Here's how vehicle body builders design and build the chassis and body of vehicles

Image: 123RF/Nataliya Hora.

They work from plans, drawings and specifications. Materials are measured, sawn or cut to size, fitted and welded together. The floor of the bodywork is then manufactured and bolted onto the chassis.

Metal beams are cut, welded together and reinforced to form a sturdy frame for the body. The panels of the bodywork are made from various sizes and thicknesses of sheet metal panels which are welded or riveted together onto the framework.

Different materials are used for the interior panels to provide insulation or soundproofing where necessary. The vehicle body is then cleaned and painted and windows are installed and fitted. Finally, the electrical fittings and other trimmings are installed.

Watch the video to learn more:

Personal requirements

  • At least 16 years old
  • Enjoy working with your hands
  • Certain amount of mechanical ability
  • Able to read plans and interpret specifications such as assembling and dismantling engines and other mechanical devices
  • Good at handling tools
  • Good eye-hand coordination
  • Physically strong and healthy with stamina 
  • Enjoy practical and manual activities 
  • An eye for detail
  • Interested in design and fabrication using metals and other products 

How to enter

Schooling & school subjects compulsory subjects: None recommended subjects: Engineering and Graphic DesignMechanical TechnologyCivil TechnologyElectrical TechnologyDesign Studies


What to study

There are 3 ways to qualify: 

1. An apprenticeship is a fixed contract between company and apprentice, ranging in duration from between 18 months and 4 years. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test leading to professional certification.

2. A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from about a year to 3 years. A learnership comprises theoretical and practical training. Practical training is conducted on site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets experience whilst training.

3. TVET colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools.

They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a TVET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest TVET College. TVET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MerSETA or ChietaSETA.

They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.


  • Vehicle manufacturers
  • Municipalities
  • Transnet
  • Private panel-beating concerns
  • Government undertakings
  • Explosives and allied industries
  • Self-employment, with enough experience, initiative and capital, can start own business

Getting started

  • Try to obtain vacation work in a vehicle building workshop
  • Make an appointment to speak to a vehicle body builder about this type of career
  • Contact the Department of Labour about learnership possibilities in your area

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