Each year the number of drivers on America’s roads increases; unfortunately, so do the number of automobile accidents. Last year there were over six million auto accidents in the United States. Many of these accidents required the services of an ASE Master Collision Repair and Refinish Technician. With the knowledge and skill of these repair technicians, most collision damage can be repaired, and the vehicles refinished to look and drive like new.
Repairers of automotive body damage, often called collision repair technicians, straighten bent frames, remove dents, and replace any parts that cannot be fixed. Each damaged vehicle must be assessed by the technician, who then decides how to handle the repairs on a case-by-case basis.
Qualifications and training necessary to work in this industry have increased, along with automotive technology. Gone are the days of the backyard mechanic, who entered the workforce as a self-taught hobbyist and gained the rest of his knowledge through on-the-job apprenticeship.
Today’s technician must complete a formal training program in automotive body repair and refinishing. Technical and trade schools generally offer six month and one year certificate programs, which include classroom and hands-on experience.
During training, students learn valuable skills such as:
- assessing structural and cosmetic damage
- mig welding
- unibody repair
- structure realignment
- surface preparation
- and refinishing techniques
Electronics and mechanics related to autobody work are also covered, with a special emphasis placed on safety.
Novice repair technicians begin by assisting master technicians with tasks such as removing damaged parts, sanding body panels, dent removal, and installation of replacement parts. They progress to more complicated jobs, such as body and frame alignment. Generally, it may take three to four years of experience for a technician to become comfortable with all aspects of body repair.
Certification by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), although voluntary, is quickly becoming an industry standard. Established in 1972 as a nonprofit organization, the ASE was formed in direct response to the need for industry standards. Before the 1970s there was no way for the consumer to be assured of competent mechanics.
ASE’s goal is to continually improve the quality of automobile repair and service by providing standardized testing and certification of service technicians. There are over 40 tests available to automotive technicians. Four tests have been specifically designed for the field of collision and body repair.
The ASE Collision Repair and Refinish Test Series includes one test for paint refinishers and three tests for repair technicians:
- Painting and Refinishing (B2)
- Non-Structural Analysis and Damage Repair (B3)
- Structural Analysis and Damage Repair (B4)
- Mechanical and Electrical Components (B5)
Repairers may take up to four ASE master collision repair and refinish exams. Upon passing at least one exam and providing proof of two years of related work experience, the technician becomes ASE certified. If all four tests are successfully passed, the technician becomes a certified ASE master collision repair and refinish technician. Holding a master’s certification can greatly increase advancement opportunities for the collision technician, both in position and pay scale. Currently, there are approximately 6,500 collision professionals who hold a master collision repair and refinish certification.
ASE certified technicians wear blue and white ASE insignia and carry credentials listing their areas of expertise. Employers often display their technicians’ credentials and pride themselves on hiring ASE certified professionals. Overall, becoming ASE certified will keep a repair technician’s career moving in the right direction with proof that the individual strives for excellence.