Hydraulic power uses liquid pressure to run industrial equipment and aircraft. On airplanes, components such as landing gears, brakes and flaps operate via hydraulics. Cement mixers, cranes and lifts on dump trucks and other industrial equipment may use hydraulic power. As an alternative to electricity, hydraulic power significantly reduces the risk of electrical fires, electrocutions and inactivity from power outages. The hydraulic mechanic job description details how mechanics keep these devices running and the skills and training necessary to do so.
What Does a Hydraulic Mechanic Do?
Hydraulic mechanics summon their mechanical, physical and reading abilities to service, repair and replace hydraulic systems. The work requires considerable overall technical skills and the ability to find the roots of problems in the system and their solutions.
Hydraulic Mechanic Job Responsibilities – Resume
- Review schematics, plans, operating manuals*Inspect, test and maintain hydraulic systems periodically or according to established schedule
- Identify nature and causes of defects or malfunctions in lines or other parts of system using diagnostic machines and consulting with operating manuals
- Overhaul and repair hydraulic components
- Fit fluid lines and pipes
- Assemble and disassemble parts and systems
- Clean and lubricate parts
- Record condition of hydraulic systems, including malfunctions observed, and repairs
Hydraulic Mechanic Essential Skills
Dexterity. Hydraulic mechanics must have steady hands and good hand-eye coordination to handle tools, assemble and disassemble parts and systems. Dexterity also involves holding multiple pieces or parts and tools.
Math. Bolts, screws and other parts have specific widths, lengths or thickness. Hydraulic mechanics must accurately measure or know the measurements in order to select the right tools or fit pieces together. Math skills, including the reading of measurements, allows mechanics to determine the appropriate pressure of hydraulic hoses.
Organization. Hydraulic mechanics need organization skills to accurately log inspections, equipment conditions and repairs or replacements. In addition to record keeping, organization helps keep work areas clean, mechanics or others readily find tools or parts and ensure deadlines are met.
Reading. The hydraulic mechanics job description includes tasks that require the ability to read and comprehend manuals and plans. These mechanics need a sufficient grasp of a technical vocabulary.
Troubleshooting. To diagnose problems and find the right solution, hydraulic mechanics should have knowledge and skills in using diagnostic equipment. Troubleshooting also means analyzing the sound, condition and appearance of parts and fluids to identify sources of malfunctions.
Becoming a Hydraulic Mechanic
The type of equipment on which a hydraulic mechanic works will influence the training, experience and certification needed. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires a “Powerplant mechanics” or “P” certification to work on aircraft engines, which includes hydraulic systems. Depending on the aviation company, the mechanic may also need a body work certification, or “Airframe mechanics” (“A”) certification.
For vehicles and equipment other than aircraft, the particular employer will normally determine the certifications and experience required of its hydraulic mechanics.
Education and Training
Generally, a high school education is a prerequisite but mechanics usually have some post-secondary school work. Approximately 55 percent of “Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics” have a post-secondary certificate and around eight percent have taken some college courses but not receiving a graduate.
In high school, classes such as automotive repair, physics, electronics and welding furnish background and foundational concepts. Beyond high school, mechanics receive further coursework and training in diesel mechanics, heavy machinery mechanics, diagnosis and repair of hydraulic systems and electronics. Associate degree programs cover these subjects and last one to two years as a general rule.
Organizations such as the National Fluid Power Association and the International Fluid Power Society afford training for aspiring mechanics. The NFPA offers it through member or partner universities and companies. These courses cover subjects such as reading measurement equipment, understanding hyrdaulic drawings and symbols and the use of power tools.
The FAA requires thirty months of experience for aviation mechanics to obtain FAA certification to work on engines or the mainframe, or both. If a mechanic seeks only engine certification, 18 months of work experience will suffice. By participating in an FAA-approved aviation mechanic school or program, an aspiring aviation hydraulic mechanic can satisfy the training requirements and have a shorter path to certification.
Training programs run by companies, hydraulics associations and community or technical colleges afford opportunities for hydraulic mechanics to gain practical experience.
As trainees, hydraulic mechanics usually start jobs performing simple maintenance or repairs, often under the supervision of a more experienced mechanic. Thereafter, these novices advance to more complex tasks and eventually can work independently or in a supervisory role. Depending on the company, mechanics need to complete three to four years in training positions.
Heavy vehicle mechanics or those working on hydraulic systems log full-time hours. Nights and weekend work are common in this field. Hydraulic machines operate continuously and may require repairs.
On some occasions, hydraulic mechanics may have extended shifts away from the home shop. For instance, aircraft mechanics who work on hydraulics may have to travel to an airfield, hanger or other site where an airplane is grounded due to potentially urgent or hazardous malfunctions. Mechanics may also travel to sites where heavy-industrial vehicles have malfunctioned. These may include roadside or where the vehicle is at a job or delivery site.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that hiring of “Mobile heavy equipment mechanics, except engines,” which may include those working on hydraulic equipment, will grow by five percent, or 6,600 by 2024. The occupation in the United States numbered 124,700 in 2014. Large-scale construction projects, such as buildings, bridges, roads and other infrastructure, will require hydraulic devices. Equipment vendors and rental companies should employ the majority of hydraulic mechanics in this area. However, slow-downs in the economy may stunt construction and demand for hydraulic equipment and those who service them.
Employment of aircraft mechanics and technicians should grow by only 1,600, or one percent, through 2024, predicts the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Newer model aircraft likely will need less maintenance and repairs. The best prospects for aircraft mechanic jobs may rest with repair companies or in the armed services or military reserves.
Jobs in hydraulic repair and maintenance will turn in large scale on the economy’s health. Increased and consistent construction and infrastructure improvements will spell more opportunities for hydraulic mechanics. Those in the aviation sector should find better prospects with aircraft repair companies rather than airlines as advancements in technology and aircraft designs may reduce the need for in-house mechanics. Those pursuing careers as hydraulic mechanics will need substantial training, likely multi-year, in repairing, maintenance and rebuilding of mechanical systems, including hydraulics.