Collision Repair Tips and Services

Choosing an auto shop that offers dependable collision repair isn’t a decision that should be made under stress. Car accidents never happen when you expect them, and putting your transportation in the hands of people you do not have time to research in a pinch can cost you unnecessary fees. Just as you check your tire pressure, having a go-to mechanic before unfortunate circumstances arise is an important part of owning a vehicle.

When deciding where to take your car for collision repair, there are a few key factors to take into consideration. Answering the important questions requires research before an accident occurs. Fortunately, most automotive shops can be found online, so making a choice can be easy. Visit all of your local body shops to check if they meet your standards.

Experience and Service

You may want to know if the staff has the experience to handle your needs. Check online to see if the staff is licensed, or if the shop has a standard for years of experience. Anything upwards of ten years of experiences is a safe margin. You may also wish to know how the staff views their customer satisfaction. If you are important to them, you will know. After all, years of experience can be spoiled by unfriendly service.

Insurance Coverage

You may also wish to match your insurance to the shop of your choice. This can be easily done online or by calling ahead. If you find yourself in need of collision repair, the last thing you want is to tow your car to the nearest shop only to find your insurance doesn’t cover their service. A dependable shop will keep a list of insurance companies they work with, and your insurance company should also have a list of locations that fall under your plan.

Pricing

Of course, another factor to consider is the overall cost of auto body services. While you can’t know in advance the exact cost due to the unforeseeable nature of vehicular accidents, you can make an informed decision on where to take your car based on the services they offer. The mechanics will typically let you know if you call or visit the shop to ask, or they may even advertise their options on their website.

While collision repair will never be a wanted experience, early preparedness can help smooth the process so that you and your loved ones can return to the road as soon as possible without breaking the bank. A stress-free, informed decision could be the reassurance you need to drive confidently to your destination. No one should have to drive with the fear of unaffordable accidents looming overhead.

Collision Repair: How Much Damage Is Too Much?

From minor bumps to high-speed crashes, most car accidents result in damages that require the expertise of an auto body repair shop. Collision repair isn’t always simple. Even minor accidents can cause auto body damage that is expensive and timely to repair. The type of impact and the style of the damaged car both play a role in determining how much damage has occurred.

Determining a Total Loss

Many drivers think that there’s no hope if their insurance company says that their car is ‘totaled.’ A car that is totaled is not necessarily unrepairable though. The extent of the damage has very little to do with whether or not an insurance company declares a total loss. Instead, the decision is based on the costof the collision repair in comparison to the fair market value of the car. If repairing the auto body damage will cost more than the car is worth, it is said to be totaled.

Structural Damage

Correcting damage to a vehicle’s frame is one of the most expensive types of collision repair, but undoing structural damage is not impossible. A knowledgeable auto body repair shop will generally inspect a wrecked vehicle for misalignment before anything else. If the car doesn’t meet the exact measurements of the manufacturer, advanced machines are used to pull the frame back to its original specifications.

Rear End Collisions

Depending on the speed, a car that is rear ended can suffer quite a bit of damage. Structural damage is not uncommon after a powerful rear collision. The amount of damage will also depend on the car. In a recent IIHS study, a low-speed rear end collision in a compact car with a poorly designed bumper can result in more than $3,500 in auto body damage. On the other hand, a car with dent-resistant plastic body panels can often be repaired for less than $200.

Frontal Impacts

Front-end collision repair is often more extensive than rear end damage. At higher speeds, a head-on collision can cause damage to the front bumper, the hood, the windshield, and the quarter panels. If the damage is minor, the auto body technician may choose to repair the panels rather than replace them. Unless the parts are pre-painted, the body shop will also have to match the paint color and re-spray each panel before reassembling the car.

Rollovers

A car that rolls over generally has much more auto body damage than a vehicle involved in a frontal or rear end crash. Damage to the frame is usually inevitable in a rollover. There is a possibility that every piece of the car has suffered at least minor body damage. The decision to repair a vehicle that has rolled over should be made carefully. Extensive damage like this could require additional mechanical work, as well.

