Prepare metal and pre-painted substrates in an automotive environment

Business Sectors (Suites): Vehicle Paint Refinishing
Developed by: IMI
Approved on: 30 Mar 2023


​This standard is about preparing a wide variety of different vehicle panel and component substrates to accept foundation materials and top coats.

Performance criteria

You must be able to:

P1 identify the correct preparation method as per the vehicle manufacturer’s specification
P2 use the appropriate personal protective equipment when carrying out all substrate preparation activities *
P3 protect the vehicle and its contents effectively when carrying out all *substrate preparation activities
P4 select, check and use the correct tools and equipment for the type of substrate preparation activities you are carrying out 
P5 ensure that the tools and equipment you require are in a safe working condition 
P6 identify the body panel substrates accurately prior to undertaking any preparation work 
P7 ensure the finished surface is suitable to accept the next process during preparation activities
P8 follow the work instructions given for the job correctly 
P9 clean and protect all substrates adjacent to those being prepared using the specified method 
P10 promptly and accurately report any unrecorded damage to substrates and ancillary fittings to the relevant person(s) 
P11 remove and store safely any components likely to be affected by the preparation process (where appropriate) referring to manufacturer’s methods
P12 keep your work area clean and tidy throughout all preparation activities *
P13 prepare all the panel *substrates required following health and safety requirements and using:

P13.1 suitable materials for the type of substrate
P13.2 the approved method and technique
P13.3 the approved tools and equipment
P14 ensure all prepared areas are free from contamination and ready for the application of foundation and top coat materials
P15 dispose of waste materials to conform with legal, environmental and workplace requirements
P16 leave tools, equipment and work environment in a clean and serviceable condition, as appropriate
P17 complete all vehicle preparation activities within the agreed timescale and to an agreed quality control process
P18 promptly report any anticipated delays in completion to the relevant person(s) 

Knowledge and Understanding

You need to know and understand:

K1 the health, safety and legal requirements relating to the preparation of panel substrates for foundation and top coats 
K2 your workplace procedures for:

K2.1 the referral of problems
K2.2 the reporting of delays to the completion of work
K2.3 the completion of work records
K2.4 the use of personal protection
K3 the work that needs to be done and the standard required 
K4 the importance of promptly reporting anticipated delays to the relevant person(s) 
K5 the requirements for protecting the vehicle and contents from damage before, during and after foundation and top coat preparation activities *
K6 the importance of selecting, using and maintaining the appropriate personal and vehicle protective equipment when preparing panel *substrates for foundation and top coats 
K7 the relationship between time, cost and productivity 
K8 how to select, adjust and use the correct tools and equipment throughout the preparation process 
K9 how to recognise damage to substrates and ancillary fittings 
K10 how to test and recognise substrates and assess suitability for repair 
K11 how to rectify substrate defects
K12 how the substrate affects the preparation process 
K13 how to source, use and understand the vehicle manufacturer's  methods and limitations 
K14 how to prepare new and repaired panels using the correct techniques 
K15 how to carry out preparation procedures to avoid materials wastage and vehicle contamination for each stage of the preparation process 
K16 how to prepare and protect panels and parts adjacent to the area being painted 
K17 the factors governing the choice of panel preparation methods for substrate materials 
K18 the types and grades of available abrasives and the factors governing their use for different substrates 

K19 the importance of following manufacturer’s methods and using their approved techniques of working (including use of materials and equipment) 
K20 the consequences of failing to follow manufacturer’s methods and processes 
K21 the importance of working to agreed timescales and keeping others informed 
K22 how to work safely avoiding damage to vehicles, personal injury and injury to colleagues 
K23 how to dispose of waste materials in compliance with any environmental requirements/legislation and workplace procedures 
K24 the importance of disposing of waste safely and the consequences of not doing so to the business, others and the environment 
K25 the implications of not following an agreed quality control process


1. **Substrates** include:

1.1. electro-coated panels
1.2. repaired panels
1.3. original manufacturer’s finish
1.4. zinc coated panels
1.5. steel panels
1.6. aluminium panels
1.7. previously primed panels
1.8. protection additive/film

2. Preparation activities include:

2.1. abrasives
2.2. feathering out
2.3. flattening
2.4. using guide coats
2.5. de-greasing
2.6. conditioning 
2.7. masking for foundation and top coats
2.8. tack off techniques

Scope Performance

Scope Knowledge





Links To Other NOS

External Links

Version Number


Indicative Review Date

30 Mar 2026





Originating Organisation


Original URN


Relevant Occupations

Automotive Paint Technician, Engineering, Senior Automotive Paint Technician, Vehicle Trades

SOC Code



Prepare; metal; pre-painted; substrates; surfacces; automotive; environment