Auto body repairers fix or replace the damaged parts of vehicle bodies and frames.
We Americans love our cars. No, wait - we Americans LOVE our cars. Perhaps even worship is not too strong a term. Our obsession with cars has factored into plot lines of movies such as "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Risky Business." Sometimes movies seem like two-hour commercials for luxury cars. The car almost becomes a character itself. So when something happens to one of our babies - oops, cars - life seems to stop until it is in tip-top shape again.
Repairers use several methods to restore damaged cars. They remove ruined sections and replace them with new parts. Auto body repairers use cutting tools, such as metal-cutting guns, to cut through and remove metal body parts. Then they weld new panels in their place.
For areas that are less severely damaged, repairers restore the section. On metal panels, repairers remove large dents with a jack or prying bar. They knock out smaller dents with hand tools or special hammers. They do this by holding a small anvil against one side of the dent while hammering the opposite side. With most types of plastic body panels, repairers can press the panel back to its original shape by hand. This requires that repairers heat the plastic. Repairers fill dents that cannot be popped out with metal or plastic fillers. They then file or grind the filler to match the body shape.
Some cars are twisted from the force of the accident. Repairers use special machines to straighten the frame and body sections of these cars. They chain or clamp the frames or sections to the machine, which straightens the metal frame.
In addition to bodywork, repairers also do simple mechanical repairs. They change parts of the various systems on an automobile, such as brake, steering, electrical, exhaust, and suspension systems. They also work on airbags and restraint systems.
In small shops, repairers may do the painting and glass replacement as well as the bodywork. In large shops, body repairers may specialize in one type of repair. They may do only door repair, glass replacement, painting, or frame alignment. A few body repairers specialize in repairing fiberglass car bodies.
Auto body repairers who work in small shops may inspect damaged vehicles. They write up estimates of repair costs for customers and insurance companies. In large shops, repairers discuss the repair jobs with supervisors. They discuss what needs to be done and how much time it should take. Repairers use computers to keep records, send bills, and write estimates.
Automotive parts, body materials, and electronic systems change constantly. Thus, auto body repairers must continually update their skills and knowledge. They read technical manuals and attend classes to keep up to date on repair methods.
Body repairers usually work alone with only general directions from supervisors. They may be assisted by helpers or trainees.
Many auto body repairers are also business owners. They keep track of income and expenses, as well as pay all the bills. They purchase supplies, select advertising, hire and fire employees, and work with insurance companies.