Although industry trainers and consultants can bring a wealth of information to collision repair shop owners and their employees, they understandably expect to be paid for the service, value and tools they bring to the table.
But the collision industry also has access to some amazing websites and tools that can offer shop owners the information or other help they need to solve a challenge – all at no cost. The creators or sponsors of these free tools often say they are underutilized. So check out this collection to see how many of the following complimentary resources might help you and your business.
Assistance for those in need
Have you or your employees been displaced or lost tools because of a storm or natural disaster? The Collision Industry Foundation (CIF) is a non-profit organization that offers individuals in the industry assistance after a catastrophe strikes, providing cash, equipment, tools or other resources to collision repairers in need.
Earlier this year, for example, the Foundation helped an employee of a collision shop in West Virginia replace about $2,500 in household appliances she lost as a result of severe flooding in the area. In 2015, the Foundation helped replace a technician’s tools that were stolen while he was deployed overseas in the military.
Get Free OEM Training
Now is your chance to register for an expo pass to NACE Automechanika Chicago, where you'll have a chance to walk the show floor and take part in free OEM trainings.
To donate to the CIF, or to apply for assistance or to let the Foundation know of members in the industry in need, visit the CIF website: collisionindustryfoundation.org/.
Free guide to OEM information
There’s not a ton of actual OEM repair information at the www.OEM1stop.com website, but on a single page the site offers convenient links to every automaker’s technical repair information website. Just click on any of the 37 automaker logos on the website, indicate whether you need collision or mechanical repair information, and you’ll be taken directly to that automaker’s information website.
The website also gives users quick and free access to each of the automaker’s position statements on such topics as vehicle scanning, wheel reconditioning, clear coat blending, use of alternative parts, etc.
“Ask I-CAR” for OEM information
If you’ve visited one of those automaker’s website and just can’t seem to find the collision repair information you need, your next stop should probably be I-CAR’s “Repairability Technical Support Portal” (https://rts.i-car.com/). It’s loaded with collision repair information – plus a unique service to help you out if the information you need still eludes you.
The “Ask I‑CAR” feature is a way for users to email or call I‑CAR with a technical question for which they haven’t been able to find an answer. One user, for example, told “Ask I-CAR” that he couldn’t find the sectioning procedures for the B-pillar on a particular vehicle; within minutes, the I‑CAR representative had checked the OEM information website and found that, given the type of steel used for that B-pillar, no sectioning procedures are available. All the questions and responses processed through “Ask I-CAR” are posted in a searchable (by year-make-model) database on the site.
If the procedure you ask about is not available, I-CAR will attempt to get information from the automaker. If the procedure is available but only through the fee-based website operated by the automaker, I-CAR will refer you to that site.
Although accessing some of the “Ask I-CAR” information and other features on the portal requires a fee (ranging from $26 for a day-pass, to $1,790 for a shop’s annual subscription), those who attend I-CAR training regularly can get free access. The information is available free, for example, to Gold Class shops, Road-to-Gold shops, Platinum individuals, and anyone who has trained four times with I-CAR in the previous 12 months.
Free help with the estimating systems
Think a labor time in one of the estimating databases is inadequate? Unclear about what’s included and not-included in a labor time? Think there’s other information that’s incorrect or missing in an estimating system? It’s time to visit the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG) (www.DEGweb.org).
There, anyone in the industry can quickly post an inquiry related to the estimating system databases. Launched in 2007 and funded largely by three repairer trade associations, the DEG is designed to get your inquiry in front of the appropriate estimating system provider for a response. Those responses – many of which include changes to labor times – are posted in the DEG database. That database now includes more than 10,000 inquires.