical knack for things? Service your own cars, repair stuff around the house, etc.
Two years in a trade school does not a mechanic make and it’s not likely any dealership is going to allow you to tinker around in the shop. A shop would be fooish to even consider this due to liability, etc.

Are you prepared to make a substantial investment in tools? All basic and some specialized tools must be paid for by you and you can probably figure around 10 grand to get the ball rolling.

I would also not put much faith into anything UTI says. I was channel surfing one weekend through some auto shows and caught the last 10 minutes of a UTI infomercial. Quite a bit of bunk being espoused there and I have had some personal experience with one of the specific bunks being espoused.

i don’t think this is a problem concerning your perceived worth, value or ability.

the fact that you want to return to an entry level job, with little (or no) experience. this is TOUGH at your age. (which may be exactly my age!!!)

BUT, you have to put in your “time” as an apprentice to learn and show proficiency to get either promoted, or independent. can your finances afford this pay reduction? i know mine can’t!

Get a car and tinker with it. You may soon tire of it. I just don’t see the market for what you are talking about but go ahead and convert a car or two and try to sell it. Those Mercedes guys are highly trained and don’t think they’re going to let you near a $70K Mercedes just for kicks.

Dude, I was an IT guy back in the early 90’s (self taught). I have retrained myself to do a number of different things including diesel mechanics. Todays engines are computer controlled and are linked to other processors on the vehicle. So these these fields are not as divorced as you might think. If you can learn computers you can easily master engines and sub-systems. The SVO thing is very cool. I will have to research that some more. Go for it. Dont let these guys get you down. Rock on !

Some of these guys make a good point regarding the physical aspect of this job. It is certainly not for the frail. To the guy who’s concerned about the dirt, It washs right off at the end of the day. Perhaps grease is harder to remove from soft hands. There’s no shame in breaking a sweat and getting your hands dirty to make a living. There is a certain satisfaction in turning a potential junker into a machine that runs like a champ.

Here is another consideration. Do you mind getting your clothes/uniform, hands and face dirty/greasy every day with black underneath your fingernails to excavate before you show up in public? Get my drift? It’s ok for me about once per month. For a living? No thank you.

You’ll a difficult time making it, either on your own or working for someone else, without certification. That means at least some formal training. Others have raised some very good points. For example, I love working on my own cars and those of immediate family members. As a youth, I spent 9 years working at a gas station and also did oil changes, tires, and light repair work. However, I would never consider it as a full-time occupation at my age. One long stint under the hood reminds me for the next day or two that my back would never tolerate it. (That’s why I taught myself to be a semi-professional computer geek, in addition to my “real job” in human services.)

One thing you have to consider is the physical aspects of it. I hope you’re in good physical shape. It’s one thing to work on your own car every now and then…it’s something totally different working on cars 8-10 hours a day. If you haven’t done that kind of physical labor then you may be in for a shock. If you’re in your 20’s it’s a LOT easier to adjust. It becomes twice as hard when you’re in your 40’s.

Thanks again for all of the posts. Here are some of my replies…
I am fairly handy. I have done oil changes and tune ups on my cars in the past, I do household repairs and evern rebuilt a room in our house. I was once a glazier (sp?) aka glass/mirror mechanic.
While I cannot retire now, my wife and I are ready to take a hit to our modest (by USA standards) life style and could make it. One reason we chose not to have children was flexibility in our professional lives.
Dirt is easy to clean.
I already own hand tools, compressor and ramps, I buy (mostly) used tools and don’t have a problem w/ buying more.
Yup, my back hurts after a day of physical activity. But that is where a hot tub/spa comes into play (they are especially great in the morning to warm up and get limber). Also, I recently lost about 125 lbs. I feel better than I ever have. I think my body can take it.
Does anyone know if Tom and Ray read this stuff? I would love to get their opinions.
Again, thanks all. Be well, Jacob

Hey, GO FOR IT!!! Go to a school and learn about diesel engines. There you will find out if you like it or not.

I changed careers half way through my life, went from aircraft mechanic to electronics and learned how to fix computers. Did the later for 29 years and then just retired.

Go for it with no fear whatsoever!!

I don’t think Tom and Ray read these discussions. You should e-mail them directly at