Automotive Body Repairers Career Information
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Significant Points· To become a fully skilled automotive body repairer,
formal training is desirable in addition to on-the-job training because advances
in technology have greatly changed the structure, components, and materials
used in automobiles.
· A fully skilled automotive body repairer must have good reading and basic mathematics and computer skills to follow instructions and diagrams in print and computer-based technical manuals.
Nature of the WorkThousands of motor vehicles
are damaged in traffic accidents every day. Although some of these vehicles
are beyond repair, others can be made to look and drive like new. Automotive
body repairers straighten bent bodies, remove dents, and replace crumpled parts
that cannot be fixed. They repair all types of vehicles but work mostly on cars
and small trucks, although some work on large trucks, buses, or tractor-trailers.
Automotive body repairers use special equipment to restore damaged metal frames and body sections. Repairers chain or clamp frames and sections to alignment machines that use hydraulic pressure to align damaged components. "Unibody" vehicles, designs built without frames, must be restored to precise factory specifications for the vehicle to operate correctly. To do so, repairers use benchmark systems to make accurate measurements of how much each section is out of alignment and hydraulic machinery to return the vehicle to its original shape.
Body repairers remove badly damaged sections of body panels with a pneumatic metal-cutting gun or by other means, and weld in replacement sections. Repairers pull out less serious dents with a hydraulic jack or hand prying bar or knock them out with handtools or pneumatic hammers. They smooth out small dents and creases in the metal by holding a small anvil against one side of the damaged area, while hammering the opposite side. They also remove very small pits and dimples with pick hammers and punches in a process called metal finishing.
Body repairers also repair or replace the plastic body parts increasingly used on new model vehicles. They remove damaged panels and identify the family and properties of the plastic used on the vehicle. With most types of plastic, repairers can apply heat from a hot-air welding gun or by immersion in hot water and press the softened panel back into its original shape by hand. They replace plastic parts that are badly damaged or very difficult to repair.
Body repairers use plastic or solder to fill small dents that cannot be worked out of the plastic or metal panel. On metal panels, they file or grind the hardened filler to the original shape and clean the surface with a media blaster before painting. In many shops, automotive painters do the painting. In small shops, workers often do both body repairing and painting. A few body repairers specialize in repairing fiberglass car bodies.
The advent of assembly-line repairs in large shops moves away from the one-vehicle, one-repairer method to a team approach and allows body repairers to specialize in one type of repair, such as frame straightening or door and fender repair. Some body repairers specialize in installing glass in automobiles and other vehicles. Automotive glass installers and repairers remove broken, cracked, or pitted windshields and window glass. Glass installers apply a moisture-proofing compound along the edges of the glass, place it in the vehicle, and install rubber strips around the sides of the windshield or window to make it secure and weatherproof.
Body repair work has variety and challenges—each damaged vehicle presents a different problem. Using their broad knowledge of automotive construction and repair techniques, repairers must develop appropriate methods for each job. They usually work alone, with only general directions from supervisors. In some shops, helpers or apprentices assist experienced repairers.
Working ConditionsMost automotive body repairers
work a standard 40-hour week, although some, including the self-employed, work
more than 40 hours a week. Repairers work indoors in body shops that are noisy,
because of hammering against metal and the use of power tools. Most shops are
well ventilated to disperse dust and paint fumes. Body repairers often work
in awkward or cramped positions, and much of their work is strenuous and dirty.
Hazards include cuts from sharp metal edges, burns from torches and heated metal,
injuries from power tools, and fumes from paint. However, serious accidents
usually are avoided when the shop is kept clean and orderly and safety practices
EmploymentAutomotive body and related repairers held about 221,000 jobs in 2009. Most repairers worked for automotive repair shops or motor vehicle dealers. Others worked for organizations that maintain their own motor vehicles, such as trucking companies. A small number worked for wholesalers of motor vehicles, parts, and supplies. About 1 automotive body repairer out of 8 was self-employed.
Training, Qualifications, Adv.Most employers prefer
to hire persons who have completed formal training programs in automotive body
repair, but these programs supply only a portion of employers' needs. Therefore,
most new repairers get primarily on-the-job training, supplemented, when available,
with short-term training sessions given by vehicle, parts, and equipment manufacturers.
Some degree of training is necessary because advances in technology have greatly
changed the structure, components, and materials used in automobiles. As a result,
these new technologies require proficiency in new repair techniques and skills.
For example, bodies of many newer automobiles are a combination of materials—traditional
steel, aluminum, and a growing variety of metal alloys and plastics. Each of
these materials or composites requires the use of somewhat different techniques
to reshape parts and smooth out dents and small pits. Many high schools, vocational
schools, private trade schools, and community colleges offer automotive body
repair training as part of their automotive service programs.
A fully skilled automotive body repairer must have good reading and basic mathematics and computer skills. Restoring unibody automobiles to their original form requires such precision that body repairers must follow instructions and diagrams in technical manuals to make very precise three-dimensional measurements of the position of one body section relative to another.
A new repairer begins by assisting seasoned body repairers in tasks such as removing damaged parts, sanding body panels, and installing repaired parts. They learn to remove small dents and to make other minor repairs. They then progress to more difficult tasks, such as straightening body parts and returning them to their correct alignment. Generally, to become skilled in all aspects of body repair requires 3 to 4 years of on-the-job training.
