It’s Spring, There Is a Hail Storm – Hail Damage Repair Information

Luckily for car owners without garages, most hail storms do not cause body damage to cars until the hail is larger than ½ inch in diameter. Even then, it takes bigger hail than that to cause significant damage. The first thing that happens after a hail storm is car dealers offer Hail Sales and hail repair outfits pop up like mushrooms after a rain.

  1. Hail Sales offer damaged cars at prices well below book value. However, the real result is that car dealers simply make bigger commissions and sell more cars. Any car sold with unrepaired damage means that the damage was either too severe or too expensive to be worth fixing. Every car that a dealer can fix before sale with Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) will have been fixed already.
  2. Repainting a car after PDR or other hail damage removal adds extra costs. PDR works well for small dents where the dent has no cracked paint within the dent.
  3. Dents to large for PDR to repair must be handled at a conventional auto shop and the repairs will need to be painted and finished.
  4. Large or deep dents or those where the metal is very stretched or even cracked require a body shop repair job. Deep dents that break the paint will result in rust to the metal body of the car if left unrepaired.
  5. Some insurance companies pay car owners the amount on its estimate, regardless of whether the owner gets the repairs done or not. Keeping the insurance money without fixing it is legal but choosing to leave damage unrepaired can impact your ability to get full-coverage insurance on the car. It can also affect the amount you get for future repairs or similar damage since future occurrences will be excluded from the coverage.
  6. Having a car’s hail damage repaired using insurance money does result in the repair being listed on the CarFax vehicle report from that point onward. This helps insurance companies avoid bogus damage claims and also is used by car buyers to know the damage and repair history of their potential vehicle.
  7. Owners who choose to leave it unrepaired may find the cost of the hail damage deducted from damage claims later in the life of the car. Document any repairs to hail damage to ensure future claims are paid in full.
  8. If you own your car outright, you need to decide how long you plan to own the car and how important the repair is to you. If you have a car that has little value and plan to drive it until it dies, there is not much point in repairing hail damage.
  9. If you have an active loan on your car, your lien holder will probably require verification that the damage was fixed. In some cases, they might allow you to apply the hail damage repair check to the balance of your car loan.
  10. Get damage estimates and compare that with the claim payout offer minus your deductible before making a decision about filing an insurance claim.
  11. The insurance company may “total out” an older car with only relatively minor hail damage simply because the vehicle has less useful life remaining. Motorcycles can handle very little hail damage before insurance companies consider them a total loss.

When checking for hail damage or getting an insurance estimate, make sure to check windshields for cracks and chips. If glass is involved, get that repaired and make sure the permanent seals along windshield and rear window edges are properly repaired and set, too.

Avoid Being Taken Advantage of by Auto Mechanics

Auto repair rip-offs, frauds, scams are a common practice inside the auto mechanic industry. That is not to say there aren’t any reputable auto repair shops, but according to the Consumer Federation of America’s “2007 Consumer Complaint Survey Report,” the number one category among the top ten consumer complaints is auto.

To not be taken advantage of, here are a few tips to avoid unscrupulous auto repair shops.

Research and Get Repairs in Writing – Understand your car’s problems. Know what needs to be done to improve your car’s overall performance before you have the car repair shop begins any work on your vehicle. Make sure all the quotes worked on your car are in writing for you to know exactly what is done to your car with the complete service and labor cost.

Don’t be Pressured into More Services – The California Auto Body Association estimates 40% of repair bills have some degree of fraud. It is the shops job to tell their clients what else needs to be done in their vehicles, but do not be pressured to have more services done if there is no need for urgency. Be aware of long list of repairs when you only brought the car in for only one service, get a second opinion if needed.

Go for a Drive with a Mechanic – A good mechanic would not mind taking a test drive of your car to accurately identify the car problem pertaining to noise or a problem that comes and goes. Be aware of auto mechanics not taking their time to identify the problem because they are probably wasting your time and money.

Look for Reputable Repair Shop Clues – Finding honorable repair shops might not be as difficult as it may seem. Look for signs that the shop is California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), or “Triple A” approved. Other clues to look out for are professionalism, shop appearance, and personnel.

Get a Guarantee from Mechanics – Ask for the shop’s guarantee of its work in writing if possible. Find out what the guarantee covers. By receiving a guarantee, no matter where you are, the work done on your car is covered under the warranty. If you do run into trouble though, try to work it out with the shop first. Most honorable mechanics should try to make it right for you.

The Cost of Repairing a Damaged Vehicle

Collisions occur when 2 objects bump into each other. So if two cars run into each other or if a car smashes into a tree it is considered a collision. It can be a very unpleasant experience overall, emotionally and physically.

