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How to incorporate OEM information into the estimating, repair process

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 - 06:00
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Consumers have demanded advanced driver systems, advanced comfort features and therefore the computer systems and sensors have exponentially grown. Modern vehicles have an electrical system that looks like a human’s central nervous system. More than 10 computer modules, miles of wiring, countless sensors, tens of millions of lines of computer code, all which are integrated into every piece of a vehicle. Simply disconnecting a battery or unplugging a window switch may require reprograming, calibrating or codes to be cleared. A simple alignment will now affect a vast array of electrical systems far outweighing the four wheels that are being directly affected. There are arguably no repairs that can be performed on a modern car that do not, in some way, affect the electrical system of the vehicle. 

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No matter if it's structural pieces, cosmetic parts or electrical components, you must know the proper way to handle each situation. What and how are the correct ways to perform the respective repair? What items can be re-used, which parts have to be replaced, and are there additional operations required outside of the immediately obvious? What, then, is the best way to discover the full repair manual, when should you make the discovery and how do you implement that into your shop? 

The first step to a proper repair is a proper estimate. A repair cannot be performed correctly if the components needed to perform the repair are not received. A step further is nobody wants to perform steps that aren’t being properly compensated. Lastly, no one has the ability to know what they don’t know. If the only way to fix a car properly is to have the parts required, be fairly compensated and know exactly how the work is to be performed, this means we must research the repairs before and during the estimating process. 

Obtaining repair procedures can be done multiple ways. All OEMs, short of two, (owned by the same company) have their own website with their full line of procedures. Some of these sites require a daily, monthly or yearly fee, while others are free. There are also independent companies who compile the OEMs' data. Those sites are much easier to use but can contain outdated material. The OEMs don’t push their data out to these companies; instead, it must be retrieved. The best place to start for OEM data is It’s a webpage that links to all the manufacturer sites. The outside sources are, ALLDATA, Mitchell, and CCC. CCC and Mitchell are both working on integrated solutions that when finished could revolutionize the future of collision repair estimating. ALLDATA also has a great integration piece. provides access to all OEMs' individual sites, position statements, and crash repair information.

No matter how the data is retrieved, it’s important that you research everything you are doing to every car. The obvious items are welded-on parts, SRS components and mechanical items. The scary items are those that you wouldn’t think to research — such as the interior pieces that once removed must be replaced or the airbags may not deploy as intended. Or a component as simple as a mirror, which once disconnected requires a multitude of processes performed. Or a painted part that can only be painted once or it will affect the sensors behind it. There is no way to know what you don’t know. There is no way to know what is required on each make, each year, each model, and at each trim level without research.  

When a vehicle is brought in for repairs, the first decision has to be if the damaged components can be repaired or must be replaced. If the components appear repairable, then a few questions have to be asked: Does the manufacturer allow this component to be repaired? By repairing this component will I jeopardize the integrity of the vehicle? Will the repairs create a cosmetic problem? Is it cost effective to repair? If the answer to each of those questions is yes, then you can move on to what other parts must be removed to perform the repairs. If the answer to any of those questions is no, then the component must be replaced. The next step is to go to the repair methods. Look up each part starting with the replacement items, moving to the remove and install items and ultimately the refinish items. As you look at each, it may increase the number of items that must be removed, components to be replaced, or calibration/programming required. 

Armed with the repair procedure for each item being worked on, a complete estimate can be written. The estimate should include the necessary materials, hardware and labor to perform every required step on the repair procedures. If the procedure calls for a specific bonding adhesive, then that adhesive must be on the estimate. If the repairs need rivets, one-time-use fasteners, etc. they have to be on the estimate. I-CAR, along with most manufacturers, requires a test weld process on any welded-on part. This process is not included in the replacement or repair of any components and therefore should also be included on the estimate.  

The estimate should mirror the repair procedures, and the estimator should know everything he didn’t know before he started the process. Now a manual for the repairs has been produced. The first step to building the puzzle has been completed. Now the person who is going to build the puzzle needs the “manual,” and they must understand the “manual.”  

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