Certification by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), though voluntary, is the recognized standard of achievement for automotive body repairers. ASE offers a series of four exams for collision repair professionals twice a year. Repairers may take from one to four ASE Master Collision Repair & Refinish Exams. Repairers who pass at least one exam and have 2 years of hands-on work experience earn ASE certification. Completion of a postsecondary program in automotive body repair may be substituted for 1 year of work experience. Those who pass all four exams become ASE Master Collision Repair and Refinish Technicians. Automotive body repairers must retake the examination at least every 5 years to retain certification.
Continuing education throughout a career in automotive body repair is required. Automotive parts, body materials, and electronics continue to change and to become more complex and technologically advanced. To keep up with these technological advances, repairers must continue to gain new skills, read technical manuals, and attend seminars and classes.
As beginners increase their skills, learn new techniques, and complete work more rapidly, their pay increases. An experienced automotive body repairer with supervisory ability may advance to shop supervisor. Some workers open their own body repair shops. Others become automobile damage appraisers for insurance companies.
of automotive body repairers is expected to increase about as fast as the average
for all occupations through the year 2010. Opportunities should be best for
persons with formal training in automotive body repair and mechanics.
Demand for qualified body repairers will increase, as the number of motor vehicles in operation continues to grow in line with the Nation's population. With an increase in the number of motor vehicles in use, the number of vehicles damaged in accidents also will grow. New automobile designs increasingly have body parts made of steel alloys, aluminum, and plastics—materials that are more difficult to work with than traditional steel body parts. In addition, new, lighter-weight automotive designs are prone to greater collision damage than older, heavier designs and, consequently, more time is consumed in repair. The need to replace experienced repairers who transfer to other occupations, retire, or stop working for other reasons will account for the majority of job openings.
Changes in body shop management have begun to increase some shops' productivity, profits, and customer satisfaction. Employing a team approach to repairs decreases repair time, improves customer relations, and allows shops to increase their volume of work. By more efficiently managing inventory, shops also may be able to replace the large portion of their space occupied by parts inventory with additional work bays to service vehicles, requiring additional body repairers.
The automotive repair business is not very sensitive to changes in economic conditions, and experienced body repairers are rarely laid off. However, although major body damage must be repaired if a vehicle is to be restored to safe operating condition, repair of minor dents and crumpled fenders can often be deferred during an economic slowdown. During slowdowns, most employers will hire few new workers, some unprofitable body shops may go out of business, and some dealerships might consolidate body shops.
EarningsMedian hourly earnings of automotive body and related repairers, including incentive pay, were $15.00 in 2009. The middle 50 percent earned between $11.12 and $20.02 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.49, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $26.06 an hour. Median hourly earnings in the industries employing the largest number of automotive body and related repairers in 2009 were as follows:
New and used car dealers $15.76
Automotive repair shops 15.05
Median hourly earnings of automotive glass installers and repairers, including incentive pay, were $12.46 in 2009. The middle 50 percent earned between $9.65 and $15.86 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.03, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $19.18 an hour. Median hourly earnings in 2009 in automotive repair shops, the industry employing the largest numbers of automotive glass installers and repairers, were $12.51.
The majority of body repairers employed by automotive dealers and repair shops are paid on an incentive basis. Under this method, body repairers are paid a predetermined amount for various tasks, and earnings depend on the amount of work assigned to the repairer and how fast it is completed. Employers frequently guarantee workers a minimum weekly salary. Body repairers who work for trucking companies, bus lines, and other organizations that maintain their own vehicles usually receive an hourly wage.
Helpers and trainees usually earn from 30 to 60 percent of the earnings of skilled workers. Helpers and trainees usually receive an hourly rate, until they are skilled enough to be paid on an incentive basis.
Some automotive body repairers are members of unions, including the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America; the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association; and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Most body repairers who are union members work for large automobile dealers, trucking companies, and bus lines.
damaged motor vehicles often involves working on mechanical components, as well
as vehicle bodies. Automotive body repairers often work closely with individuals
in several related occupations, including automotive service technicians and mechanics, diesel
service technicians and mechanics, auto damage insurance appraisers, and painting
and coating workers, except construction and maintenance.
Additional details about work opportunities may be obtained from automotive body repair shops, automobile dealers, or local offices of your State employment service. State employment service offices also are a source of information about training programs. For general information about automotive body repairer careers, contact any of the following sources: For general information about careers in automotive glass installation and repair, contact: For information on how to become a certified automotive body repairer, write to: For a directory of certified automotive body repairer programs, contact: For a directory of accredited private trade and technical schools that offer training programs in automotive body repair, contact:
Sources of Additional Information
Additional details about work opportunities may be obtained from automotive body repair shops, automobile dealers, or local offices of your State employment service. State employment service offices also are a source of information about training programs.
For general information about automotive body repairer careers, contact any of the following sources:
For general information about careers in automotive glass installation and repair, contact:
For information on how to become a certified automotive body repairer, write to:
For a directory of certified automotive body repairer programs, contact:
For a directory of accredited private trade and technical schools that offer training programs in automotive body repair, contact: