Heavy-Duty Equipment Mechanics - What They Do

Heavy-duty equipment mechanics repair, troubleshoot, adjust, overhaul and maintain mobile heavy-duty equipment used in construction, transportation, forestry, mining, oil and gas, material handling, landscaping, land clearing, farming and similar activities. They are employed by companies which own and operate heavy equipment, and by heavy equipment dealers, rental and service establishments, railway transport companies and urban transit systems.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Check bulldozers, cranes, graders and other heavy construction, agricultural, logging and mining equipment for proper performance and inspect equipment to detect faults and malfunctions
  • Diagnose faults or malfunctions using computerized and other testing equipment to determine extent of repair required
  • Adjust equipment and repair or replace defective parts, components or systems, using hand and power tools
  • Test repaired equipment for proper performance and to ensure that work meets manufacturers' specifications
  • Clean, lubricate and perform other routine maintenance work on equipment
  • Service attachments and working tools such as harvesting and tillage equipment, blades, ploughs, winches and side booms
  • May perform repair work on heavy trucks
  • May attach components and adjust new farm equipment.
  • Heavy-duty mechanics may specialize in specific types of machinery such as combines or tracked vehicles, or in engine overhaul, power shift transmissions, fuel injection, hydraulics or electronics.

Job titles

  • agricultural equipment technician
  • heavy-duty equipment mechanic apprentice
  • construction equipment mechanic
  • diesel mechanic - heavy equipment
  • farm equipment mechanic
  • heavy mobile logging equipment mechanic
  • heavy mobile mining equipment mechanic
  • heavy equipment mechanic
  • locomotive mechanic
  • tractor mechanic
  • heavy-duty equipment technician
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is usually required.
  • Completion of a three- to five-year apprenticeship program or A combination of over four years of work experience in the trade and some high school, college or industry courses in heavy equipment repair is usually required to be eligible for trade certification.
  • Heavy-duty equipment technician trade certification is compulsory in Quebec and Alberta and available, but voluntary, in all other provinces and the territories.
  • Agricultural equipment technician trade certification is available, but voluntary, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
  • Red Seal endorsement is also available to qualified heavy duty equipment technicians and agricultural equipment technicians upon successful completion of the interprovincial Red Seal examination.

Essential Skills


  • Read emails and text messages from customers, coworkers, supervisors and suppliers. (1)
  • Read labels on oils, penetrating sprays and cleaning solvents to ensure proper use, for example, not using something that will eat through plastic or conduct electricity. (1)
  • Read work orders to determine repairs required on equipment. (2)
  • Read memos and bulletins to learn about changes in company policies and operating procedures. (2)
  • Read online blogs and forums to find help with unusual problems or hard-to-find parts. (2)
  • Read health and safety information such as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to learn first aid measures, and how to handle materials safely. (2)
  • Read installation instructions for parts and components. (2)
  • Read health and safety regulations, for example, read updates to regulations requiring an alternate escape route from heavy equipment. (3)
  • Read technical service bulletins issued by suppliers and manufacturers that describe particular problems and provide repair solutions, and to learn about recalls. This information may be integrated with information from service manuals. (3)
  • Read instructions and repair and maintenance procedures in shop, operator and service manuals, both paper-based and online, that are specific to machines and equipment. For example, shop manuals provide information such as how to take apart and assemble complex wiring assemblies and pieces of equipment, torque specifications, and special tools required. Information may be integrated from different sections of the manuals or from different sources, for example, with a technical service bulletin, and requires background knowledge. (4)

Document use

  • Read labels, decals and icons on equipment. For example, scan icons on engine components to learn about scalding, pressure and electrical shock hazards. (1)
  • View meters and digital readouts to locate data, such as energy readings, speeds, pressures, settings and error codes. (1)
  • Read GPS screens and road maps to determine route and time to job sites for service calls. (2)
  • Read electronic and paper-based parts and equipment catalogues to order parts and compare prices. (2)
  • Complete safety inspection checklists for overhead cranes, forklifts and other equipment, hazard analysis forms, and other safety documents. (2)
  • Complete workplace safety forms to report "near misses", hazards and accidents. (2)
  • Sketch diagrams to explain parts to customer or to show how a part was put together incorrectly or where a fault is in the metal. (2)
  • Read and complete work orders and service reports that include a description of the problem and the work to be performed, parts replaced, number of hours, and recommendations for other work that may be needed. (2)
  • Use reference material such as the Engineers' Black Book to look up information such as decimal equivalents, conversion numbers, material coefficients, torque conversions and formulae, in complex tables. For example, can look up what the tap is if fabricating or pushing a rod into a thread sleeve. (3)
  • Interpret graphs generated by computerized equipment, for example, scan graphs generated by scan tools to troubleshoot faults and establish the operating condition of vehicle components. (3)
  • Read and interpret, both paper-based and online, diagnostic flowcharts, and complex multi-page 2D and 3D drawings and schematics that are graphic representations of electrical, electronic, hydraulic and pneumatic systems, and use colour coding, symbols, icons and abbreviations. Some experience and specialized knowledge is required to understand and gather all the relevant and required information. (4)