According to statistics the majority of accidents do not result in any serious physical trauma or injury. Those resulting in fatalities will normally mean the vehicle is written off, either the cost of repair in relation to the value of the vehicle isn’t justified or the vehicle is so deformed that it cannot be repaired to a safe factory recommended standard.

The cost of the repairs depends on many factors, an experienced panel beater should be able to assess the damage and give an informed detailed estimate for the required repairs on the spot or within 30 minutes if parts prices need to be obtained from suppliers. The most common place a vehicle is damaged is the front end or rear bumper. These collisions are normally low speed impacts. Luckily car manufacturers take this into account when designing their cars, so the front and back bumpers are made to absorb the collision impact reducing shock and damage to the vehicles occupants, pedestrians and costly mechanical components such as the engine, transmission, brakes and suspension.

The front and rear bumpers, door, and even side panels are removed with ease. They are held on with bolts and screws. Sometimes the extent of the damage is only a scratch on the surface, or paint has been chipped off, here the collision repairman will simply remove surrounding parts such as a door handle, mould or door lock and the spray painter or auto re-finisher will sand down, fill -in and re-spray the affected area. This could take as little as a few hours work. In the case of a seriously damaged door, bumper or panel, the cost in labour of repairing the part may exceed the cost of replacing it therefore the more cost effective option is to source another replacement part.

On occasion the desired part could have a procurement lead time of weeks or months, or the part may not be available at all, should this be the case the decision may be made to repair a badly damaged car part. An experienced panel beater will ensure that the repair is performed to a very high quality and safety standard. This forward thinking will speed up vehicle turnaround time, ensuring the customer has their vehicle returned to them in the shortest time possible minimising vehicle down time particularly important if the customers vehicle is a company car.

Know How Labor Charges Are Calculated

There is a uniform way that auto repair shops use to figure out what to charge you for work done to repair your car. Repair facilities use a standardized table, the Mitchell Standardized Labor Rates Table, for fee calculations. Keep reading to learn how labor charges are calculated whether for your own use as a shop owner or in order to help you budget your own upcoming car repairs.

There is more to it than just figuring out how long a job took to complete. You may think that every specific detail of a vehicle’s repair and maintenance must be taken into account to arrive at a definite time of job completion. That’s not the case here. When mechanics work on your car they don’t look at the clock for each single minute. Auto repair shops utilize a listing matching the type of repair work needed with an estimate of how long it should take to complete the work. So whether your mechanic is extra efficient or new on the job, they will still charge the same number of hours for labor on your car.

The Mitchell table. Know what the Mitchell table means. With Mitchell Standardized Labor Rates Table you discover on average, how long it will take a mechanic to complete any and all repairs on every make and model of vehicle. There is an online directory to arrive at this standardized rate, or they can look at a labor rate chart. As an example, take a brake replacement job on a 2000 Camaro, the flat rate is 2.6 hours of work no matter where the business is located or who works on it.

So how do shops make a profit? The Mitchell table gives average times for job completion but it does not account for all circumstances. If mechanics are fast, a Camaro brake job probably won’t take 2.6 hours. If the job is done quicker, the customer will still get charged for 2.6 hours of labor, but the shop makes the extra money. Think of it this way, a mechanic could woark an 18-hour day in just 8 hours, if efficient. This is where is can be really lucrative.

The other side of the coin. Think about this though – the new kid does the brakes on the Camaro, and it takes him four hours, but it doesn’t matter because the shop can still only charge us 2.6 hours worth of labor, according to the Mitchell table.

Charges will still worked out differently, even with a standard labor chart. Generally customers appreciate this approach to pricing car repairs, but can be surprised at the difference in repair bills for exactly the same labor at different auto shops. This is where the labor rates at each specific shop differ. It may be $85 an hour for labor in one auto shop and $55 an hour at another. For a Camaro brake repair, the cost will be hugely different for the same labor time – $221 versus $143. this makes a big difference in the overall price for vehicle repairs, even when the labor charges are calculated in the same way (using the standard Mitchell table).

How to Avoid Auto Repair Ripoffs

Auto repair is like any other business-there are some unscrupulous cheats out to take your money. But you can avoid getting ripped off for auto repairs if you keep your wits about you. Here's how to do it.

First, get a referral to a reliable, trustworthy mechanic. Friends are a good source for referrals. Ask them who they've had good experiences with, and who they would avoid. That's probably the best way to find a winner.

