Auto Body Repairer
Auto Body Repairer
Education and Training High school
Salary Median—$16.68 per hour
Employment Outlook Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Auto body repairers are skilled workers who fix cars and trucks that have been in collisions. Most of them work for auto body shops, car and truck dealers, and manufacturers. Others work for trucking companies or bus lines, where they repair trucks, truck trailers, or buses.
The repairers' supervisors decide which parts are to be replaced and which are to be repaired. They also estimate the cost of labor. When customers or insurance companies accept the estimates, the repairers begin their work.
Sections of the automobile that have been badly damaged are removed and replaced. If the frame has been bent, it is straightened with special machines.
Large dents are pushed out with prying bars. Repairers smooth small dents by holding a flat piece of iron, called an anvil, on one side of the damaged part while hammering on the other side. Small dents are sometimes filled with putty or solder, which is allowed to harden and then sanded smooth. In small shops, auto body repairers also paint repaired sections of cars and trucks. In large shops, this is done by auto body painters.
While the shop supplies the power tools and other large machines, repairers must buy their own hand tools, which can cost up to five hundred dollars. Trainees often purchase their tools gradually as they gain experience.
Education and Training Requirements
Employers prefer to hire auto body repairers who have completed high school, although this is not always a requirement. High school courses in auto body repair can be useful. Many vocational and trade schools also offer courses in auto body repair. Trainees must have driver's licenses.
Many auto body repairers learn their trade on the job, which takes three or four years. They begin as helpers, removing damaged parts and replacing them with new or repaired parts. They progress to more difficult jobs. The best way to learn the trade is in formal apprenticeship programs, although few of these are available.
Repairers who work for auto manufacturers and dealers take formal training courses that last at least five days. During this training, experts demonstrate how to use tools; replace or repair damaged parts; and estimate the cost of repairs.
Voluntary certification is available through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. To become certified, repairers must pass exams and have at least two years of experience in the field.
Getting the Job
The best way to enter this field is to apply for trainee jobs at auto body shops. Large auto dealers and auto manufacturers may have openings as well. Newspaper classified ads may offer job leads.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Auto body repairers can be promoted to supervisors of their shops. Many open their own shops if they can raise the capital. Nearly one out of four auto body repairers is self-employed.
Employment of auto body repairers is expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014. While lightweight cars are both popular and vulnerable to more collision damage than older, heavier designs, technological innovations have reduced the likelihood of traffic accidents. In addition, improved equipment and specialization of labor have led to increased productivity in auto body shops, so fewer repairers may be needed in the future.
Repairers must be able to work independently, without supervision. In some shops they have helpers. Repairers work between forty and forty-eight hours per week.
Auto body repair shops are often dirty and noisy. Repairers often have to work in cramped positions and lift heavy objects. They may get cuts from sharp metal edges, burns from torches, and injuries from power tools.
Earnings and Benefits
In 2004 the median wage, including incentives, for auto body repairers was $16.68 per hour. The most experienced workers earned more than $28.45 per hour. Helpers and trainees earned from thirty to sixty percent of the wage of experienced repairers.
Under incentive plans, which cover most workers in independent auto repair shops and car dealerships, repairers are paid a certain amount for each task. Their total earnings depend on how many tasks they are assigned and how quickly they complete the tasks. Repairers who work for trucking companies and other firms that have their own vehicles are usually paid by the hour. Wages of those who belong to unions are based on union scales.
Where to Go for More Information
Automotive Aftermarket Industry
7101 Wisconsin Ave., Ste. 1300
Bethesda, MD 20814-3415
Automotive Service Association
PO Box 929
Bedford, TX 76095-0929
National Institute for Automotive Service
101 Blue Seal Dr. SE, Ste. 101
Leesburg, VA 20175
Auto body repairers who are employed by companies get holiday and vacation pay and insurance benefits. Some are covered by retirement plans. Self-employed repairers have to arrange their own insurance and retirement plans.