Auto Body Repair

collision specialist working on a hood

If you like cars, problem solving, hands on work and job stability then workin as an Auto Body Tech could be the job for you!

Education & Training

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Collision repair technicians examine, evaluate, and restore damaged vehicles. A majority of the work involves reviving frames and outer body components, with techs pounding out dents or buffing away scratches. In many cases, associates also repair internal elements of a car that were affected during an accident.

Salary

Below are average salaries and hourly wages for each state.

State Hourly wage Annual wage
Alabama $22.40 $46,600.00
Alaska $25.52 $53,080.00
Arizona $25.73 $53,530.00
Arkansas $21.40 $44,510.00
California $28.88 $60,070.00
Colorado $31.33 $65,170.00
Connecticut $26.18 $54,450.00
Delaware $27.81 $57,830.00
Florida $24.37 $50,690.00
Georgia $29.16 $60,650.00
Hawaii $22.97 $47,780.00
Idaho $22.31 $46,410.00
Illinois $24.03 $49,980.00
Indiana $26.41 $54,940.00
Iowa $24.79 $51,550.00
Kansas $23.47 $48,810.00
Kentucky $22.34 $46,460.00
Louisiana $23.29 $48,450.00
Maine $22.03 $45,820.00
Maryland $27.92 $58,080.00
Massachusetts $28.02 $58,280.00
Michigan $25.59 $53,220.00
Minnesota $25.19 $52,390.00
Mississippi $22.82 $47,460.00
Missouri $25.65 $53,340.00
Montana $23.29 $48,440.00
Nebraska $25.36 $52,740.00
Nevada $27.80 $57,820.00
New Hampshire $23.10 $48,040.00
New Jersey $26.65 $55,420.00
New Mexico $23.49 $48,850.00
New York $26.80 $55,740.00
North Carolina $24.55 $51,070.00
North Dakota $26.28 $54,660.00
Ohio $25.45 $52,930.00
Oklahoma $21.87 $45,500.00
Oregon $26.81 $55,760.00
Pennsylvania $24.02 $49,970.00
Puerto Rico $10.23 $21,270.00
Rhode Island $26.84 $55,840.00
South Carolina $21.75 $45,230.00
South Dakota $25.32 $52,660.00
Tennessee $23.83 $49,570.00
Texas $24.52 $50,990.00
Utah $27.00 $56,170.00
Vermont $24.97 $51,940.00
Virginia $27.71 $57,630.00
Washington $25.98 $54,030.00
West Virginia $19.92 $41,440.00
Wisconsin $23.17 $48,190.00
Wyoming $24.34 $50,620.00

Occupation:Automotive Body and Related Repairers (SOC Code493021)
source: data.bls.gov

Career Overview

What Do They Do?

When a vehicle gets in a crash, its frame sustains damage and loses strength. The job of an automotive tech is to reinstate the car’s structural integrity as close to factory specifications as possible. A lot of collision repair work involves patching or hammering out minor body damage such as dimples, scrapes, and dents.

Auto techs remove damaged door panels or bumpers with powerful air-driven machines. To align car bodies they use high-energy hydraulic jacks and hammers. Associates wear personal protective gear such as gloves, earplugs, and safety glasses.

Drivability, paint scratches, and frame damage, are the biggest concerns of an auto body technician. Workers may need to replace smashed trunk lids, bumpers, or tail light covers.

Other car parts they routinely fix or swap out include:

  • Fenders
  • Grilles
  • Trim
  • Hoods
  • Doors
  • Dashboards
  • Bumpers
  • Hood ornaments
  • Hubcaps
  • Wheels

Job Duties

Car cosmetics are the primary focus of a repair tech. To restore dented and damaged cars, workers buff out blemishes and replace broken rear or side view mirrors.

They restore the structural unity of car frames, fixing collision damage from fender benders and high-impact crashes.

Bent frames are fixable if their structural components are strong enough. Most new cars have unibody frames that are easier to repair, as their chassis and bodywork combine to form one piece.

Associates spend lots of time assessing frame damage and pounding out bends or dents. Depending on the nature of the job and size of the crew, body repair techs work alone or in groups.

When on a team, they divide job duties in order to complete tasks efficiently.

Some of these routines include the following:

  • Discussing details of accidents with clients
  • Assessing vehicle damage
  • Planning ideal courses of action for completing repairs
  • Devising cost estimates
  • Refinishing auto bodies
  • Restoring vehicle appearance and performance after collisions

Where Do They Work?

Upon earning a collision repair degree, prospects have lots of employment options. While many go on to work for maintenance and body shops, hopefuls should not let this limit their outlook. Accident repair specialists can find jobs at the following types of places:

  • Car dealerships
  • Automotive repair centers
  • Custom car shops
  • Military bases
  • Transportation agencies

What is the Work Environment Like?

While attending collision repair schools, students learn about the career’s physical nature. Recruits adapt to working in noisy, cramped spaces, developing techniques to avoid cuts and burns.

Collision repair centers are well-ventilated to prevent laborers from breathing in harmful paint fumes and dust particles.

Most collision repair jobs are full-time, with employees putting in overtime hours when work volume stockpiles. Many body shops offer incentive bonuses on top of a staff member’s base salary.

This rewards associates for the fast and efficient completion of tasks. Sometimes repair techs make house calls to people who are unable to drive their damaged cars on the road.

Equipment

During structural repairs, workers handle plasma cutters and pneumatic gear to extract broken components. For severe dents or major repairs, they utilize powerful hydraulic equipment.

Associates also use the following collision repair tools:

  • Wrenches
  • Hammers
  • Dent repair tools
  • Pliers
  • Screwdrivers
  • Drills
  • Metal files
  • Welding torches
  • Plasma tools
  • Pneumatic cutters
  • Computers
  • Alignment machines
  • Hydraulic lifting rams
  • Ram pullers

What Are Useful Skills for People in This Field?

  • Dexterity for making precise frame adjustments
  • Decision-making skills to determine repair methods
  • Mechanical skills for safe and proper use of power equipment
  • A knack for customer service while discussing damage and repairs
  • Stamina to perform manual labor for long periods
  • A sharp eye for spotting defects and flaws
  • Time-management and ability to work quickly
  • The ability to focus while following instructions and using tools

Are There Special Requirements for Collision and Body Repair Jobs?

Some employers hire recruits without collision repair training, and teach them onsite during work hours. Most companies prefer to hire candidates who have completed vocational or trade courses in auto body repair. Prospects seeking more opportunity and higher pay should obtain certificates from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.

Community colleges and universities across the nation offer collision repair classes. These courses teach students the finer points of vehicle assembly, welding, and repair cost calculation. They also deal with proper equipment usage and electronics, including the ins and outs of electric car wiring systems.

How Do Collision Techs Become Knowledgeable?

When stressed about accidents and vehicle damage, clients need all the reassurance they can get. It’s important for collision techs to put patrons at ease and pay close attention to their concerns.

Great customer service leads to positive online reviews, giving businesses higher search rankings and visibility.

Keen businessmen should keep in mind what their competition is doing. For example, if rivals refrain from sharing online reviews, consider posting positive testimonials on your company’s websites and social media pages.

While restructuring auto frames and chassis, workers substitute parts when needed. Depending on the job, they must attach and fit components like brake pedals or steering wheels.

Laborers need sufficient strength to pick up and move heavy things like door panels, bumpers, and rims.

Many collision tech jobs involve sanding and buffing auto body surfaces. This primes the cars for future paint jobs.

At times, workers put layers of finish on refurbished body pieces to ensure proper bonding of paint to metal.

In addition to priming, employees may need to paint refurbished portions of cars. To achieve the best color matches, body techs have to keep up on current painting methods used by carmakers.

When finding paint color codes, laborers must know how to find and read service parts ID plates.

Paintless dent repair can fix minor damage on both steel and aluminum panels. The technique involves pushing out dings with hammer handles or dent repair tools.

When finished, the damage is no longer visible. Repainting of the area is unnecessary, hence the name paintless.

The method is often used to repair:

  • Door dents
  • Creases
  • Hail damage
  • Bodyline damage

Why Do Collision Techs Need the Ability to Work with Hybrid Vehicles?

Hybrid vehicles are becoming ever-present, and when worked upon, they require special precautions. Workers need to look behind damaged body panels for hybrid modules and system wires that may have taken a hit.

They must also wear special lineman’s gloves while servicing the car. This protects from electric shock while working near high-voltage elements such as:

  • Main relays
  • Batteries
  • Orange or yellow cables
  • Electric drive motors
  • Inverter assemblies
  • Service plug fuses and receptacles
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle charge ports

What Else Can They Do?

Automotive glass installers replace broken windshields and windows. They repair chips or cracks in glass by using special vacuum pumps and stabilizing resins. When installing new windshields, associates use a powerful urethane adhesive to bond the glass to a car’s frame.

Automotive glass installers make house calls when drivers cannot safely operate their vehicles. Workers earn around $35k per year while performing the following tasks:

  • Examining glass damage to determine repair potential
  • Removing broken windshields
  • Looking for rust in windshield frames
  • Cleaning surfaces and windshield tracks to prepare for restoration
  • Replacing components removed before repairs

What Are Alternate Careers for Collision Techs?

Those who review and process insurance claims are known as claims adjusters. Through experience and research, these professionals determine whether an insurance company must pay a claim. They often engage in local travel, visiting damaged cars or properties in-person to assess condition. While there is little in the way of industry job growth, claims adjusters enjoy average salaries of over $60k per year.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for auto body repair technicians is generally stable, with opportunities for employment expected to remain steady in the coming years. While specific job growth projections can vary by location and economic factors, the need for automotive repair services is expected to persist due to several factors:

  1. Vehicle Ownership: As long as people continue to own and drive vehicles, there will be a demand for auto body repair services to maintain and repair them.
  2. Accidents and Wear-and-Tear: Accidents, collisions, and everyday wear-and-tear contribute to the need for auto body repair work. As long as vehicles are in use, there will be a need for technicians to repair damage and restore them to working condition.
  3. Advancements in Vehicle Technology: Technological advancements in automotive design and materials may change the nature of auto body repair work, but they also create opportunities for technicians to learn new skills and specialize in emerging areas such as electric vehicle repair and advanced materials.
  4. Insurance and Safety Regulations: Insurance requirements and safety regulations often mandate repairs for damaged vehicles, ensuring a consistent demand for auto body repair services.

While the job outlook for auto body repair technicians may be affected by factors such as economic conditions and technological advancements, the overall need for skilled professionals in this field is expected to remain relatively stable. Additionally, as older technicians retire or leave the workforce, there may be opportunities for new entrants to the field.