But don't simply take a friend's word for it. Check out your mechanic! You can call the Better Business Bureau to see if he's had any complaints. Look for certifications like an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) seal, which means he's at least met some minimum standards for skills and service.

Before you get any work done, ask about labor prices and prices for parts and supplies. Not asking means you really have no right to be shocked if they pad your bill. And be sure to find out about the warranty on parts and labor (don't forget the labor piece of the puzzle).

Most important, get everything in writing. That means the estimate for the work, the details of the warranty on parts and labor, everything. If a mechanic won't give a written estimate, he's either too lazy to do it, or he's leaving the door open for fraud. You don't want to play either game. And once you're armed with the price and warranty information, don't be afraid to shop around to see if you can lower your cost.

If your problem is a little out of the ordinary, such as those annoying intermittent rattles most cars experience from time to time, take a test drive with the mechanic beforehand to show him exactly what you need addressed. Don't make him guess. If you can show him the problem, he might know exactly what to target, which will save you labor cost, and probably save him from making unnecessary repairs.

Before you pay the bill, go for a test drive to make sure the car is fixed to your satisfaction. If it is not right, ask the mechanic to make it right. Even great, honest mechanics who pay attention to detail can miss things. A test drive can bring those misses to light, and probably save you a hassle later.

And speaking of the bill, read it. Check it over carefully. Ask about anything you don't understand, or that does not sound right. If you just pay the bill without checking, it's like signing a mortgage document without reading it. Silly, right?

Finally, pay your bill with a credit card if you can. That gives you maximum flexibility to protect yourself from fraud. If something goes wrong, you can call the credit card company and dispute the charge. Many cards also offer some fraud protection, so you might have another line defense.

As with most things, you can avoid getting ripped off for auto repairs by being informed, and by being careful. If you will do a little work up front to prepare, and take small steps to protect yourself, you can save yourself aggravation and expense.

Totaled Car or Not – 5 Tips so Your Carrier Declares a Total Loss

Your totaled car is sitting in the backyard when you get a

telephone call from your insurance adjuster. They will fix your car! In many

occasions this is good news, but when your car is nearly destroyed, and the

insurance company wants to patch it together and give it back to you, then

you’ve got a problem.

Think about it. The car will never be the same. If you want

to trade it in or sell it, you will probably have to take a substantial

reduction in price to be able to get rid of it. You also need to consider the

safety aspect of the car. Will your car ever be as safe as it was before the

impact?

In most accidents, cars can be fixed with no major

problems, but when you have a totaled car (or you are almost there) and the

insurance company will repair it and return it to you, you can be faced with an

uphill battle.

Insurance adjusters decide if you have a totaled car or a

fixable car. They need to first determine the value of the car and then

determine if the repair estimate is less than 70, 80, or even 90% of the car’s

value. So how do you protect yourself? Here are five simple tips.

Tip # 1: Ask for the repair estimate. Getting the

repair estimate will show you what the insurance company thinks is wrong with

your car. Review the estimate. Make sure the car will be painted and that all

the necessary parts to fix it are accounted for. If you do not know mechanics

that well, take that estimate to another shop and ask them to review it. You

will be surprised when other shops will tell you that your car should not be

repaired.

Tip # 2: Make sure you have the insurance company

account for all the cost associated with fixing the car before they start

working in your car. Have them account for all the parts and the shipping cost.

Make sure that the parts they are buying are actually in inventory. In many

cases, insurance adjusters price a part, but cannot find it. This will make you

wait longer and they would have to pay for more rental.

Tip # 3: Ask for a “tear down” so you know that

there is not a totaled car but a car that can be properly fixed. When insurance

adjusters and body shops write estimates, the do not get under the damaged

parts. They only look and estimate the damage that is visible. A tear down is

the process of taking off all the damage parts and looking to see if the parts

below are also damaged. More often than not, hidden damage will appear, and this

will make the estimate of damages higher and taking you closer to a totaled car.

Insurance companies do not want to pay for this tear down.

But if you insist, they will pay for it. This is a good idea anyway for two

reasons. The tear down will most likely than not increase the repair estimate.

You will also know if the integrity of the frame and chassis were compromised in

the impact.

There is no question that the body shop can put the car

back together. The question is if a fixed totaled car will be safe to be on the

road. Make sure some one looks at the mechanical and structural integrity of the

car.

Tip # 4: Use the rental expense to your advantage.

If your totaled car is going to get repaired, then it is likely that it will

take 20 to 30 days before your vehicle again. That is only counting body work

and paint and that all parts are on hand at the time the mechanics start

working. It will take longer if you have mechanical problems.

