Automotive Trimmer

Automotive trimmers are qualified tradesmen who are responsible for upholstering motor vehicle seats, lining their roofs, floors and door panels and also installing windows, windscreens, backrest boosters, trimmings and leather coverings in the interiors of motor vehicles. 

Automotive trimmers or vehicle trimmers use tools and equipment such as scissors, needles, tongs, hammers, screwdrivers, and special sewing machines.  They first remove the door handles and then detach the upholstery and trimmings from the door panels, floor, roof and seats.  Trimmers need to choose the right type of material for every part of the vehicle.  Thereafter, the new material needed is marked and cut according to patterns and sketches. 

After the upholstery and lining have been completed finally, they replace all hinges, handles, and other trimmings and perform any finishing touches that may be necessary to the interior of the vehicle.  Materials are waterproofed if necessary.  Automotive trimmers are also responsible for checking that the seats of the vehicle are fitted in the correct position. Some trimmers specialise in working on the interior of vintage cars.

Because trimmers work mostly with new materials, the workshop is usually relatively clean and pleasant. Various machines and tools, such as various types of cringes (leather, synthetic leather and vinyl) and special sewing machines, are available and workshops are well lit and ventilated.

There is not much demand for trimmers in large motor factories today as it is done mostlty by machine, but panel-beating firms and the motor manufacturing industry have vacancies occasionally.

Personal Requirements

  • be at least 16 years old
  • good colour sense
  • enjoy working creatively with your hands
  • able to work quickly and accurately
  • work neatly and carefully
  • able to work in a team
  • reasonably strong to be able to pull material tightly over the frames
  • good eyesight and eye-hand coordination

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  •  Grade 9 Certificate
  •  Some employers demand higher qualifications

What to Study

Courses in automotive trimming or vehicle trimming are offered at various TVET Colleges such as False Bay, Northlink and Umgungundlovu TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) Colleges.

Candidates may register as learners or apprentices 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.


  • large vehicle manufacturers
  • automotive body repairers
  • larger private garages and workshops
  • upholstery factories

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

  • make an appointment to speak to an automotive trimmer about this type of career and ask to observe them at work
  • try to obtain vacation work with a large vehicle manufacturer or in an upholstery / furniture factory or at least visit one of these places
  • take shop courses to become familiar with the use of tools

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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