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Panel Beaters

Panel beaters describe workers that beat dents out of a vehicle’s bodywork after being damaged, for instance, out of a collision. The term "panel beater" is predominantly used in countries such as the U.K., New Zealand and Australia, while in the U.S., the term used is "auto body mechanic".

Panel beaters use a variety of skills like welding, filing and using putty fillers, but the ability they are known for is planishing.

What is Planishing?

Planishing is a metalwork technique that involves shaping and smoothing out a metal surface by beating it with a smooth-faced planishing hammer and/or slapper file against a planishing stake, dolly or anvil. To guide panel beaters in shaping the metal panel, the contour of the stake, dolly or anvil should be consistent with the desired shape.

Panel Beating Tools

Other tools used by panel beaters include:

  • Various-shaped hammers like dead-blow mallets, bumping/panel-beating hammers, cross-peen hammers, pick hammers, shrinking hammers and heavy roughing hammers.
  • Hand tools like pin snips, punches, vice grips and chisels.
  • Assembling/Disassembling tools like screwdrivers, socket sets and spanners.
  • Alignment and measurement tools like the Car-O-Liner.
  • Safety equipment like overalls, gloves, welding helmets, safety glasses, hearing protection and respirators.
  • Welding equipment

Panel Beating Services

Here are some of the responsibilities of panel beaters:

  • Beat vehicle panels back to their original shape through planishing.
  • Operate hydraulic and mechanical equipment to restore vehicles.
  • Sever and fix damaged panels or replacement sections by welding.
  • Fix dents using putty fillers and then file and grind surfaces with hand and power tools.
  • Install repaired panels on the vehicle.
  • Change parts that are badly damaged with new or previously owned panels.
  • Repair a vehicle's frame with chassis aligners and other measuring tools.
  • Perform more complex electrical work when rebuilding a vehicle.
  • Help out in spray-painting vehicles.
  • Assist vehicle body builders in putting together custom-made vehicles or restoring vintage cars.

Ideal Personal Traits

There are certain qualities that you need to have to be able to do panel beating work properly.

  • Good eye-hand coordination: Reshaping damaged panels back to their original state requires visual input and acuity.
  • Enjoy manual work: Being a panel beater is all about engaging in manual work. If you enjoy this kind of activity, then you'll enjoy being a panel beater.
  • Ability to operate tools and machines: You have to use a variety of tools and machines (see above) to get the job done.
  • Knack for the technical: Panel beating isn't just about hitting metal panels. It also involves a good deal of technical knowledge in metalwork, welding and even complex alignment tools.
  • Ability to visualise the end product: The ability to form a mental image would help you in shaping damaged vehicle parts.
  • Normal colour vision: This trait is particularly useful when repainting the newly repainted section of the vehicle. You need to distinguish if the colour being applied is the same.