Panel beaters are responsible for stripping and refitting the body of a vehicle following a collision or an act of vandalism. They often must literally beat out any dents. Panel beaters work predominantly in the United Kingdom, but are also found in Australia and New Zealand. In the United States, an auto body technician performs similar functions.
Panel beaters are primarily employed by vehicle body repair shops. They are required to assess the damage to a vehicle in the company courtyard, consult with the customer on the extent of the damage and take it into the shop to perform repair work.
Panel beaters repair minor blemishes to the body using a range of specialized skills, including welding, filing and planishing, which is a metalwork skill that focuses on smoothing out metal by hammering it against a surface. Panel beaters traditionally work on vehicles by removing the interior parts of a panel and beating it into shape using an anvil and hammer. Increasingly, however, panel beaters operate more sophisticated machinery that repairs the body externally. Panel beaters also use "strong pullers" to pull out damage to the wheel arch or car bonnet and "line pullers" for repair work on non-structural panels. Panel beaters also redo paintwork and make minor electrical and mechanical repairs.
In more serious cases a panel beater might order and refit new body parts or perform in-depth reconstruction. Highly skilled panel beaters can also undertake tasks that go beyond simple body repair, such as rebuilding an engine or performing complex electrical work. They also restore classic vehicles.
Panel beaters are expected to keep accurate records of work completed and labor hours. They work with customers and insurance companies on required repairs and estimate the likely cost of the work, so they should also have excellent communication skills.
Panel beaters typically work on standard vehicles, such as cars, trucks and vans. Some have more specialized skills, allowing them to focus on motorcycles, buses and aircraft. A panel beater uses a range of tools, including arc-welders, sanders and magnetic dent removers. Many of these tools require extensive training to operate efficiently and safely.
Larger companies employ less skilled, "mobile" panel beaters, who travel to a customer's home and perform basic repair jobs, such as paintwork restoration and minor dent repairs. They might also repair holes or corrosive damage using filler.
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