Our industry at times suffers from a poor consumer image. We don’t like to admit it and everyone thinks their work is good. But the reality is we have some shops doing a less-than-quality repair. Maybe what we need is a good ol’ shot of Penicillin!
Yes, that shot may sting, and we may gripe and moan about it for a while, but most people agree a healthy, respectable image is a good thing. While some shops love them, other shops dread them. Yes, we are talking about post-repair inspections. These can be done in-house for quality control, throughout the repair process, or after the vehicle is back in the owner’s hand, often by a third party.
People want to feel safe in their vehicles. People want to enjoy their investment, especially with the high cost of modern vehicles. We, industry insiders, don’t always see the accident and the aftermath the same way as consumers do. For many, this is an emotional upheaval, and for all an unwanted disruption in their lives. I truly admire those shops that go out of their way to help their clients through the repair process and back to their normal life with compassion and understanding.
Some clients are not so lucky. They have a less-than-palatable experience with the collision repair process.
I often find myself talking to Bill “Billy” Walkowiak of Collision Safety Consultants in North Carolina. We share some similar views of our beloved auto body repair industry. We both have experienced some of the best shops and technicians doing quality work, working within OEM guidelines and producing a quality repair. We have both also seen repairs done improperly, where the vehicle owner did not get a quality repair and, unfortunately, some even had an unsafe vehicle returned to them with missed welds, incomplete repairs and parts that should have been replaced but were not.
Before we continue, let’s remind ourselves that no one is perfect and even the best shops and the best technicians using the best procedures can still have a less-than-perfect repair — occasionally. Most of us still buy the pencils with built-in erasers.
Good repair practices include some quality control procedures as a vehicle is handed off from one technician or department to another. While this is great and can help reduce errors or missed procedures, it is not the same as an objective review by a third party.
Most OEM-specific acceptable vehicle repair procedures are easy to access, many for free or for a small nominal cost. I-CAR, Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Honda, among many others, all have plenty of free web-accessible information. So there is no reason for not following proper repair procedures.
So let’s take a look at couple different post-repair inspections — one is a win-win, and the other is one that our industry should not be proud of.
|Figure 1 - The repair doesn’t look that bad from this angel (where the driver sees it everyday).|
|Figure 2 - Incomplete repair (truck floor panel) attempted cover-up with undercoating|
On this 2008 Infiniti (Figures 1-4), I asked Billy to tell me what he found with his post-repair inspection. “The shop "clipped" in a used 1/4 they cut it at the striker and the middle of the package tray. It had bare welds and the welds had little or no penetration. They left the inner wheel house damage and never addressed the kinked rear frame well. The re-repair estimate was about $8,000. You could not properly fix this vehicle without addressing the structural damage and providing corrosion protection. The shop put this customer in a completely improper, unsafe, potentially deadly situation. They did not even try to cover it up,” Billy said.
When he inquired with the shop that did the repairs, he was told: "I just fix ’em like I always have; it's not that bad."
|Figure 3 - Same vehicle sectioned in the middle of the striker area of trunk||Figure 4 - exposed weld, no corrosion protection (hidden by weather-strip)|
My conversation with Billy continued: “They don't know what they don't know. I think it's possible if this lady had been in a subsequent rear-end collision, she could have been seriously injured or even killed. The vehicle was designed to absorb energy. This vehicle would not react the way Infiniti designed it."
On a positive note, not all post repair inspections find problems, here is an example.
Ronnie Pack of Pack Brothers Collision Center in Belmont, NC, and Billy discussed one post-repair inspection they had encountered. “Great repair. We inspected this 2016 GMC that only had 1,786 miles on it when it was hit, causing more than $32,000 in damage. Ronnie Pack and I could not find one flaw!” Billy said. “I've been at this 7 years, and I'm amazed. He even painted the bolt heads.”