  • Write emails and text messages to coworkers, supervisors and customers, for example, to update on status of a repair or to ask a question. (1)
  • Write reminder and brief notes, for example to inform co-workers about the status of repairs or from a phone conversation with a customer. (1)
  • May write a journal to keep track of jobs worked on including work order number, machine model and number, and notes specific to a job such as a customer complaint. (1)
  • Write entries in equipment logbooks and files to update information on equipment such as number of hours of service, completed and required repairs, and to keep track of recurring and potential problems. (2)
  • Write emails to technical support at manufacturers to request help with a repair, for example, request technical support to look at error codes from equipment to see if there is a recurring problem. (2)
  • Complete work orders and service reports which include a description of the repair with details about what was done and why, parts repaired or replaced, and recommendations for further work. Recommendations describe needed repairs and causes for concern. Customers must be made aware of the condition of the equipment, for example, whether or not is safe to operate. For example, if a component fails there could be a liability issue. (3)
  • May write reports, for example, to explain work that will be reimbursed under manufacturer warranty programs. (3)


Scheduling, Budgeting and Accounting

  • Calculate the number of service hours to determine when equipment is due for service such as an oil change. (1)
  • Calculate the amount of time required to make repairs. (1)
  • Take inventory of parts and supplies including oils, lubricants, bolts, filters and grinding and welding materials. (1)

Measurement and Calculation

  • Use tape measures and calibrated jugs to take a variety of measures such as lengths of hoses, dimensions of equipment, and liquid volumes. (1)
  • Calculate fuel consumption in litres or gallons per hour. (2)
  • Measure torque in Newton-metres or foot-pounds and convert between systems. (2)
  • Measure and calculate pressure in pascals and psi (pounds per square inch) and convert between systems. (2)
  • Use specialized tools to take precise measurements. For example use micrometres or calipers to measure the dimensions of machine parts to thousands of an inch or in millimetres to determine wear when building, repairing or replacing a part. (3)
  • Calculate size and volume of cylinders and tanks to determine capacity in litres or gallons. May convert between SI and imperial measurement. (3)
  • Calculate weights to safely lift and move equipment and parts using an overhead crane. (3)

Data Analysis

  • Compare readings from gauges including temperature, oil pressure, hydraulic pressure, and tachometers to determine they are within correct operating parameters. For example, very high oil pressure may indicate that the machine is losing oil or that the relief valve is stuck open. (1)
  • Compare measurements of energy, dimension, speed, horsepower, temperature and torque to specifications, for example, compare measurements of worn parts to original specifications to determine if they need to be replaced. (1)
  • Calculate average fuel and oil consumption rates to track the operating condition of equipment. (2)
  • Analyse pressure, power, torque, compression and electrical energy readings to assess equipment performance and troubleshoot faults. For example, analyse series of energy readings produced by computerized engine analyzers to determine the cause of electrical faults. (3)

Numerical Estimation

  • Estimate the useful life remaining for parts, such as engines, tires, brakes and hoses. (2)
  • Estimate the cost of a repair that includes the cost of parts, length of time and labour.(2)

Oral communication

  • Get information from the dispatcher about location of job and type of repair. (2)
  • Share information with coworkers, for example provide assistance or ask for assistance with troubleshooting a difficult or unusual repair. (2)
  • Participate in safety and toolbox meetings to discuss and learn about safety concerns, changes to operating procedures and projects. (2)
  • Talk with operators to gather information and discuss equipment performance to determine equipment problems and help with troubleshooting. (2)
  • Talk with customers to gather and clarify information about needed repairs, explain equipment maintenance procedures and discuss the results of inspections and repairs. (2)
  • Ask questions and clarify information at in-house training sessions and courses put on by manufacturers. (2)
  • Mentor apprentices by explaining how to do something and discussing possible solutions to troubleshooting. (2)
  • Discuss work orders and assigned tasks with supervisors. For example, may ask for assistance with a difficult repair or handling a customer complaint. (2)
  • Contact suppliers and parts distributors to order parts and materials, or to ask questions about parts for older equipment. (2)
  • Discuss difficult, unusual and recurring repairs with manufacturer technical support and ask for help with troubleshooting. (3)
  • Respond to customer complaints and frustrations including complaints about costs of repairs, concerns about the length of time for a repair and questions about the necessity of repair work. Need to be able to provide detailed information about the work being done and why it is needed. (3)


Problem Solving

  • Deal with an obvious problem where an easily accessible part needs to be replaced and is ordered and replaced. (1)
  • Rind that work is delayed because parts are unavailable or delivered late. They carry out other work until parts arrive. (1)
  • Troubleshoot and diagnose common problems with equipment using information from customers, manuals, diagnostic tools and experience. (2)
  • Are unable to meet repair deadlines due to heavy workloads and projects that take longer than anticipated to complete. They ask service managers to prioritize repairs, enlist the help of co-workers and work overtime to complete high priority work. (2)
  • May find that parts, specifications or manuals are not readily available for older equipment. They will search online for information and parts, or may build the needed part. (3)
  • May encounter problems that are intermittent, difficult or unusual. They check with coworkers, refer to manuals and technical service bulletins, use diagnostic tools to access fault codes, use online forums, and contact technical support at manufacturing companies and suppliers. They also pay attention to noises, vibrations and smells. For example, with an intermittent problem they may try a simpler, cheaper fix first such as replacing a switch rather than the entire relay. (3)
  • Deal with a problem with a hydraulic system that originates in an electrical system where adequate information is not readily available and correcting the problem requires several steps. (4)

