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diesel mechanics program

Diesel mechanics students tackle fire truck engine overhaul for program's first project

By Billie Owens

In photo from left, Diesel Mechanics students Michael Pfenninger, Holden Brinkman, Scott Thurley, Johnny Murray, and Jake Long with Diesel Mechanics instructor Walter Holmes and fire truck owner Kevin Sikorski.

Submitted photo and press release:

What weighs 15,000 pounds, is 32 feet long, bright red and 25 years old? The 1993 Spartan pumper fire truck that was recently overhauled by students in the Diesel Mechanics Program at the Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center.

The Diesel Mechanics Program at the Batavia CTE Center began in September. This fire truck's engine was completely overhauled for the first project completed by the students and instructor in the new program.

Kevin Sikorski owns the fire truck, which he purchased from the Sheldon Fire Department more than two years ago. Sikorski lives in Alexander and considers himself a collector.

“I’m not a firefighter but I like fire trucks," Sikorski said. "Some people buy classic cars, I buy fire trucks. This is my hobby. But this is the only firetruck that I own for now."

He contacted Walter Holmes, the instructor of the Diesel Mechanics Program, when he learned that the program would be starting this school year.

“The engine needed a total overhaul and I thought this would be a great project for the students," Sikorski said. "It’s a win-win, I get the truck repaired and the students learn lessons."

The truck needed extensive engine repair that included routine and preventive maintenance. But despite this long list of much-needed work, Holmes and his students were not intimidated.

“This was a three-month project,” Holmes said. “We adjusted the air brakes, and lights, changed the oil, engine fluids, and air hoses, all the filters and adjusted the valves.

"The students rebuilt the carburetor, replaced the battery terminals, checked the suspension and drive train. We made sure the truck was ready for a New York State inspection. I could go on and on; the list is very long that describes this work.”

(Diesel engines do not have carburetors, but fire trucks have a gas generator, which does have a carburetor, on top of the tanker unit, Holmes explained. The truck uses the generator to power up the floodlights and other accessories for the truck.)

Michael Pfenninger, a junior from Pembroke Central Schools, is a student in the Diesel Mechanics Program and he worked on the fire truck. 

“My Dad and I work on a farm and we service the trucks and farm equipment," Michael said. "This program is a great help to me because I’m learning things that I can use in my work.

"I really like coming to school here. This truck project really helped me to understand diesel engines, I worked on adjusting the engine valves and also worked on the air brakes.”

Holmes noted how a project like this provides real-world experience for students.

“In class, I taught the theory of how a diesel engine works and why and how all the parts work together," Holmes said. "In the shop, we put that theory to work. But the main thing that I teach my students is the importance of good customer relations.

"If a customer is happy with your work and how they were treated, then they will come back to you. Being honest and reliable is just as important as the work.” 

The Diesel Mechanics Program is offered at the Batavia Career and Technical Education Center. For more information about this or any other career and technical education program, please call (585) 344-7711 or visit the website at 

About CTE

The Batavia Career and Technical Education Center is a program of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership. The Partnership operates as a Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and serves 22 component school districts located in Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston and parts of Steuben counties in New York State.

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