The objective of the ASE Collision Repair and Refinish Test Series is to identify and recognize those collision repair technicians and refinishers who possess knowledge of the skills required to properly analyze and repair automotive collision damage and to correct paint-finish damage. This test series includes one test for paint refinishers and one test each for non-structural damage repair, structural damage repair, and vehicle mechanical- and electrical-system repair. There’s also a separate test specially designed for collision damage estimators. For this article, we’ll specifically look at details of the Non-Structural Analysis and Damage Repair (Test B3) and also the Structural Analysis and Damage Repair (Test B4).
As is always the case, the content of ASE tests and the actual test questions are developed in workshops by the industry segment that’s specific to that test series. The questions for the collision repair and refinishing tests are written and approved by a cross-section of industry experts, including collision repair technicians, refinishers, vehicle manufacturers, paint manufacturers, parts and equipment manufacturers, industry trainers and insurance companies. This ensures the tests are fair and the questions relate to job skills know-how instead of "book knowledge." Workshops also tackle the job of updating the test questions to keep pace with new technology.
Since the pass/fail points are also established by the industry, ASE-certification tests represent an industry, as well as a national, standard of competency.
The content of the Non-Structural Analysis and Damage Repair (Test B3) is divided into the following areas:
• Outer Body Panel Repairs, Replacements and Adjustments.
• Metal Finishing and Body Filling.
• Glass and Hardware.
• Welding and Cutting.
• Plastic Repair.
The content of the Structural Analysis and Damage Repair (Test B4) is divided into the following areas:
• Frame Inspection and Repair.
• Unibody Inspection, Measurement and Repair.
• Stationary Glass.
• Metal Welding and Cutting.
Preparing for the Tests
The preceding content information, though helpful, isn’t complete enough to use for test preparation; additional information is available from ASE. Each of these content areas is further defined by a Task List, which is a list of the required job skills or activities for each content area. A review of the Task List will indicate how well you’re prepared. For example, the first content area for the Non-Structural Analysis and Damage Repair (Test B3) is Preparation. This is also the first topic of the Task List.
The following is the Task List for Preparation:
- Review the damage report; analyze damage to determine appropriate methods for overall repair.
- Lift, raise and position the vehicle to perform repairs.
- Remove outside trim and moldings as necessary; store reusable parts.
- Remove damaged or undamaged inside trim and moldings as necessary; store reusable parts.
- Remove undamaged, non-structural body panels and components that may interfere with or be damaged during repair.
- Remove all vehicle mechanical and electrical components that may interfere with or be damaged during repair.
- Protect panels and parts adjacent to the repair area to prevent damage during repair.
- Remove dirt, grease, wax and other contaminants from areas to be repaired.
- Remove pinstripes, emblems and decals (transfers/overlays, woodgrains).
- Remove corrosion protection, undercoatings, sealers and other protective coatings as necessary to perform repairs.
- Remove repairable plastics and other parts that are recommended for off-vehicle repair.
- Identify potential safety and environmental concerns associated with vehicle components and systems, i.e. ABS, air bags (SRS), refrigerants, coolants, etc.
- Determine the repair procedures in accordance with the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications and industry procedures.
A review of the Task List will help you understand exactly what repairs will be covered in the test. The complete Task List, an industry training resource listing and additional general information are contained in the Official ASE Test Preparation guides, which are available for all ASE test series. Order your free copy by contacting ASE.
Says Henry Netter, an ASE Master Certified Collision/Refinish Technician and contributor to BodyShop Business: "The tests are really common sense questions and answers with a bit of verbal trickery thrown in to confuse the testee. An experienced tech should rely on his/her first impression — and don’t complicate the question. I went with my initial instinct on most of the questions and breezed though the ones I felt weren’t difficult. Then I went back to the more challenging ones and re-read them to better understand them. To me, the problem questions were the ones with multiple correct answers, but only the best of the correct was right. Go with your instincts."
What if you’re not an experienced tech? "The novice or virgin techs will have to rely on what they picked up in their classroom settings, at the shops where they’re apprenticing, and from any and all literature and industry-related magazines they’ve read and studied," says Netter. "And again, they should go with their first instincts."
Netter also advises reviewing industry terminology because that’s the wording used on the tests. "One difficulty facing techs is the fact that we learn our craft by doing," he says. "It’s a visual thing. One way to prepare yourself for the tests is to give words to your repair procedure. It’s almost like pretending to be teaching someone exactly what you’re doing by not only showing them but by using the proper vocabulary for those procedures."
Last, but not least, says Netter, you need to "relax." "The world won’t end if you don’t make a passing grade," he says. "Stress can block your instincts, so take a deep breath and just stay calm."
Earning ASE certification puts you in company with the elite of your profession. More importantly, you’re identified as an individual who’s willing to voluntarily prove your technical competence and demonstrate your professionalism. But certification isn’t for life. To remain certified, technicians must be re-tested every five years.
And since the exams stress real-world diagnostic and repair problems — not theory — they’re no cinch to pass. In fact, approximately one out of every three test takers fails.
Because not every tech is skilled enough to earn ASE certification, it’s a great accomplishment for those who do and for the shops who employ them. It’s also a great selling point with customers since more and more of the driving public is becoming educated regarding the training and certification required to succeed in this industry. In fact, according to ASE’s most recent consumer audit, 11 percent of consumers now recognize the ASE logo (this may not seem impressive, until you consider the fact that only 13 percent of consumers recognize the AAA logo).
So, if elevating the industry’s professionalism and raising employee morale isn’t enough of a reason to consider ASE certification, consider this: It can also help to elevate consumer confidence in your techs’ abilities, which, in turn, will help to elevate your shop’s sales and profits.
Writer Bob Clark works for ASE Industry Relations and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (703) 713-3067.
Unibody Repair Tips from a Master Tech
• Take a few minutes to examine the vehicle: how the car sits; how the doors, hood and trunk line up and shut, the positions of the wheels.
• Check the specification book and make sure you have the correct one. Then examine where you plan to install gauges and determine where to place the anchoring clamps so they won’t interfere with each other.
• A wheelbase measurement is fine, but a more precise or exact spot would be the grease fitting or lower ball joint on the lower control arm to a control point on the sub-structure. An uneven toe setting can throw off a wheelbase check.
• Netter has "one of those 50,000 candlepower hand-held rechargeable floodlights that I use to inspect my vehicles. Under a car, the more light the better. Drop lights are good, but nothing illuminates hidden damage like this floodlight."
• Even though the repaired vehicle shows that it’s in specifications, "I still like the sound of a hood or trunk latch sliding into the lock and clicking shut or a door closing and opening without effort," says Netter. "I prefer to install the parts and check for fit before I take the car off the machine. It lessens the odds of having to go back up on the machine and "tweaking" the job to get a better fit."