Automotive Body Repairer or Panel beater

Automotive body repairers, or panel beaters as they are commonly known, are responsible for the repair and realignment of the damaged and dented panels of the bodywork of motor vehicles. 

Panel beaters straighten bent frames, remove dents and replace damaged body parts. They use special machines to align damaged frames, body sections, and unit bodies.

The bent framework or bodywork of a damaged vehicle must firstly, with the help of special equipment, be bent back to its original position so that the doors and bonnet fit properly. The implements that are used include files and grinding equipment, dollies, gouges, keys, chisels and clamps, electrical equipment such as drills, riveting machines and cutters, as well as blowtorches and welding and brazing machines.  To even out the dents and bumps, panel beaters use various hammers to beat the metal from outside or inside until it is even.

In some cases badly damaged sections of body panels are removed and new ones welded in their place. Small dents are repaired by smoothing them out or by filling them with plastic or solder. Dents are then filled, sanded, and painted.

Panel beaters are also responsible for the final assembly and inspection for true fit, as well as for the testing for proper connection and working components in electrical fittings, door handles, locks and lights. The work is becoming more and more specialised, for example, in frame straightening, door and fender repairing or the installation of glass.

Panel-beating is hard work. It is not expected that the repair worker handle heavy objects, but the work can be physically tiring and the continuous pounding and grinding can be very wearying. The noise may be unpleasant and the work environment dirty.

Personal Requirements

  • 16 years and older
  • good spatial and form perception
  • good two-hand coordination and eye-hand co- ordination
  • physically strong, stamina and healthy
  • good sense of judgement
  • able to work accurately
  • able to work with mechanical tools
  • possess mechanical insight and knowledge

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  •  Grade 9 Certificate.
  •  Some employers demand higher qualifications

What to Study

Courses in Automotive Body Repairing are offered at False Bay, Northlink and Umgungundlovu TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) Colleges.

Candidates may register as learners with any employer in the motor trade, provided that the employer is able to provide the required training. The normal period of the learnership is 4 years, but the apprentices may attain artisan status before the normal date of expiry of their contract by passing a voluntary trade test.

All learners are required to undertake a compulsory trade test, normally 1 year before the completion of their contract period, or as soon as possible before the end of their 4-year period of learnership.

Learners are obliged to attend theoretical classes during normal working hours at a TVET College, such as the ones listed above, or do a correspondence course at UNISA to obtain the N2 Certificate. Learners acquire the practical skills of the trade by working under the supervision of experienced artisans.

Final examination: a compulsory trade test set by the Department of Labour.


  • auto body repair and paint shops
  • automobile and truck dealers
  • trucking companies
  • bus and transport companies
  • motor vehicle manufacturers
  • companies that maintain own motor vehicles
  • government departments like the Department of Transport
  • self-employment, with sufficient capital to start own business

Further Information

MerSETA (Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services)
merSETA House
95 7th Avenue,
Corner Rustenburg Road, Melville,
Johannesburg, 2109
Tel: (010) 219-3000

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work in an automotive body repairing garage
  • make an appointment to speak to a panel beater about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

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