Decision Making

  • Decide the order of repair and maintenance jobs, for example, giving priority to smaller, simpler tasks that can be turned around quickly. (1)
  • Decide when to schedule repairs and maintenance for multiple pieces of equipment based on availability and other priorities. (2)
  • Decide when to replace parts based on amount of wear and tear, and cost of replacement. (2)
  • Decide the most efficient course of action to complete particular jobs, for example, decide upon the order of troubleshooting activities to efficiently diagnose faults. (3)

Critical Thinking

  • Judge the accuracy of readings taken using equipment, such as scan tools. They compare readings to other indicators of performance such as vibrations and noises. (1)
  • Judge the condition of parts, materials and equipment. For example, they inspect gears and sprockets for signs of cracks, missing teeth and loose fit, and tires and belts for signs of cracks and exposed cords. (2)
  • Evaluate performance of apprentices using criteria such as apprentices' abilities to diagnose and troubleshoot equipment problems, to locate information needed to solve a problem, and willingness to learn new skills. (2)
  • Evaluate the quality of repairs. They consider the results of test drives and data from equipment, such as gas analyzers and dynamometers. (3)
  • Assess used equipment for purchase based on equipment history, general appearance, number of equipment hours, maintenance and service records, and mechanic's professional experience. (3)

Job Task Planning and Organizing

  • May prioritize jobs for efficiency, taking care of routine and smaller jobs first to allow more time for complex repairs. They may be assigned jobs based on their areas of expertise. Most heavy-duty equipment mechanics work on one job at a time unless work is delayed until parts arrive or coworkers need assistance. There are disruptions to the work schedule, such as emergency jobs for customers who rely on equipment to complete a project. Disruptions may require rescheduling other jobs and workers depending on the size of the job. Heavy equipment mechanics may have to coordinate work with other mechanics to share tools and space. (2)
  • May assign tasks to apprentices and mechanics with less seniority or experience.

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember previous problems and compare with a current situation to determine if a similar repair would work.
  • Remember details/sequences of several jobs in progress.
  • Remember the sequence of tasks on a machine they started overhauling weeks earlier, picking up where they left off and continuing the process.
  • Recognize customers by name and remember details about their equipment.

Finding Information

  • Scan on-board computer screens to locate the area of a problem. (2)
  • Use fault codes on a computer to isolate a problem. (3)
  • Question coworkers, shop foremen and service managers who have experience working on a similar piece of equipment. Manuals may not be available for old pieces of equipment and this is often the first step in finding information. (3)
  • Contact manufacturer technical support by email or phone to get help diagnosing a problem and information for how to fix it. It may take several contacts to solve the problem and come up with a solution. (3)
  • Locate, integrate and use information from a number of sources including service manuals, both paper-based and online, websites and forums, technical service bulletins and other sources. (3)

Digital technology

  • Use calculators, mobile apps, and other electronic devices to complete numeracy-related tasks, such as calculating material requirements. (1)
  • Use text messaging software to confirm appointments and arrival times with customers. (1)
  • Use online catalogues and databases to order parts. (1)
  • Write or draft an email for a warranty report. (1)
  • Send or receive repair information by e-mail. (1)
  • Assess shop, service and repair manuals on CD-ROMS and DVDs and websites. (2)
  • Read online articles to maintain current knowledge of industry trends and practices. (2)
  • Use the Internet to access training courses and seminars offered by manufacturers, suppliers, employers, trades schools and technical institutes. (2)
  • Use search features and bookmark information in online manuals and websites. (2)
  • May use word processing programs to write letters to manufacturers and customers, which present the results of mechanical inspections. (2)
  • Use databases to retrieve repair information, vehicle service histories and technical drawings. (2)
  • May use specialized industry databases to access job assignments, input information on new jobs, retrieve and review past service information and complete work orders. (2)
  • Use blogs and forums to share troubleshooting ideas and methods for repair. (2)
  • Use diagnostic equipment such as scan tools, gas analyzers and laptops, to determine operational data, such as horsepower, torque, pressure readings and air-to-fuel ratios. (2)
  • Use scan tools and hand-held devices to access codes and other data from vehicle onboard sensors. (2)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Heavy-duty equipment mechanics mostly work alone but may assist another mechanic with heavier or more complex repairs. They coordinate the use of tools and shop equipment with other mechanics. They use coworkers, service managers and supervisors as resources in problem solving, diagnosing and laying out plans of actions. (2)

Continuous Learning

Heavy-duty equipment mechanics need to update their skills and knowledge on a regular basis to keep up with changes in technology and equipment. (2)