Statistics show that if you drive a car in the United States, the odds are you’ll be in an accident an average of once every seven years. And if you’ve been in an accident, the last thing you want to have to worry about is whether or not your car has been repaired correctly. Unfortunately, statistics also show that there’s reason to worry about the quality of your repair.
California’s Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) found that in the course of the post-repair inspections they performed, 60% had remaining damage, and 42% still had significant safety problems.
The findings of the California BAR are symptomatic of a disturbing trend in the collision repair industry. Many body shops are pressured to turn over a high volume of repair work, especially if they’re members of an insurance company’s direct repair program (DRP).
Direct repair shops receive a steady stream of insurance company referral work and, in exchange, they’re expected to perform repairs within that insurance company’s guidelines. Insurers rarely agree to the repairs quoted in the initial estimate, often insisting on less expensive methods or parts that were not made by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).
No mechanic wants to work with knock-off or salvage parts, because it’s easier to repair a car with products that were made by the original manufacturer. However, if they have a DRP relationship with an insurance company, they may be forced to use cheap parts and shortcut methods to keep that stream of referrals coming in.
If you’ve taken your vehicle to an insurance company’s “preferred” DRP shop, or to a fly-by-night, temporary operation, you’ll probably want to take a closer look. The paint may look shiny and new, but beneath the surface might be remaining damage or improper repairs.
What Problems Are Caused By Improper Repairs?
When you go to resell your car, a person with a trained eye will be able to spot a poor repair, which can significantly reduce the resale value of your vehicle. Even more important than the threat to the value of your car, however, are the safety problems that can result from a substandard repair.
Every modern vehicle is engineered to respond, in an accident, in a very specific way. The frame is designed to crumple around the occupants of the vehicle, reacting in coordination with the airbag system, with split-second timing. If substandard parts are used in a repair, this “crash management system” can be disrupted.
When you consider the fact that an airbag has to respond and deploy in milliseconds to prevent a passenger from hitting the steering wheel of their vehicle, even the slightest disruption in a vehicle’s crash management system can result in serious injury.
What Can Consumers Do?
The best way for consumers to protect themselves from substandard repairs is to have an industry professional perform a post-repair inspection. Choose a high quality collision repair facility that does not have DRP relationships, who can provide an objective evaluation of the repair.
An in-depth inspection will often have a cost involved, however, a diminished value assessment that finds existing damage will help you receive compensation for any losses. Many auto body shops will first provide a free consultation to determine whether or not a full, in-depth inspection is necessary.
We would all prefer to live in a world where vehicles were always repaired correctly the first time. Unfortunately, pressure from insurance company DRP’s are contributing to an increase in repairs that leave existing damage. The best way to protect yourself from this disturbing trend is to get a post-repair inspection, and ensure that you and your family are driving in a vehicle that’s fit for the road.
This post was contributed by…
Mark Schaech is VP of Operations of Mark’s Body Shop in Baltimore, Maryland. His collision repair facility performs in-depth post-repair inspections.