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Performing required safety checks is a necessity

Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - 06:00
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There’s a former shop owner in the Midwest who has talked openly at industry events about the 5-year legal process that was a factor in his decision to sell his multi-shop business back in 2015. A vehicle his company repaired was subsequently involved in a high-speed crash that left two of the car’s four occupants paraplegic. The automaker of the vehicle was dropped from the resulting lawsuit because, the shop owner acknowledges, it was able to show there were “repair requirements that I as a repairer did not follow” in the previous repair.

Those specific requirements: Safety inspections of more than a dozen items.

A process that, for that vehicle, required more than 15 hours of labor, including pulling the dash and steering column to check every module, sensor and wiring connection.

“We did not perform those operations,” the shop owner said, acknowledging that he wasn’t aware of them.

I bring this up because there’s been more discussion in the industry lately about these safety inspections. More shops, particularly those certified by automakers, are realizing that virtually every automaker calls for such inspections, which vary by make and model and the type of hit the vehicle sustained.

But just as the industry “discovered” the need for scanning a few years ago, it wasn’t that scanning hadn’t been called for in the OEM procedures for years. The same is true with these safety inspections. I recall an industry trainer giving a presentation about them in the 1990s at the NORTHEAST trade show. The eighth unit of I-CAR’s “Collision Repair 2000” course talked about them. Even the generation of I-CAR curriculum prior to that referred to them. If you, or the insurance adjuster you’re working with on a claim, have a certificate showing you took even those long-ago I-CAR classes, the automaker’s required safety inspections shouldn’t be something “new” to you.

The only thing that is new is a broader realization within the industry that shops should be doing these inspections. Montana shop owner Bruce Halcro and Oregon shop owner Ron Reichen gave a presentation at a recent Society of Collision Repair Specialists’ meeting on the safety inspections that Subaru calls for after one of its vehicles has been in a collision. They talked about doing disassembly to visually inspect the cage nut seatbelt anchors to look for stretching or stress points. They talked about visually inspecting wiring harnesses that may have been pulled or crimped in such a way that, even if it doesn’t result in a diagnostic trouble code now, could lead to failure with future road vibration. They talked about pulling the dash to check the safety beam, and visually inspecting airbags. They talked about test drives needed to check that seat belt tensioners kick-in on sharp braking.

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