Vehicle Fitter

The Job and What's Involved

Vehicle fitters repair and replace worn or damaged tyres, exhausts, batteries and parts.

Tyre replacement involves:

  • Removing the wheel from the vehicle, letting out the air from the tyre and removing it from the wheel using a lever or machine.
  • Fitting a new tyre and inflating it, making sure it reaches the right pressure for the vehicle.
  • Balancing the wheel correctly using a machine.
  • Replacing the wheel.
  • Making detailed checks for nails, stones and cracks, especially in tyres on heavy vehicles.

Replacing an exhaust system involves:

  • Raising the vehicle on ramps or above a pit, to work on it from below.
  • Detaching the old exhaust.
  • Replacing faulty parts and refitting the exhaust, or fitting an entirely new system if necessary.

Other duties may include:

  • Advising customers - for example, on which tyres need to be replaced, the legally required tread depth for tyres, and the best products for their vehicles.
  • Taking payment as cash or credit card.
  • Recording the work done.

Fitters use a variety of hand and power tools, such as jacks, to raise the axle before taking off a wheel; wheel braces or air-powered devices, to make sure the wheel nuts are tight after replacement; and balancing machines, which may be computerised. Balancing machines allow the fitter to see where lead weights must be added to the rim of a wheel so that it wears evenly.

Fitters may specialise in tyres or exhausts, or work on both. Depending on the employer, they may work on cars and vans, or on heavy commercial vehicles such as lorries and buses. Sometimes the role is combined with other tasks, such as repairing brakes and steering, or helping with MOT tests.

Fitters usually work on a job alone, except when dealing with very large vehicles when a team may be involved. In some 'fast-fit' workshops they may carry out repairs while the customer waits.

Vehicle fitters generally work Monday to Friday. Some workshops are open in the evenings and weekends, so they may work shifts or rotas. Overtime may be available.

The work is carried out in garages or workshops. These are large spaces, which may be cold in winter.

Physical fitness is important as bending, lifting and standing are part of the job.

Fitters wear overalls or boiler suits.

A trainee tyre/exhaust fitter may earn around £5,500 to £9,000 a year. On qualifying, fitters may earn around £12,000 to £15,000. More experienced fitters may earn around £16,000 to £18,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Employers include:

  • Specialist tyre and exhaust centres.
  • General garages, especially dealerships specialising in a specific make of vehicle.
  • Road haulage firms.
  • Bus and coach companies.

There are jobs in all parts of the UK. Most opportunities are in towns and cities.

Vacancies are advertised in the local press and on the web sites of the major companies and dealerships as well as Jobcentre Plus offices.

Education and Training

No set academic qualifications are required. However, employers look for good reading and number skills. Some may ask for some GCSE's (A*-D) in English, maths or science subjects.

A genuine interest in motor vehicles is important. Some employers expect applicants to have a driving licence, or be willing to learn.

Trainees can study for vocationally-related Technical Certificates awarded by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) at Levels 1, 2 and 3 in vehicle fitting operations.

Major national employers run their own Apprenticeship schemes in vehicle fitting, which lead to qualifications awarded by the motor industry's professional body, the IMI, and enable successful candidates to apply for IMI membership.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

The Diplomas in engineering or retail business may be relevant for this area of work.

Entry from a different career background is possible, however entrants must be fit in order to cope with the physical demands of the job. Some experience and an enthusiasm for motor vehicles are helpful.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training usually takes place on the job. Trainees watch experienced fitters and then start to work under supervision.

Basic training may take around six weeks. It can take up to two years to become a fully trained fitter working on all types of vehicle, often spent partly in off-the-job training at a college or training centre.

In the workplace, apprentices can study for IMI NVQ's at Levels 2 and 3 in vehicle fitting operations (general) and vehicle fitting operations (specialist tyre fitting).

It is important to keep in touch with the latest developments associated with relevant vehicles.

Short courses or continuing professional development (CPD) events are available to ensure that skill levels remain up-to-date.

Automotive Technician Accreditation (ATA) is a voluntary assessment programme for technicians working in the retail motor industry. It has the backing of major vehicle manufacturers, independent service and repair organisations and Automotive Skills, a division of The Institute of the Motor Industry, which is the Sector Skills Council for the retail motor industry.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A vehicle fitter needs to be:

  • Good at practical and manual work.
  • Accurate and pay attention to detail.
  • Reasonably fit.
  • Able to explain technical issues in a simple way.
  • Comfortable handling jobs on their own, as well as working in a team.
  • Able to handle cash and credit card transactions.
  • Aware of the health and safety regulations.

Your Long Term Prospects

Experienced fitters may advance to supervisory or management roles. Some managers in the larger national companies have started out as fitters.

Those employed by smaller organisations may be able to move to a related area, such as stock control.

Get Further Information

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI),
Fanshaws, Brickendon,
Hertford SG13 8PQ
Tel: 01992 511 521
Website: www.theimi.org.uk and
www.automotive-skills.org.uk

Retail Motor Industry Federation,
201 Great Portland Street,
London W1W 5AB
Tel: 020 7850 9122
Website: www.rmif.co.uk

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