Whether auto body damage appears to be major or minor, an experienced collision repair specialist should examine the car for unseen damage. Accidents can cause cosmetic damage that is fairly easy to repair, as well as frame damage or mechanical troubles that are much more costly to fix. Almost any type of collision damage can be repaired, but sometimes it is more cost efficient to scrap the vehicle.

Auto Body Repair Estimates Demystified – The 5 Most Common Items on a Repair Estimate

So you’ve decided to get an estimate from a local body shop. These days, most body shops will use a computerized estimating software to write your estimate. If the shop you have chosen does not use a computer to write your estimate that should be cause for concern. This is not meant as a jab at those long time owners and technicians and I am not implying they are “backward” or “luddites” or ignorant. Its more for accountability. Computerized software is now standard in our industry and insures a more uniform, unbiased and accurate appraisal for how long things take to repair. For instance, I was talking to a shop owner just a couple days ago who was remembering with fondness the good old days when he would routinely get 15+ labor hours to repair frames on cars that nowadays he only gets 4-5 hours on. The truth is however that 4-5 is the more accurate and fair rate (depending on the job of course it could be more or less). And since consumers and insurance companies are billed by the hours on an estimate the old days of falsely inflating hours are gone.

When it comes to auto body repair the vast majority of line items on an estimate will be one of 5 things:

1. R & I. This is shorthand for “remove and install” and means to take something off your car and then to re-install it later. Parts that are not damaged may need to be temporarily removed to access another part that was damaged or more often so the panel it is taken off of can painted properly. For instance, say your electric motor for your window stops working. The interior trim panel will need to be temporarily removed for to gain access to the motor to see if it can be repaired (not likely!) or replaced. Or perhaps a molding needs to be removed from your door before it is painted only to be put back on later when the paint dries. One caution here is that if panels are being painted and you’re not being charged for R & I the shop may be taping them up which can actually cause peeling or flaking months or years later. So don’t be surprised if for instance a headlight needs to be removed to properly paint a fender. You should actually be more concerned if its not. FYI: R & I times are typically set to industry standards by estimating software and are not discretionary.

2. Repair. Repair (aka ‘Rpr’) is the most discretionary item on an estimate and typically the amount of time it takes to repair something will be underlined or asterisk-ed (*) to indicate this. This is where an insurance adjuster might say a dent will take 3 hours to fix and a technician might say it will take 4. There’s no hard and fast rule here and this needs to be negotiated between insurance adjusters, shop estimators and possibly even the technicians doing the job. My dad who has been in the industry almost 40 years taught me a long time ago that a dent which is about the size of a man’s fist should take about 3 hours to repair. From there you can adjust up or done for various things like a body line that runs through the dent (add an hour) or the dent has no creases and is accessible from the inside and therefore can be mostly popped out (subtract time). The reason these times are so important is that insurance companies are paying shops based on the number of hours on the estimate.

3. Replace. Replacing parts, sometimes shorthanded to ‘repl,’ is not a discretionary item on an estimate and is governed by industry standards or what shop folks call “book time.” If the book/software says it takes 3.5 hours to replace that bumper then that is what the insurance company will pay. No more and no less. It is pretty well standardized with only slight variations depending on which software is used and then it only differs by very little.

4. Sublet. Sometimes there are things that an auto body shop will send to someone else (typically a mechanic who takes care of more under the hood items) to perform and this is categorized as sublet. Popular things for shops to sublet out are air conditioner recharging and 4 wheel alignments when the suspension is damaged. The reason this is sent out typically is that the equipment and space required for these operations are not cost effective for a body shop. And when it comes to deeper engine repair, oil and paint don’t mix! Oil and grease can quickly ruin a paint job. So, shops that say they can do “everything” typically can’t do everything well.

5. Miscellaneous. Under this category will go small charges like “hazardous waste removal” (about once a month we pay someone to pick up and dispose of our hazardous waste in the safest way possible) and “car cover for overspray” which pays for paper, tape and plastic to cover the vehicle during the painting process so paint over spray doesn’t go all over the windows or adjacent panels.