A collision repair technician is an auto body mechanic who specializes in repairing vehicles that have been damaged in accidents. A professional performs both small repair jobs, such as bumping out dents and smoothing impurities, and complete overhauls that can involve fabricating and replacing entire body panels. Most technicians are employed by large chain establishments or smaller private collision repair shops, but some choose to open their own businesses.
Technicians utilize a number of different tools and techniques in their work. Depending on the job at hand, a technician might need to hammer, level, shape, and smooth pieces. Dents that cannot be hammered out are filled in with specialized putties that must be repeatedly applied and sanded to achieve the correct shape.
If doors or fenders are severely damaged or rusted, a collision repair technician can fabricate new pieces out of raw materials. He or she takes careful measurements, cuts out precise templates, rivets and welds new sheets into place, and sands down rough edges. Warped frames often require additional, intensive metalwork to ensure proper alignment and stability. With the body back in good shape, the car can be sent to a paint booth to finish the repair job.
Many technicians are qualified to perform other types of basic mechanic work as well. A collision repair technician who is able to inspect and repair brakes, electrical lines, steering columns, and fuel lines can significantly shorten the amount of time a car is stuck in the shop. In addition, technicians are usually trained to replace, temper, and seal windshields when they are destroyed in a crash.
The requirements to become a collision repair technician vary between employers. Hopeful workers who hold high school diplomas and have personal experience working on cars may be offered entry-level jobs, but opportunities are greatest for people who have post-secondary training. Six-month to two-year vocational schools can provide intensive, hands-on instruction for future technicians. Once a person is hired by an auto body shop, On-the-job training may consist of a formal apprenticeship or a more casual experience working alongside established technicians.
Many new workers decide to pursue voluntary certification in their specialties to improve their credentials and chances of finding full-time work. Organizations such as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence in the United States offer credentials to technicians who have about two years of experience and pass written exams. An experienced, skilled collision repair technician may be able to advance to a shop supervisor or master technician position with continuing education.