After being involved in a car accident, one of the first things you’ll think about is getting your car repaired as quickly as possible. But taking your car to the first auto body shop you find would be a hasty decision. In order to find a reliable and reputable auto body shop, take time to do your research and ask questions so that you’ll receive high quality auto body repair work for your vehicle.
Here are some questions and things to consider before allowing an auto body repair shop to repair your vehicle:
- Learn more about the auto body repair shop. Reading an online review about an auto body repair shop can be a useful resource. You can get a sense of the quality of the auto body repair shop based on customer feedback, ratings and reviews. You might want to ask the following questions after reading an online review:
- How often will I receive text or email updates about my car’s repair status?
- Can I view repair updates online?
- Can I arrange for a loaner or rental car online or through an affiliated rental car service
- What kind of warranty comes with their auto body repair work? If they offer a warranty, ask how long it lasts and what it will cover.
- Does the auto body repair shop have rental cars on their lot or do they provide loaner vehicles? Being without a car is an inconvenience, so you’ll need to make sure that you have a rental, loaner or courtesy car while yours is in the shop. Some auto body repair shops have a car rental facility located in or near their shop. Other auto body repair shops may offer loaner or courtesy cars that can be used while they are repairing your car.If there is a pre-rental agreement, review it carefully – read the fine print. Take photos of the car before it leaves the shop & when you return it (honest shops will not object to this; it’s common practice in the age of Smartphones). Take note of the mileage as well.
- How long will the auto body repair take? This is the #1 question asked of all auto body shops. There is no hard and fast answer since each case is subjective. There are many factors related that can affect the length of repair time, including the extent of damage to your car, how busy the auto body repair shop is at that particular time, or even holidays during which the shop may be closed. A 2017 Industry Trend Data report published by CCC Information Services Inc. showed that the average length of customer loaner or rental car usage – the measuring stick used to determine length of repair time – has grown from 9.26 to 9.85 days.Additional factors may include the level of the repair technicians’ certifications and training, the quality of the shop’s parts procurement process and the channels through which parts are acquired (does the shop deal with parts suppliers and manufacturers or with auto junkyards?) and/or the equipment with which the shop is outfitted. Is their equipment state-of-the-art or antiquated? Are work areas clean and efficient? What, if any, repairs are outsourced? All of this can shorten – or lengthen – the time of your car repair.
- Is your car covered while it is in the shop? Ask the auto body repair shop if they carry fire and theft insurance. You want to be sure that you’ll be covered just in case your car is damaged, destroyed, stolen or burglarized while it is in the auto body repair shop. It is also not advisable to stop paying auto insurance premiums on your car while it is being repaired. Most states require auto insurance and will penalize you for a lapse of even one day. Also if the mechanic needs to drive the car for testing purposes, he/she could be penalized if pulled over. By allowing your auto insurance policy to lapse, you will likely spend more on penalties than save on premiums — even if the repair time is lengthy.
- Will the paint match the rest of my car? In most cases, cars have a paint code on a plate located either in a door jamb, under the hood, or in the trunk. This paint code will give the exact color of the manufacturer’s paint. Make sure the auto body repair shop will be using the same exact color of paint and not a similar color. For further reading, check this blog post: How Much Does a Car Paint Job Cost?
- How soon can you wash your car after an auto body repair? An auto body repair shop usually returns your car back to you clean. They may have already washed it or waited for the paint to dry so that you can drive your car immediately after the repair. Still, it is important to know whether it is it safe to take your car to a car wash that uses friction brushing or a touch-free car wash with acid presoaks and super concentrated car wash soap soon after a fresh paint job.
- What is friction brushing?
- Friction brushing usually employs a combination of high pressure blasters with foam and/or cloth brushes. Brush-equipped washes generally perform better and move faster, as brushes clean in hard-to-reach places. Additionally advances in soft-touch systems increase the quality of the wash while reducing the possibility of damage to the finish. Consult with your auto body repair technician on the best option in your car’s case.
- What is a touch-free wash?
- Touchless washes employ a combination of chemicals, presoaks, detergents, high water pressure and modern systems even include laser-guided contour sensors. The advantage of a touch-free wash is that nothing touches the vehicle for the duration of the wash, which is typically longer than a friction wash. One possible disadvantage is, because a touch-free wash is so reliant upon chemicals, certain mix ratios can cause stains on the paint. Consult with your auto body repair technician on the best option in your car’s case.
- What is friction brushing?
- Does the auto body repair shop have any certifications? Certifications, such as I-CAR and ASE, are a good sign of a reputable auto body repair shop. A certification usually means that the auto body repair shop has the skills and knowledge required to perform complete, safe and quality repairs.
- Will the auto body repair shop put everything in writing? When bringing your car into an auto body repair shop, ask if you can receive a written estimate. You should also ask for an itemized bill after all work is completed. If the written estimate doesn’t match the itemized bill, don’t be afraid to ask about any discrepancies.
- Consider the below excerpt from the “Auto Body Repair Consumer’s Bill of Rights,” which was passed into law in California in 2009:
A CONSUMER IS ENTITLED TO:
- AN ITEMIZED WRITTEN ESTIMATE FOR AUTO BODY REPAIRS AND, UPON COMPLETION OF REPAIRS, A DETAILED INVOICE. THE ESTIMATE AND THE INVOICE MUST INCLUDE AN ITEMIZED LIST OF PARTS AND LABOR ALONG WITH THE TOTAL PRICE FOR THE WORK PERFORMED. THE ESTIMATE AND INVOICE MUST ALSO IDENTIFY ALL PARTS AS NEW, USED, AFTERMARKET, RECONDITIONED, OR REBUILT.
- BE INFORMED ABOUT COVERAGE FOR TOWING AND STORAGE SERVICES.
- BE INFORMED ABOUT THE EXTENT OF COVERAGE, IF ANY, FOR A REPLACEMENT RENTAL VEHICLE WHILE A DAMAGED VEHICLE IS BEING REPAIRED.
- BE INFORMED OF WHERE TO REPORT SUSPECTED FRAUD OR OTHER COMPLAINTS AND CONCERNS ABOUT AUTO BODY REPAIRS.
- SEEK AND OBTAIN AN INDEPENDENT REPAIR ESTIMATE DIRECTLY FROM A REGISTERED AUTO BODY REPAIR SHOP FOR REPAIR OF A DAMAGED VEHICLE, EVEN WHEN PURSUING AN INSURANCE CLAIM FOR REPAIR OF THE VEHICLE.
For further reading, check out this blog post: Top 10 Ways Auto Body Shops Can Ensure a Positive Customer Experience
- What is the payment policy? Most reputable auto body repair shops post their policies and payment methods where customers can easily see them. The payment policies may include labor rates, materials, warranty information, guarantees, and acceptable forms of payment. If you don’t see payment policy information, ask before the shop begins any auto body repair work on your vehicle.
For further reading, check out this blog post: Top Consumer Facts & Tips About Repair
Trying to plan what materials you’ll need to know over the next two decades of auto body repair? A new Center for Automotive Research white paper suggests it really could be all of them — but with very little of the weaker steels which made for decades of easy and familiar auto body repairs.
In fact, CAR projects that the U.S. fleet of 2040 will have a smaller percentage of lower-tier steels (mild steel; high-strength, low-alloy; and high-strength steel) than it will have of carbon fiber and other composites.
In 2010, 55 percent of the American fleet was mild steel, that staple 270-megapascal stuff that can be easily manipulated by a body shop, according to the think tank. Another 35 percent was high-strength, low-alloy or high-strength steels, still below 590-megapascal advanced high strength steel and facing little, if any, restriction on repairability. (For example, see the General Motors and Honda steel guidelines.)
The rest of the car was 5 percent advanced high-strength steels, 4 percent aluminum, and 1 percent magnesium. Only a tenth of the body required special repair considerations or had restrictions, give or take. (The average repairable vehicle is about 6-7 years old, so that 2010 mix of materials should be coming through the door today.)
By 2040, guess what? CAR projects only about a tenth of the fleet’s bodies, 12 percent, will be restriction-free mild- to high-strength steel. The other 42 percentage points worth of steel found on vehicles will be advanced high-strength steel or even more restrictive ultra-high-strength and boron/martensite steel — which can mean more replace-only parts.
“Hot forming of steels is already used in high production parts and will reach maturity by 2025 as the need for ultra-high strength steels increases,” CAR wrote. “… Maturity of a technology is a subjective term which depends on the vehicle program. In broad terms, a mature technology can be used in mass-produced vehicles (volume over 100,000 units a year), has multiple product applications, and is available from multiple suppliers with a global supply capability.”
What will the other 46 percent of the car be made of? 26 percent will be aluminum, including what CAR describes as “high strength” aluminum. Only about 5 percent will be magnesium, a stat which stays fairly consistent since around 2020-2025. The final 15 percent will be carbon fiber or other composites.
“Experts agree that no single material wins in the race to lightweighting,” CAR wrote in a passage accompanying this chart. “A weight and performance optimized vehicle will have a mixed-material body structure. The industry is already experiencing this shift in recently introduced vehicles which use materials customized for each area of the car to simultaneously advance driving dynamics, fuel economy, and cabin quietness.”
Based on CAR’s projections, it seems as though shops (and techs?) which decided to write off the prospect of future F-150 work to avoid having to buy dedicated aluminum tooling, space and training might have just delayed the inevitable. (And technically, you might need that stuff for work on items like aluminum hoods and bumpers on an otherwise steel car.) CAR’s projections show a fairly steady rise in aluminum starting about 2020 until the 26 percent estimate for 2040.
While you’re prepping for the future, it can’t hurt to bone up on advanced joining techniques. CAR predicts resistance spot welding will fall from around 75 percent of factory joining today to about 20 percent by 2030, with adhesive, pre-tailored blanks (a part comprised of multiple elements and materials joined together and delivered to an OEM in a single piece), and rivets gobbling up its market share.
While not every factory technique translates to a similar repair in the aftermarket, a shop might be doing less welding and replacing more parts than in the past.
“With new materials come new challenges,” CAR wrote. “Joining dissimilar materials is not easy, and is sometimes impossible to do using traditional resistance spot welding due to differences in melting point. Joining technologies–such as adhesives and advanced fasteners–will play an important role in achieving the optimized mixed-material architecture, since they have the ability to join any combination of dissimilar materials.”
As noted earlier, no matter what the Trump administration does regarding emissions and fuel economy, these lightweighting trends should endure. OEMs will have to sell similar vehicles in other countries which are likely to require cleaner cars — and subsequently spur weight reduction. And as vehicles become smarter and more comfortable, they add weight that must be offset.
CAR estimated that by 2025, each car will have added 5 percent of its curb weight in “safety and performance improvements.”
“For example, an additional 200 to 300 pounds per vehicle will be added for automated driving features,” CAR continued.
CAR’s study is free, and collision repair professionals should avail themselves of the opportunity to ponder the predictions and what they could mean for one’s own business or career over the next 20 years. The whitepaper also contains predictions on mobility and the powertrain which might be useful as well. Other free CAR research can be found here.
“Technology Roadmaps: Intelligent Mobility Technology, Materials and Manufacturing Processes, and Light Duty Vehicle Propulsion”
Center for Automotive Research, June 2017
Center for Automotive Research publications
Various metals, including aluminum green), magnesium yellow), and press-hardened ultra-high-strength steel (maroon) can be seen on the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica at NACE 2016. Also visible is the composite front structure (red). (John Huetter/Repairer Driven News)
The Center for Automotive Research projects that the U.S. fleet of 2040 will have a smaller percentage of lower-tier steels (mild steel; high-strength, low-alloy; and high-strength steel) than it will have of carbon fiber and other composites. (Provided by Center for Automotive Research)
Potential future manufacturing techniques, according to the Center for Automotive Research. (Provided by Center for Automotive Research)