High Performance Engine Technician Careers: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of being a high performance engine technician? Get real job duties, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a high performance engine technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a High Performance Engine Technician

High performance engine technicians perform maintenance and repair on high performance cars and trucks. Reading the pros and cons of being a high performance engine technician may help you decide if this is the right career for you.

Pros of Being a High Performance Engine Technician
Decent wage potential (Almost $40,000 average salary for automotive technicians as of May 2014)*
May participate in automotive manufacturer or dealer-sponsored training programs*
Advancement opportunities (may advance to higher paying or manager positions with training)*
May get to work on fancy cars for national races**

Cons of Being a High Performance Engine Technician
Certifications often required for employment*
Must lift heavy parts or tools*
High rate of injury or illness in this profession*
May be required to work unconventional hours*
Work may require standing or bending in uncomfortable positions*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **University of Northwestern Ohio

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

As a high performance engine technician, you would be the professional responsible for keeping vehicles running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Although high performance engine technicians may work on many types of cars, you'd typically devote your time to high performance vehicles, such as those used for racing. Like automotive service technicians, you'd perform basic care and maintenance, such as tune-ups, oil changes and tire rotations. Using computer diagnostic equipment, you would test the cars to ensure they're operating correctly and to help identify potential problems. As a technician, you would also provide work on high performance steering and suspension, drivelines, electrical and ignition systems and may perform custom engine building.

You may disassemble and reassemble engine parts and replace any broken or worn parts. You ought to be skillful in all areas of high performance engines, including high performance heads, motor sports fabrication, line boring and honing and engine balancing. In addition to providing engine work on the car, you would communicate your findings and recommendations to the customers. Having good communication skills is vital to this profession.

Job Prospects and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for automotive service technicians and mechanics was predicted to grow 9% between 2012 and 2022. Although considered an average job growth, the BLS stated that technicians with formal training, specifically in specialty areas such as advanced automotive technology, should see the best employment opportunities. As of May 2014, automotive service technicians and mechanics earned a mean annual wage of almost $40,000, reported the BLS. Wages often vary by location and experience.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Training Requirements

Becoming a high performance engine technician usually requires that you complete a formal training program. Some mechanics and technicians receive on-the-job training, but employers often prefer to hire candidates that have training because this involves less training on the job. While some automotive manufacturers or dealerships may offer training programs, you may find programs at many schools and community colleges. In addition to classroom studies, the curricula often include lab studies and internship opportunities.

Course topics may include technical math, high performance custom engine building and computerized engine control systems. You may also learn automotive engine diagnosis and repair, engine dyno setup and operation, motor sports fabrication and also learn how to work with high performance heads. Automotive dealerships and shops may require you to obtain National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certifications upon being hired. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also requires technicians who are buying or handling refrigerants to be licensed in proper refrigerant handling.

Top Skills for High Performance Engine Technicians

In addition to having training and work experience, as a technician you must possess other qualities and skills to be an asset to the profession and on the job. Some skills that may be beneficial include:

  • Good communication skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Ability to multitask
  • Mechanical abilities
  • Detail oriented
  • Technical skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

What employees are looking for in a high performance auto mechanic vary by industry and employer. Here are a few examples of job posting from real employers to give you a sampling of what you may expect when you hit the job market. These postings are open as of May 2012.

  • High performance auto mechanic in Florida is looking for a skilled individual with experience working with high performance vehicles. Applicant should also have custom fabrication skills and at least 3 years working in the automotive repair industry. Individuals who lack automotive experience but are skillful in welding and fabrication may also be good fits for this job. Candidate will remove and replace heads, engines and cams. Other duties include basic electrical/wiring soldering as needed and working with supercharge and turbocharger units. Salary is based on experience and skill level.
  • An automotive mechanic/technician is needed in a New Jersey automotive shop. Candidate will be able to diagnose and estimate service needs, provide engine performance service and perform complete undercar service. Technicians are expected to have ASE certifications and the ability to multitask, while always providing excellent customer service. The company provides tools for the employees and offers paid training programs so technicians can keep up with the latest technology in the automotive industry. Employees receive generous wages and benefit packages.
  • An automotive company in South Carolina is looking for an experienced high performance engine mechanic to join their work team. Candidates must have backgrounds in block boring and head and valve machining, as well as in high performance engine assembly and manual lathe machining. This full-time position offers a competitive wage and benefit package to the right candidate. Base pay ranges from $9.00 - $16.00 per hour.
  • A San Antonio, TX, manufacturing company is seeking an experienced engine technician to become part of their team. Candidate will disassemble calibration test engines, mount engines on test stands, fabricate engine components and instrument test engines. Additionally, the technician will install and maintain cooling towers. In addition to having a high school diploma or equivalent, applicant should have at least 2 years of experience performing automotive or truck repairs and should be able to read a wiring schematic to diagnose problems. Completion of a technical school automotive program and ASE certifications are preferred, particularly in engine performance. Machine shop and stick welding experience is a plus.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

While training and work experience are beneficial, you can do other things to maximize your earning potential and help your skills stand out; for instance, certification is highly valuable. Any automotive manufacturer or dealership-sponsored programs you can find will be helpful in providing you with both classroom and hands-on experience. ASE offers credentials in various subject areas. Eligible applicants must pass certification exams to obtain ASE credentials. Other things you can do include keeping up with continuing education, as well as utilizing any apprenticeship, on-the-job training or co-op education programs available. While on the job, remain professional, keep a positive attitude and develop good communication skills.

Other Careers to Consider

If after researching this career, you're still not sure if it's the right fit for you, you may want to consider some alternative career chooses. This gives you the opportunity to compare potential wages, job outlook and education requirements.

Small Engine Mechanic

If you enjoy repairing things but want more variety in your workday, you may enjoy a career performing small engine repair. You can work on motorcycles, powerboats, lawn mowers and other outdoor power equipment. According to the BLS, small engine mechanics were predicted to see a job growth of 21% between 2010 and 2020, a growth higher than automotive service technicians. The BLS also stated that, as of May 2011, small engine mechanics earned a mean annual wage of near $31,000, which is less than automotive service technicians. To become a small engine mechanic, you may have on-the-job training, although completing a formal training program may offer you the best opportunities.

Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanic and Installer

Although this career may find you working in houses and businesses rather than cars, the employment outlook and wage potential for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration (often referred to as HVAC) mechanics and installers is better than high performance engine technicians. According to the BLS, these workers should see an employment growth of 34% between 2010 and 2020. As of May 2011, HVAC mechanics and installers earned a mean annual wage of around $45,000. To become an HVAC mechanic and installer, you're usually required to complete formal training, which can come in the form of certificate or associate's degree programs. However, most HVAC workers complete apprenticeships, which can take from 3 to 5 years to complete.

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