The insurance company will be looking at a rental bill that

could be over $1,000, depending on the limits of your policy. We have seen

rental bills of $2,000. If you have a totaled car, then the insurance company

will only have to pay up to three days of rental (sometime less, depending on

your state). They will be saving significantly if they do declare a total loss.

Tip # 5: Research your state law for

diminished or diminution of value claims. If you are making a claim against

your own insurance company, some states will allow you to ask for the difference

between what the car was worth before the accident, and what it worth after it

is repaired. Many states do not allow for first party claims like this one.

However, the restrictions only apply to first party claims. If you are making

this claim against the insurance company of the person that hit you, then the

claim will be allowed. Also, if you are making a uninsured property damage claim

against your own carrier. The claim will be allowed.

Click here for more tips on how to handle a totaled car claim.

Auto Body Repair Estimates Demystified – The 5 Most Common Items on a Repair Estimate

So you’ve decided to get an estimate from a local body shop. These days, most body shops will use a computerized estimating software to write your estimate. If the shop you have chosen does not use a computer to write your estimate that should be cause for concern. This is not meant as a jab at those long time owners and technicians and I am not implying they are “backward” or “luddites” or ignorant. Its more for accountability. Computerized software is now standard in our industry and insures a more uniform, unbiased and accurate appraisal for how long things take to repair. For instance, I was talking to a shop owner just a couple days ago who was remembering with fondness the good old days when he would routinely get 15+ labor hours to repair frames on cars that nowadays he only gets 4-5 hours on. The truth is however that 4-5 is the more accurate and fair rate (depending on the job of course it could be more or less). And since consumers and insurance companies are billed by the hours on an estimate the old days of falsely inflating hours are gone.

When it comes to auto body repair the vast majority of line items on an estimate will be one of 5 things:

1. R & I. This is shorthand for “remove and install” and means to take something off your car and then to re-install it later. Parts that are not damaged may need to be temporarily removed to access another part that was damaged or more often so the panel it is taken off of can painted properly. For instance, say your electric motor for your window stops working. The interior trim panel will need to be temporarily removed for to gain access to the motor to see if it can be repaired (not likely!) or replaced. Or perhaps a molding needs to be removed from your door before it is painted only to be put back on later when the paint dries. One caution here is that if panels are being painted and you’re not being charged for R & I the shop may be taping them up which can actually cause peeling or flaking months or years later. So don’t be surprised if for instance a headlight needs to be removed to properly paint a fender. You should actually be more concerned if its not. FYI: R & I times are typically set to industry standards by estimating software and are not discretionary.

2. Repair. Repair (aka ‘Rpr’) is the most discretionary item on an estimate and typically the amount of time it takes to repair something will be underlined or asterisk-ed (*) to indicate this. This is where an insurance adjuster might say a dent will take 3 hours to fix and a technician might say it will take 4. There’s no hard and fast rule here and this needs to be negotiated between insurance adjusters, shop estimators and possibly even the technicians doing the job. My dad who has been in the industry almost 40 years taught me a long time ago that a dent which is about the size of a man’s fist should take about 3 hours to repair. From there you can adjust up or done for various things like a body line that runs through the dent (add an hour) or the dent has no creases and is accessible from the inside and therefore can be mostly popped out (subtract time). The reason these times are so important is that insurance companies are paying shops based on the number of hours on the estimate.

3. Replace. Replacing parts, sometimes shorthanded to ‘repl,’ is not a discretionary item on an estimate and is governed by industry standards or what shop folks call “book time.” If the book/software says it takes 3.5 hours to replace that bumper then that is what the insurance company will pay. No more and no less. It is pretty well standardized with only slight variations depending on which software is used and then it only differs by very little.

4. Sublet. Sometimes there are things that an auto body shop will send to someone else (typically a mechanic who takes care of more under the hood items) to perform and this is categorized as sublet. Popular things for shops to sublet out are air conditioner recharging and 4 wheel alignments when the suspension is damaged. The reason this is sent out typically is that the equipment and space required for these operations are not cost effective for a body shop. And when it comes to deeper engine repair, oil and paint don’t mix! Oil and grease can quickly ruin a paint job. So, shops that say they can do “everything” typically can’t do everything well.

5. Miscellaneous. Under this category will go small charges like “hazardous waste removal” (about once a month we pay someone to pick up and dispose of our hazardous waste in the safest way possible) and “car cover for overspray” which pays for paper, tape and plastic to cover the vehicle during the painting process so paint over spray doesn’t go all over the windows or adjacent panels.