To become a fully skilled automotive body repairer, formal
training followed by on-the-job instruction is recommended because
repair of newer automobiles require more advanced skills to
fix their new technologies and new body materials.
Repairers need good reading ability and basic mathematics
and computer skills in order to follow instructions and diagrams
in print and computer-based technical manuals.
Nature of the Work
While running errands or driving to and from work, we sometimes
observe traffic accidents. Most of the vehicle damage resulting
from these collisions can be repaired and the vehicle refinished
to once again look and drive like new. Automotive body repairers,
also often called collision repair technicians, straighten
bent bodies, remove dents, and replace crumpled parts that
cannot be fixed. They repair all types of vehicles, and although
some work on large trucks, buses, or tractor-trailers, most
work on cars and small trucks.
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
then 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. Repairers also remove very small pits and
dimples with pick hammers and punches in a process called
metal finishing. Body repairers use plastic or solder to fill
small dents that cannot be worked out of plastic or metal
panels. On metal panels, they file or grind the hardened filler
to the original shape and clean the surface with a media blaster
before repainting the damaged portion of the vehicle.
Body repairers also repair or replace the plastic body parts
that are increasingly being used on new-model vehicles. They
remove damaged panels and identify the type 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. A few body
repairers specialize in repairing fiberglass car bodies.
The advent of assembly-line repairs in large shops enables
the establishment to move away from the one-vehicle, one-repairer
method to a team approach that allows body repairers to specialize
in one type of repair, such as straightening frames, repairing
doors and fenders, or painting and refinishing. In most shops,
automotive painters do the painting. (These workers are discussed
in the section on painting and coating workers, except construction
and maintenance elsewhere in the Handbook.) However,
in small shops, workers often do both body repairing and painting.
Some body repairers specialize in installing and repairing
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 the glass 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.
Most 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 with the clatters of hammers against metal and the
whine of power tools. Most shops are well ventilated, in order
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 are observed.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Automotive technology is rapidly increasing in sophistication,
and most training authorities strongly recommend that persons
seeking automotive body repair and related jobs complete a
formal training program in automotive body repair or refinishing.
Programs are offered in high school or in postsecondary vocational
schools and community colleges, but these programs provide
only a portion of the training needed to become fully skilled.
Most new repairers receive primarily on-the-job training,
supplemented with short-term training sessions given by vehicle,
parts, and equipment manufacturers, when available. Training
is necessary because advances in technology have greatly changed
the structure, components, and materials used in automobiles.
As a result, proficiency in new repair techniques is necessary.
For example, the bodies of automobiles are usually 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.
Fully skilled automotive body repairers must have good reading
ability and basic mathematics and computer skills. Restoring
unibody automobiles to their original form requires body repairers
to follow instructions and diagrams in technical manuals in
order to make precise three-dimensional measurements of the
position of one body section relative to another.
New repairers begin by assisting experienced body repairers
in tasks such as removing damaged parts, sanding body panels,
and installing repaired parts. Novices 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), although voluntary, is the recognized industry
credential for automotive body repairers. Repairers may take
from one to four ASE Master Collision Repair and Refinish
Exams. Repairers who pass at least one exam and have 2 years
of hands-on work experience earn ASE certification. The 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 their certification. While
the ASE designations are the most widely recognized, many
vehicle manufacturers and paint manufacturers also have product
certification programs available for body repairers.
Continuing education is required throughout a career in automotive
body repair. Automotive parts, body materials, and electronics
continue to change and to become more complex and technologically
advanced. To keep up with the technological advances, repairers
must continue to gain new skills, read technical manuals,
and attend seminars and classes. Many companies within the
automotive body repair industry provide ongoing training for
As beginners increase their skills, learn new techniques,
and complete work more rapidly, their pay increases. An experienced
automotive body repairer with managerial ability may advance
to shop supervisor. Some workers even open their own body
repair shops. Others become automobile damage appraisers for
Automotive body and related repairers held about 223,000
jobs in 2004; about 1 in 10 specialized in automotive glass
installation and repair. Most repairers worked for automotive
repair and maintenance shops or automobile 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. More than 1 automotive
body repairer in 5 was self-employed, more than double the
proportion for all installation, maintenance, and repair occupations.
Employment of automotive body repairers is expected to grow
as fast as average for all occupations through the year 2014.
The need to replace experienced repairers who transfer to
other occupations or who retire or stop working for other
reasons will account for the majority of job openings. Opportunities
will be best for persons with formal training in automotive
body repair and refinishing. Those without formal training
in automotive body refinishing or collision repair will face
competition for these jobs.
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 each rise 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 are traditional
steel body parts. In addition, new automotive designs of lighter
weight are prone to greater collision damage than are older,
heavier designs, so more time is consumed in repair.
However, increasing demand due to growth in the number of
vehicles in operation will be somewhat tempered by improvements
in the quality of vehicles and technological innovations that
enhance safety and reduce the likelihood of accidents. Also,
more body parts are simply being replaced rather than repaired.
Larger shops also are instituting productivity enhancements,
such as employing a team approach to repairs to decrease repair
time and expand their volume of work. In addition, demand
for automotive body repair services will be constrained as
more vehicles are declared a total loss after accidents. In
many such cases, the vehicles are not repaired because of
the high cost of replacing the increasingly complex parts
and electronic components and fixing the extensive damage
that results when airbags deploy. Employment growth will continue
to be concentrated in automotive body, paint, interior, and
glass repair shops. Automobile dealers will employ a smaller
portion of this occupation as the equipment needed for collision
repair becomes more specialized and expensive to operate and
Experienced body repairers are rarely laid off during a general
slowdown in the economy. Automotive repair business is not
very sensitive to changes in economic conditions because major
body damage must be repaired if a vehicle is to be restored
to safe operating condition. However, repair of minor dents
and crumpled fenders often can be deferred when drivers’ budgets
Median hourly earnings of automotive body and related repairers,
including incentive pay, were $16.68 in May 2004. The middle
50 percent earned between $12.55 and $22.04 an hour. The lowest
10 percent earned less than $9.42, and the highest 10 percent
earned more than $28.45 an hour. In May 2004, median hourly
earnings of automotive body and related repairers were $17.73
in automobile dealers and $16.44 in automotive repair and
Median hourly earnings of automotive glass installers and
repairers, including incentive pay, were $13.45 in May 2004.
The middle 50 percent earned between $10.36 and $17.04 an
hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.53, and the
highest 10 percent earned more than $20.63 an hour. Median
hourly earnings in automotive repair and maintenance shops,
the industry employing most automotive glass installers and
repairers, were $13.43.
The majority of body repairers employed by independent repair
shops and automotive dealers 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, buslines,
and other organizations that maintain their own vehicles usually
receive an hourly wage.
Helpers and trainees typically earn from 30 percent 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.
Repairing 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.
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
For general information about automotive body repairer careers,
contact any of the following sources: