PDR (Paintless Dent Repair) Explained

PDR (Paintless Dent Repair) Explained

PDR is like getting your vehicle massaged back into shape without damaging the paint. It’s an entirely different technique than traditional, sand-putty-and-paint methods. It costs less, takes less time to complete, and lasts longer. And furthermore, it’s a bit of an art. If your vehicle has minor body damage, read on to find out what PDR is, what it can and cannot do, and whether your vehicle damage can likely be repaired with this method.

PDR (Paintless Dent Repair) Explained  - Two photos of a red car showing the paint finish before and after PDR repair of the front left quarter panel.

How PDR works

Paintless dent repair tools allow technicians to gently push body damage back into shape. They may remove door panels and other parts to access pressure points, but some dents can be repaired from the outside. It’s not unlike when you push a dent out of an aluminum can by pressing on the sides. A skilled PDR technician with good tools can return dented areas to like-new condition, with the original vehicle paint still intact. Why is this important? When you sand and paint part of a vehicle, even the most perfectly matched color may fade differently than the original paint, over time. This is not a risk with PDR.

What PDR can and cannot do

PDR is a cheap, fast, permanent cure for a lot of vehicle damage, but not all damage. It works great for most door dings, hail damage, minor creases, and even some larger dents. In all cases, the paint has to be intact for PDR to work.

Much faster than traditional body work

Before PDR, all body work consisted of the time consuming process of sanding and cutting away damaged parts, filling the damage with putty, then applying multiple coats of paint. For dings and dents with no paint damage, none of this is necessary. A skilled PDR technician can often do in an hour what it takes many hours to accomplish with sand-and-putty methods. No drying period is necessary because no paint has been applied. PDR is faster because it’s, quite simply, a significantly smaller job than traditional methods.

Can you do PDR yourself?

Yes, absolutely. You can also play the harmonica. You may not be good at it, but you can do it. Like the harmonica, PDR is a skill that requires training and practice. It’s not something most people get right on the first few tries, so you may want to think twice about “practicing” on your own vehicle. Depending on where the damage is, you may also need to dismantle parts of the vehicle to reach the right pressure points, so there are other skill sets involved beyond dent-pushing. The clincher is this: A good and usable PDR tool kit costs upward of $1,000, and for that kind of money, you might as well pay for a shop to do the work.

PDR (Paintless Dent Repair) Explained  - An advertisement for a set of professional PDR tools priced at $2,299.99, from of Dent Master Tools.

What do PDR tools do?

PDR (Paintless Dent Repair) Explained  - A PDR technician uses a specialized tool to reach through a narrow space and access a pressure point in a vehicle’s right rear quarter panel.

With a few notable exceptions, most PDR tools look like thin, bent metal rods with angled handles. Each shape and size has a specific advantage, in terms of the types of areas it can access and apply pressure to. PDR technicians may also use temporary glues, vacuum tools, rubber mallets with dent taps, and special lights that expose near-microscopic flaws in paint finish smoothness. In the hands of a skilled technician, these simple, specialized tools can do amazing things.

But really, how do PDR technicians do it?

PDR (Paintless Dent Repair) Explained  - A technician uses a rubber mallet and tap-down tool to make final corrections to an auto body dent.

You’ll find them in dark places, out of direct sunlight, because PDR technicians prefer to view their work with a special lamp that accents flaws in paint surfaces. PDR techs are agile, reaching into difficult spots with delicate tools, then correcting dents with a sculptor’s precision. But the story begins with an inspection of the dent, an assessment of what types of pressure need to be applied, and precisely where. The intrepid technician then decides how to reach behind the metal to access a pressure point, which sometimes requires the removal of door panels or other components. But often, the spindly PDR tools can be used to reach through holes and small gaps in interior panels to manipulate the metal body. Then the real work begins: push, push, push. With many applications of strategic pressure, the technician “massages” the dent back into its original shape without damaging the paint. In cases where the paint is extremely stressed and in danger of cracking, the technician may use a heat gun to soften it slightly. After applying pressure from below, there may be a slightly raised ring in the area of the dent, in which case the technician uses a dent tap tool to press the ring flush with the rest of the surface. If any inconsistencies are visible in the clear coat, the technician polishes them out with a high RPM buffer and polishing compound.

Is PDR the right answer for you?

If your vehicle has no hard creases and no paint damage, chances are, PDR is an option. Give us a call or bring the vehicle to our shop on 1100 South Washington in Wichita, Kansas, for straight answers on the best way to tackle your body work. If other methods are necessary, we can still do the job, but if PDR is the answer, we could have you back on the road in a matter of hours, with more money in your pocket than you might expect.

Making Sense of Auto Collision Repair Jargon

Making Sense of Auto Collision Repair Jargon

Making Sense of Auto Collision Repair Jargon - Photo of a collision repair estimate form on a clipboard with a car key on it.

Most of us have probably been guilty of a blank stare when a mechanic or body shop technician is talking to us. Maybe you nod vacantly as they yammer on about your vehicle repair because what they’re saying sounds like this: “Blah-blah chassis, OEM blah-blah, insurance-blah-deductible,” and so on. Collision repair isn’t something most of us deal with often, so it’s normal to get a little lost in the technical terms. Also, most of us are stressed when having this discussion, and things seem to happen fast. But if you want to have the best possible experience in a bad situation, read on, and we’ll make you an instant expert on auto collision repair jargon. We’ll start by discussing the difference between a full-service collision repair shop and a minor collision repair shop like APR. The type of shop you need should be your first determination because a minor collision shop may save you money with some types of damage. On the other hand, they can’t repair everything.

What is minor collision repair, and what can it fix?

Remove the mechanics and huge frame-bending equipment from a full-service collision shop, and a minor collision repair shop is what remains. Shops like ours don’t invest in a lot of the same equipment as our full-service counterparts. We don’t buy expensive frame benders and engine repair equipment, and we don’t hire mechanics. Those are different skill sets than most body work calls for, and the fact is that a lot of body damage doesn’t involve the frame, engine or other mechanical parts. The point is, our reduced overhead often translates to a lower cost for the customer. If your body work is repairable with our methods, you may be able to save money. Minor collision repair may be an option if none of the following parts are damaged:
  • Suspension
  • Frame
  • Engine parts
  • Fluid reservoirs
  • Airbags (deployed)
  • Steering system
  • Braking system
  • Alternator
So what can minor collision repair fix? A lot, actually:
  • Hail damage
  • Plastic parts
  • Bumpers
  • Door dings and parking lot dents
  • Large dents
  • Paint damage

What minor collision repair consists of?

Making Sense of Auto Collision Repair Jargon - Photo of a collision repair technician applying putty to the door of a vehicle.

We use some of the same sand-putty-paint techniques as full service shops when the vehicle damage warrants it. We also do paintless dent repair (PDR), which is a very fast, low-cost technique that can be used on a variety of dings, dents, hail damage … basically any malformation in which the paint is undamaged. PDR technicians push and tap dents back into their original, smooth, perfect shape without sanding; it’s all done with repeated, gentle pressure. PDR costs a fraction of traditional body work prices and can often be performed in a matter of hours rather than days. But again, this is only viable for certain types of damage in which the paint is fully intact.

OEM and aftermarket parts

If you file an insurance claim for your damage, the subject of OEM versus aftermarket parts is likely to come up. OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, which means that the replacement part for your Mazda is made by Mazda, or a part for your Ford is made by Ford. Aftermarket parts are made by other companies according to the manufacturers’ specifications. Many insurers will choose to pay only for the less expensive aftermarket parts, and this isn’t necessarily bad. Many aftermarket parts have been known to outperform OEM parts, and insurance companies are legally required to provide an aftermarket parts warranty guaranteeing that they are as good as their OEM equivalents. If your body shop gives you the option of OEM parts, and you believe that this is the best answer for your vehicle, you can opt to pay the extra money and have them installed. Or you can save some money with aftermarket parts. It’s always good to Google the topic for your make and model and see what kind of experiences other people have had, but most technicians agree that aftermarket parts are, for most part, very comparable to OEM parts.

How much damage does it take to total a vehicle?

It’s not so much a question of how much as where is the damage. The other question is how much is the vehicle worth compared to the repair cost? Insurers use a formula to determine whether the cost of repairing the vehicle is higher than a certain percentage of its value. This percentage varies from state to state; it’s 75 percent in Kansas. So if repair costs are higher than 75 percent of the salvage value of the vehicle, the insurance company will declare the car a total loss and give you a cash payout instead of repairing it. There are a few, pardon the expression, dead giveaways that your vehicle may be totaled:
  • Large puddles of fluid on the ground after a collision. This isn’t always the case, but more often than not, if the fluid reservoirs are significantly damaged, enough other adjacent engine parts have sustained damage to drive repair costs above the total loss threshold.
  • The air bags are deployed. It may sound ridiculous, but even a seemingly minor accident can total a vehicle if one or more of the airbags is deployed. This is one of most expensive parts on the vehicle, and it’s very difficult to calibrate.
  • Heavy hail damage. We should start by saying that most hail damage is repairable with PDR, which makes a handful of dents very cost effective to repair. But heavy hail damage can take too long to repair even with PDR techniques, and it becomes prohibitively expensive.
  • The vehicle is undrivable. This often means the vehicle has sustained frame damage. Yes, frames can be corrected by full service shops, but the labor involved in preparing for the procedure can quickly drive up costs.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

There are no dumb questions when it comes to collision repair because every situation is different. If your body shop isn’t helping you understand the situation with your vehicle, get a second opinion. It’s your legal right, and there are shop staff who know how to help you make sense of the entire process. We have some here at APR. Give us a call, if you need help navigating the world of collision repair. You may even save some money.

All About Driving in Deer Season

All About Driving in Deer Season

All About Driving in Deer Season - Photo of a deer galloping across a highway with a witless driver rapidly approaching mere yards away. Yikes!

Nature sometimes gets the best of us, and between the months of September and February, deer become more than a little distracted by the opposite sex. Females go into heat, and males will sometimes stop at nothing to make time with them. In the heat of passion, ordinarily cautious bucks forget about the dangers of roadways. This is why most vehicle-deer collisions occur during the mating season; like human teenagers, amorous deer can’t always be trusted around cars. But there are steps you can take to make your rural drives safer. In this post, we’ll provide advice on avoiding deer and what to do if you encounter one on the road.

More vehicle-deer collisions than ever

The United States deer population is rising, due largely to effective game management. That’s good for deer, but it makes driving more treacherous during mating season. Hundreds of people are killed in these accidents each year, with more than a million total deer collisions occurring on American roads every year. In short, if you drive anywhere that deer are present (like most of Kansas), you need to be prepared.

Steps to avoid a deer collision

  1. Watch for the deer crossing signs. Wildlife personnel place these along roadways in areas known to have high densities of deer population.
  2. Stay vigilant at all hours. Yes, deer are largely nocturnal, even during mating season, but there are plenty of lonely bucks willing to go without sleep and search for love at all hours of the day.
  3. Be even more vigilant at night, dusk, and dawn, partially because it’s just, plain harder to see anything, including deer. Slow down at night, so you have more reaction time. Watch the road, but also watch the sides of the road; small flashes of light may be a deer’s eyes reflecting your headlights.
  4. If you see one deer, assume that more are around. Females and fawns move in groups, with young bucks often trailing close behind, looking for romance.
  5. Honk, when in doubt. If the brush and trees along the sides of the road are thick, making it difficult to see what animals might be lurking, honk the horn occasionally. If you see a deer, definitely honk the horn; even the randiest buck will usually run from this sound.
  6. Don’t trust deer whistles to save you. If you’ve considered buying car-mounted ultrasonic deer whistles, put your money away. A study by the University of Georgia determined that they are not effective deterrents.

All About Driving in Deer Season - Photo of a deer warning sign in the foreground with a red truck pulling a boat on the highway beyond it.

Other safety considerations

What if you don’t see the deer until the last second? Experts agree that you should hit the deer because most fatalities occur when drivers swerve to miss the deer and run into something worse, like guardrails, embankments or other vehicles. The safest course of action is to apply the brakes, keep a tight grip on the steering wheel, and do your best to stop on the road or shoulder. Use your seat belt. Yes, they chafe and bind, especially on long road trips, but seat belts save 15,000 lives per year because they work.

What if you hit a deer?

Hitting a deer is frightening at many levels. It’s part highway drama and part horror movie, and it can really shake you up. But it’s important to breathe and keep a clear head because, even if the car is already wrecked, you’re not out of the woods yet. Follow these largely common-sense steps to make sure you stay safe after hitting a deer:
  1. Turn on your hazard lights.
  2. Pull the vehicle off the road if it’s drivable. Check for traffic before getting out. If it’s not drivable, check for traffic, exit the vehicle, and get off the road.
  3. Check for injuries, and perform what first aid you can until help arrives.
  4. Call 911 if anyone is injured, any property is damaged, or the deer carcass needs to be removed from the road.
  5. Call your insurance company.
  6. If the vehicle is not drivable, make arrangements to have it moved. If you have broken headlights, parts hanging loose, tire damage, or leaking fluids, you’ll probably need a tow truck.
  7. Thank your lucky stars you’re alive.

How much will this cost?

If you’re insured and carry comprehensive or collision coverage, your insurance will most likely cover a portion of the repair costs. As to how much repairs actually cost, it just depends on the damage. Minor damage may be repairable for as little as $500. Major damage can run much higher, sometimes so high that the insurance company declares the vehicle a total loss and gives you a cash payout rather than paying for repairs. Stay vigilant out there. Nature calls, and the bucks are listening, waiting, made powerful and bold by the yearning in their hearts.

Alloy Wheels: Can that Curb Rash Be Repaired?

Alloy Wheels: Can that Curb Rash Be Repaired?

Alloy Wheel Repair Can Do More than You Might Think for Curb Rash Your ride sure looks nice. You went for the alloy wheels, and your vehicle has a much classier look now. It’s a real head-turner because it’s amazing what that one upgrade does for a car or truck. But then: curb rash! It happens to the best of us. The good news is that most curb rash on alloy wheels can be repaired.

Alloy Wheel Repair Can Do More than You Might Think for Curb Rash - Photo of alloy wheel rim with “curb rash,” which results from scraping against raised cement structures.

A Bit of Background on Alloy Wheels

Alloy wheels do more than make your vehicle look cool. Because they’re made from an alloy of magnesium and aluminum, they’re lighter than steel wheels and can improve your gas mileage. They also dissipate heat better, which can extend brake life. These materials make it possible to produce alloy wheels in all kinds of colors and designs, so, yeah, they look cooler than regular steel wheels. But when they get damaged, it’s easy to freak out and think they’ll never be the same again—or that you can’t afford to have them repaired. Most of the time, this just isn’t true.

Alloy Wheel Repair Can Be an Affordable Option

When you see that curb rash, your first impulse may be to assume that the wheels will never be the same again, but take heart; an average wheel repair costs $100 to $150, with some ringing in at only $50. When you compare this to the cost of a replacement wheel, it’s not that bad.

A Word About Do-It-Yourself Wheel Repair Kits

Yes, you can buy kits to do your own wheel repair, but make no mistake: you will not get the same results as you would from a professional repair job. First of all, these kits don’t have anywhere near the number of tools you need to do the job right, and secondly, if they did, it would still be nearly impossible to achieve results comparable to a pro job because wheel repair takes training and practice. Some alloy wheel damage can’t be fixed at all with home repair kits because the damage is too severe, or finish textures and colors can’t be matched.

Proper Care can Extend the Life of Alloy Wheels

Cleaning Alloy Wheels

Unlike their steel counterparts, alloy wheels often have painted finishes, which makes them more vulnerable to damage, even from simple cleaning. A good rule of thumb is to clean them the same way you would your car’s paint. Never use acid cleaners, and make sure any car wash shops you take the vehicle to don’t use them either. Also stay away from abrasive cleaners and pads, including polishing compounds, as these can score the surface of the wheel finish.

Two Tricks for Maintaining Alloy Wheels

  1. As your mom probably told you when you were growing up, ground-in dirt is harder to clean than new dirt, so it’s important to clean your alloy wheels regularly. If you let dirt sit on them for very long, it works its way into the microscopic grain of the surface. This makes it harder to remove, and scrubbing away this deep dirt can scratch the wheel finish.
  2. Consider rotating alloy wheels every time you get an oil change because they can wear unevenly in different wheel positions.
Buy the Right Alloy Wheels in the First Place

Alloy Wheel Repair Can Do More than You Might Think for Curb Rash - Photo showing a four-lug-nut mounting configuration for an alloy wheel.

Alloy wheels are usually a “vanity purchase,” so appearance is certainly an important consideration when you buy them. But they also need to be compatible with your brake drum configuration. This shouldn’t be a problem if you buy from a reputable shop, but it’s worth doing a little research on your own to make sure your new wheels will work on your vehicle. Another consideration is the lug nut pattern. Seems obvious, but people have been known to buy wheels that literally can’t be mounted on their vehicles, so give this an extra look, as well.
Why Do Alloy Wheels Require Extra Care?
They’re prettier, lighter, and they can improve driving performance and fuel efficiency, but alloy wheels are not as tough as steel wheels. Use an extra ounce of caution when you drive on them, avoiding rough roads whenever possible. And of course, get in the habit of staying farther away from curbs! Alloy wheels are a great way to transform the look of your vehicle, but they cost a lot more than steel wheels, so it’s worth paying extra attention to your driving habits. If you get in trouble, give us a call at (316) 262-8888 or stop by the shop on Washington Street in Wichita. Take a deep breath; most alloy wheel damage—and almost all curb rash—can be healed.

A Guide to Estimating Your Auto Body Damage

A Guide to Estimating Your Auto Body Damage

A Guide to Estimating Your Auto Body Damage - Photo of a vehicle that has run off the road.

There are few sounds more sickening than the crunch and scrape you hear when your vehicle is damaged. Your first thought is probably one of acute loss, knowing your previously attractive ride has been deformed. Your second thought is probably, How much is this going to cost me? And your third thought may be, I don’t have time to deal with this. But you have to deal with it, and we thought it might be helpful to provide this guide to estimating your auto body damage.

Every Situation is Different

The only way to know for sure how much auto will cost is to take it to a professional because there may be hidden damage that’s difficult to describe in a blog post, but there are a few guidelines that can give you a better sense of what you’re dealing with as you do that first walk-around. In this post, we’ll answer these questions: • Which type of body shop do you need? Minor collision repair or full-service collision repair? • Which auto body repair techniques will be required, and what are their price differences. • Minor collision repair techniques. • What role does insurance play in repair costs? • How can you tell if your vehicle is totaled?

Which Type of Body Shop Do You Need?

Many people are unaware that there are two types of body shops, and one of them tends to be more expensive than the other, even when providing the same service. Full service collision repair shops have to charge more than minor collision repair shops because they have significantly higher equipment costs. A full service shop invests in, not only mechanical repair equipment for engine damage, but also large frame bending machines to straighten entire vehicle frames. On the other hand, a minor collision repair shop performs only body work, so they don’t have to invest in the big equipment. But as you’ve probably guessed, full-service shops can do a wider range of repairs than minor collision shops. APR is a minor collision repair shop—the cheaper kind—so if you only have damage to the vehicle body, we can probably save you money on repairs.

Is Your Vehicle Damage Repairable by a Minor Collision Shop?

Let’s take a look at some key indicators that you may need a full service shop rather than the type of minor collision repair provided by APR. Signs you may need a full service body sho • Your vehicle has visible frame damage. The frame is the heavy, steel or aluminum structure (chassis) to which everything else is attached. A bent frame requires a frame bender, which is only available from a full service shop. • Damage to mechanical parts, such as the alternator, engine, steering system, brake system, engine, etc. Minor collision repair shops don’t hire mechanics, and they don’t buy mechanical diagnostic and repair equipment. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of repairs that will probably require a full-service sho • Bent frame • Suspension damage • Engine component damage • Broken windows • Trunk or doors that will not close • Dangling parts • Fluid leaks • Deployed airbags • Broken or missing lights And here’s a closer look a the types of damage we repair at APR: • Large dents • Bumpers and other plastic parts • Paint scuffs and scratches • Most hail damage • Door dings and parking lot dents If your damage falls into the first category, you’ll almost certainly need to visit our partners at one of Auto Craft’s full service body shops in Wichita. If you see leaking fluids … well, that’s not good, and we’ll cover that below when we discuss how to tell if your vehicle is totaled.

Minor Collision Repair Techniques

Shops like APR use many of the same techniques as full service facilities. Like them we sand, putty and repaint for certain types of damage (we’ll refer to this as “traditional body work”). But we use Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) techniques for less severe body damage. PDR is far less expensive—and much faster—than traditional body work.

What is Paintless Dent Repair?

When PDR is an option, it’s a serious money-saver compared to traditional body work. Instead of dent-pulling, sanding, puttying, buffing and painting, technicians use a specialized set of tools to “massage” the vehicle body back into its original shape. Learn more from our recent post on paintless dent repair.

A Guide to Estimating Your Auto Body Damage - Photo of a paintless dent repair tool being used to correct a minor dent in a vehicle.

What Role Does Auto Insurance Play in the Final Repair Cost?

The short answer is: insurance almost never covers the entire repair cost. In some cases, you may save money by not filing a claim at all. Let’s take a deeper look.

Types of Auto Insurance

A Guide to Estimating Your Auto Body Damage - Detail photo of a vehicle insurance policy with a car key laying on it.

First, you’ll need to understand a few definitions … • Collision insurance This type of coverage pays out when your car collides with something. It could be another car, a tree, etc. • Comprehensive insurance This covers damages from non-object-collision events, like theft, deer collisions (apparently not considered an “object”), storm damage, vandalism, and fire. • Deductible As we said above, the insurance company rarely pays the full amount. The deductible is the amount you’re required to pay out of pocket before insurance will pay the remainder. • Premium This is the amount you pay per month to receive auto insurance.

Here’s the Thing:

You don’t really have a lot of control over how much your insurance provider will pay for any given repair because it’s tightly defined in their policies, which vary from one provider to the next. What you can control is whether or not you should file a claim at all. For major damage, the answer is always “yes,” but if you have damage that can be fixed by a minor collision repair shop, you may want to take a close look at your policy and your choice of body shops. It’s a very good idea to get more than one quote on minor collision repair. Even if the insurance company refers you to a full service shop, you have the option of getting a second opinion from a minor collision shop like APR. In many instances, we’ve been able to offer a repair quote that was much closer to the customer’s insurance deductible. When this is the case, the customer actually saves money by not filing a claim at all and paying for repairs out of pocket. Check out our article, “Winning the Claim Game: A Perfectly Legal Body Shop Insurance Hack” to see how this works, and whether it may apply to your situation.

Is Your Vehicle Totaled?

Some vehicle damage is so bad that insurance providers may deny coverage for repairs because they’ll cost more than the vehicle is worth. How do you know if this is a possibility with your damage? There are a few telltale signs that a vehicle may be totaled: • The vehicle can’t be driven. This is often an indication that there is damage to the frame, for which repair costs often run higher than the value of the vehicle. • Deployed air bags. It sounds strange, but the cost of replacing air bags and re-certifying the vehicle as safe is extremely expensive. • Fluids on the ground where the damage occurred. Most vehicles’ fluid reservoirs are located in areas that, when damaged, indicate high repair costs. • Heavy hail damage. If too many hours of body work are required to repair heavy auto hail damage, the cost can exceed the value of the vehicle. If the vehicle is totaled, your insurance policy may cover a cash payout for its current value, and it’s time to start looking for another ride. The bottom line is that you really need to take the vehicle to a professional to see what the repair cost will be because there are many types of damage that are not visible to the untrained eye. Give us a call at APR or bring the vehicle by our shop on South Washington in Wichita, and we’ll give you the scoop on what repair costs my look like.

How to Buy Your Car Back After it’s Totaled (and Not Regret It)

How to Buy Your Car Back After it’s Totaled (and Not Regret It)

It’s sometimes surprising how little damage it takes to “total” a vehicle. And it’s never any fun when the insurance adjuster tells you that you won’t be getting your car or truck back. But can you get it back? Technically, yes, often you can. But are you sure you want it back? That’s an important question to ask. A totaled vehicle buy-back can be a bad financial decision, but in some cases, the numbers can add up just fine, meaning that you’ll still receive a (smaller) insurance payout, providing you with plenty of cash to do repairs on the vehicle and keep driving it. In this article, we’ll share some tips on determining whether your vehicle is safe to buy back, and how to tell whether the numbers will make sense for you.

Is the Vehicle Mechanically Sound?

The first question to ask, before we talk about moolah, is whether the vehicle is mechanically sound. This could be important for three reasons:
  • Some types of damage, like a cracked frame, can go entirely undetected by adjusters and body shop technicians. It would ruin your day if a cracked frame broke the rest of the way while you were driving.
  • If you plan to have bodywork done after buying the car back, some types of invisible damage may only become apparent when the work is being done. This can lead to suddenly astronomical repair bills.
The next question is whether the buy-back is allowed in your state. Kansas allows it, but not all states do. And finally, will the insurance company allow it? Not all of them do, so check with your agent as a first step.

The Arithmetic of Buying Your Totaled Car Back

A big heads-up: It’s possible to put yourself in a tough financial spot with a buy-back. For one thing, you may have a more difficult time selling the vehicle later because it will be “branded” in a public database as “salvage” (or a similar word). That’s not necessarily a deal-killer, but it’s good to be aware of if you have new vehicle plans down the road. Your real concern should be hidden damage. Body shop technicians are generally pretty good at estimating repair costs, but there are some problems they simply can’t see until they take things apart. Damage like a cracked frame may not be visible, even if they’re looking right at it, so you should evaluate the type of damage your vehicle received during the collision and decide whether it may have stressed the frame (not every type of collision does). Damage to airbag systems can be invisible until they’re tested, and they cost upwardsMinor Collision Repair of $2,000 each to replace. Again, evaluate how likely it is that these areas were stressed during your collision before deciding to buy your vehicle back. So you can see how you might get into some deep water here. There’s no perfect advice on how worried you should be about hidden damage. Listen to the professionals, use your instincts and common sense, and may the force be with you.

Working Out the Numbers

If this article has scared you spitless, and you’ve decided not to buy your vehicle back, the insurance company will write you a check for the value of the vehicle at the moment of its untimely demise, minus the amount of your deductible. If your spit is intact, and you’re still interested in buying your vehicle back, read on. When you opt for the buy-back, the insurance company will subtract your deductible from their payout check. They’ll also deduct the vehicle’s salvage value. They could sell the car to a salvage company instead of selling it to you, and fair or not, they will expect you to pay the amount they would have received. The price tag you pay for the totaled vehicle will be based on its value in current, damaged condition. So here’s what the numbers look like:
How to Buy Your Car Back After it’s Totaled (and Not Regret It) - Image showing calculation process for subtracting deductible, salvage value and buy-back price from the total insurance payout to find the amount of cash left over for repairs of a totaled vehicle. Now you know how much cash you’ll have in hand, along with your damaged vehicle. The next question is whether it will be enough to cover repair costs. If the damage is entirely cosmetic, and you have no problem driving the vehicle in public as it is, this cost will be zero. But if you need to have repairs made to bring the car back to drivability or make it more visually presentable, it’s time to take it to a body shop and get some estimates. The repair cost is an area where you have some wiggle room because not all body shops charge the same amount of money for the same work. It’s possible that the high repair quotes that were presented to the insurance company—rendering the car a total loss—could be significantly reduced if you have the right kinds of damage and choose the right shop to do the work. This could put you in a financial “safe zone” of being able to buy the vehicle back, and still having enough insurance payout left over to do the repairs. So what kind of damage is eligible, and what kind of body shop are you looking for?

Cost Effective Buy-Back Repairs and Where to Find Them

There are two types of body shops: full-service collision repair shops and minor collision repair shops. Full-service shops are the ones that have big frame-bending machines and mechanics on duty. They do everything. Minor collision repair shops, like APR, only work on vehicles with no frame damage and no broken mechanical parts. Because we don’t invest in the big-ticket shop equipment, and we don’t pay to keep mechanics on duty, we’re able to charge less for the same body work. This difference between our base price and that of a full-service shop is where you can start to make financial sense of a totaled vehicle buy-back. The first step is to bring the vehicle to APR for an estimate. We’ll give you numbers to do the repairs you want, and it gives us an opportunity to take a close look and alert you of any possible hidden damage that may get you into trouble along the way. Again, it’s important to mention that we may not find everything with a visual examination. But if you’re convinced this is not an issue, it’s nice to have the support of a professional opinion. We can typically do the same repairs as a full-service shop for a fraction of the price, so don’t be surprised if our pricing is very different than what you saw on the insurance paperwork. In some cases, the type of damage is repairable in our shop, and the cost savings are so significant that it makes sense to have the work done. Give us a call at (316) 262-8888 if you’re considering buying back a totaled vehicle. We’ll give you good advice, and if the work makes sense for your situation, we’ll get you and your beloved ride back on the road.

Alloy Wheel Basics

Alloy Wheel Basics - Straight Talk from an Alloy Wheel Specialist

Alloy Wheel Basics

For a lot of people, alloy wheels are all about adding style and flair to a vehicle. And it’s true, alloy wheels can be crafted into elaborate designs with beautiful details—real head-turners when you take your ride out on the road. But what about the practicalities of alloy wheels? In this article, we’ll share information from an APR alloy wheel specialist about their advantages, disadvantages, and what you should know if they need to be repaired.

What, Exactly, are Alloy Wheels?

Alloy Wheel Basics - Photo of a gold and silver alloy wheel on a white vehicle. Simply put, alloy wheels are made from a mix—or “alloy”—of two or more metals. Most alloy wheels are made primarily from aluminum and magnesium, which makes them much lighter than standard, steel wheels. Because they weigh less, they require less energy to rotate, and they dissipate heat more effectively. Alloy wheels can also be manufactured in a much greater variety of shapes than steel wheels, offering a profusion of detailed styles and intricate patterns.

Everything You Need to Know Before Buying Alloy Wheels

Alloy Wheel Basics - Photo of a purple and silver alloy wheel on a black vehicle. The first thing most people look for in alloy wheels is eye appeal. You want a design that looks great on your car, but there are a few practical considerations, as well. Will that beautiful, elaborate design match your wheels’ lug nut pattern? And remember, some designs hold up better than others when you run them over potholes, curbs or just rough stretches of road, so you should consider your average driving conditions before making a purchase. With so many designs available, it’s also important to make sure those new wheels will be compatible with the brake disc and drum configurations on your vehicle. A good alloy wheel salesperson will confirm that, and they’ll check the rotational dimensions of the wheels to make sure they’ll function properly on your car or truck.

The Advantages of Alloy Wheels

For many alloy wheel owners, sleek appearance is all the benefit they need. But, as we hinted at earlier, there are some practical considerations, as well. Here are the three main advantages of owning alloy wheels…

A More Enjoyable Ride

Alloy wheels offer better handling and road-grip than steel wheels because their lighter weight means less inertia to overcome as they make contact with the road surface. Their lighter weight also slightly reduces stress on the vehicle’s springs and suspension. And because you’re reducing the mass being bounced around by bumps in the road, alloy wheels provide a smoother ride.

Better Fuel Economy

Looking at your wheels, you may think the decrease in wheel weight not would have a huge effect on your car’s total mass. However, reducing rotating weight has a larger effect on fuel economy and performance than reduced nonrotational weight. In a recent study, it was found that 82 pounds of reduction in wheel weight gave the same result as a 132-pound reduction in total vehicle weight.

Better Brake Performance

Photo of alloy wheel on a vehicle showing brake pads and discs behind it. Since alloy wheels are lighter, their heat dissipation is superior to steel wheels. The reduced heat helps improve brake performance and decreases the possibility of brake failure.

The Disadvantages of Alloy Wheels

Of course, alloy wheels are not without their drawbacks. While an aluminum/magnesium alloy offers better performance than steel—and it can certainly crank up a vehicle’s beauty factor—there are a couple of disadvantages to be aware of. 1. Less Durable than Steel Steel can withstand significantly greater impacts than alloy without cracking or bending, so it does a better job of standing up to rough roads and severe driving conditions. 2. Alloy Costs More The manufacturing methods used to make alloy wheels are more expensive than those used for steel wheels. Higher costs also come into play when you have to repair an alloy wheel. They’re more intricately formed than steel, and considerably costlier to repair.

Be Cautious When You Clean Alloy Wheels

Alloy wheels are often clear coated to protect their finishes, just like your car’s paint, so wash them with a soft sponge, mild soap and water, as you would the rest of the vehicle’s finish. Don’t use polishes, abrasive cleaners or abrasive pads. If you take the vehicle to a car wash service, make sure they don’t use acid cleaners, which are fine for removing grime from steel wheels, but they can really dull alloy wheels. Stiff brushes and cleaning pads should also never touch the finish of alloy wheels.

Alloy Wheel Maintenance

Okay, so there are a few disadvantages, but alloy wheels still offer better handling and fuel efficiency than steel. The only other downside is that they’re not cheap, so it’s important to protect your investment. Here are some tips: 1. Rotate Your Wheels Periodically Alloy is tough stuff, but it will have to endure significant wear and tear; it’s a fact of driving life. Different wheel positions on the vehicle may receive different kinds of wear, so it doesn’t hurt to rotate your tires every time you get an oil change, to even things out. 2. Keep ‘em Clean Every driving day adds new layers of dirt, dust and road grime; it’s unavoidable. But dirt “wears in” over time, embedding itself more deeply into the grain of the wheel finish. Alloy wheels should be washed at least once a month and after road trips, if you want to keep them looking great. Make sure to hose off dirt and grime before applying soap, as it can scratch the finish. And once each spring, after the harsh, winter weather has passed, it’s a good idea to remove the wheels and give them a thorough, all-over cleaning.

Alloy Wheel Repair

Photo of a technician removing an alloy wheel for repairs. An average wheel repair costs between $50 and $150, which is far less expensive than a replacement. It’s a very specialized process, so avoid the temptation to use a DIY wheel repair kit. These kits seldom include the range of tools and variety of finishes needed to return a wheel to like-new condition. Alloy wheel repair is also a bit of a craft, not a task to be undertaken without experience. Some repair jobs literally cannot be done with DIY kits because they require expensive, specialized equipment that most of us don’t have. The fact is that professional alloy wheel repair doesn’t cost that much more than many of the kits out there, but professional repair comes with a guarantee, so you know it will be right. When you have the inevitable run-in with curbs or flying gravel, and your alloy wheels need refurbishment, give us a call at (316) 262-8888 or bring the vehicle in. We’ll take care of you, guarantee the work, and probably cost less than you expect.

The Hidden Health Benefits of Auto Detailing

The Hidden Health Benefits of Auto Detailing

The Hidden Health Benefits of Auto Detailing - Photo of a young woman holding her nose and looking distinctly displeased while sitting in the driver seat of a car.

As the saying goes, “We live in our cars,” and a recent study by the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety has proven it true. They found that 87 percent of Americans drive and on average spend an hour and half a day in their vehicles. That’s a lot of time behind the wheel, and in that time most of us eat, drink, and give rides to pets, children and other carriers of germs and allergens. We clean and vacuum the surfaces inside our vehicles, but we seldom think about the air quality. Reports have shown that harmful allergens live and thrive inside the ventilation system and passenger cabin of almost every vehicle on the road. Considering the amount of time we spend in our vehicles, this can translate into a real health risk. In this article, we’ll explore the effects of these microscopic hitchhikers on air quality, and we’ll learn how air quality can be improved with professional interior auto detailing.

Sick Car Syndrome

Studies conducted by the University of Michigan concluded that automobiles are some of the dirtiest environments we encounter in everyday life. University of Arizona microbiologist Chuck Gerba identified pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella and MRSA in samples taken from cup holders, dashboards, seats and steering wheels. That’s because every time you turn on a fan, harmful mold spores and microorganisms are spread throughout the nooks and crannies of the passenger compartment. “Cars are the moldiest of all forms of transportation,” reports Dr. Gerba, “because people aren’t really cleaning or disinfecting these areas.” Everyday toxins, mold spores, road dust, germs, and other pollutants are drawn into the car through the fresh air vents. Once inside, fungus and bacteria can grow in the interior evaporator of the air conditioning system. Not only can odors emerge when the air conditioning is turned on, but so can germs and dust, causing passengers to experience cold-like symptoms, whether from allergies or actual germs. This occurrence is commonly known as “sick car syndrome,” and symptoms can include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, sinus inflammation, fatigue, and asthma attacks. The same studies have found that the air inside our cars is often worse than the air we breathe at work or at home. With modern ventilation systems, which create air-tight passenger cabins, a vehicle can be a perfect incubator for germs. Researchers have discovered that climate control air blowers further increase passenger levels of germ exposure because the dark, damp environments of ventilation systems are perfect places for mold, bacteria, and viruses to thrive. The amount of mold and the length of exposure determine the potential severity of adverse health effects. Getting rid of all the germs is the only for sure way to prevent sick car syndrome.

Interior Detailing is the Answer

Regular deep cleanings and interior detailing can remove these contaminants. Interior detail specialists can reach spots inside vents and in the seams of the interior where dirt and microorganisms flourish. They also apply protectants that make it much harder for germs to get a foothold in the vehicle.

Coatings and Protectants

Coatings and protectants used by detailing shops are effective at protecting interior vehicle surfaces, not only from stains and spills but also microbes, for up to 90 days. If you apply your own protectants, be sure to use only water-based products, as silicone-based protectants leave oily residues that actually attract dust, which can harbor microbes and defeat the purpose of cleaning.

The Hidden Health Benefits of Auto Detailing - Graphic illustrating that germ and mold cell membranes are physically ruptured upon direct contact with protectant-treated surfaces.

Pet Hair Removal

It’s worth the money to have a specialist deep clean your vehicle’s interior if you have a pet that frequently rides with you. Pets carry germs on their paws, fur, mouths and other openings, so every time they go for a car ride, they leave microscopic invaders behind. UK researchers have revealed that cars used to transport children and pets have much higher bacteria counts than those that don’t. Ironically, children and pets have the greatest risk of potential infection when riding inside contaminated vehicles. Detailing shops provide specialized tools to remove pet hair in even the most difficult-to-reach spots.

Odor Elimination

Odors usually indicate the presence of germs or mold and should be dealt with swiftly to prevent microbes from finding their way onto—or into—your body. Professional detailers use industrial deodorizers to permeate fabrics and penetrate air passages to eliminate the sources of odors. For deeply ingrained smells, including strong pet odors, technicians employ ozone purification machines that entirely eradicate bacteria, mildew, mold, and offensive smells from the car’s upholstery and ventilation systems. When the job is done, the ozone harmlessly dissipates, leaving no toxic fumes in the vehicle.

Drive Safe and Stay Healthy

Air pollution inside vehicles is recognized as a major threat to human health by the World Health Organization. If you have noticed any offensive smells when you turn on the air conditioning, or you’ve experienced any of the symptoms of sick car syndrome, professional interior detailing will cure the problem. To keep your vehicle air quality safe all the time, we recommend detailing every four to six months. This keeps germs from establishing cultures, and the “new-car feeling” you get after a professional detailing job makes your drive time even more pleasant.

When Is Minor Collision Repair an Option?

When Is Minor Collision Repair an Option?

Assessing the amount of damage your vehicle has received in a minor accident can be tricky. What appears to be a small dent may conceal more substantial damage beneath the surface. But generally speaking, if none of the engine components are damaged, no fluids are leaking, and there’s no apparent malformation of the frame, you may not need to pay the premium prices of a full service body shop. In this article, we’ll cover the differences between major and minor collision repair shops—including the dramatic cost differences between them—and we’ll clarify the types of work they do.

When Is Minor Collision Repair an Option? - A paintless dent repair technician corrects a vehicle dent inside a minor collision repair shop.

What is Minor Collision Repair?

Most people think the term “body shop” has only one meaning, but it can actually describe two different types of operations:
  • Full-service body shops that can repair body, frame, glass and mechanical damage.
  • Minor collision repair shops that specialize in damage affecting only the body of the vehicle.
Full-service shops take in the big, ugly wrecks because they have mechanics on duty and frame-bending machines in the shop. They’re also happy to take in the smaller jobs, but they still have to charge rates consistent with their high overhead costs. Minor collision shops not only have lower overhead, they also tend to deal with less insurance paperwork and do more pay-out-of-pocket repairs. This reduces bookkeeping and red-tape costs, so you can usually expect to pay less at a minor collision shop for the same work, assuming your damage is repairable by these methods. And paying out of pocket can sometimes save you hundreds of dollars in the long run, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.

Types of Major Collision Damage

You’ll probably need to contact a full-service shop if you have any of these types of damage:
  • Bent frame
  • Suspension damage
  • Engine component damage
  • Broken windows
  • Trunk or doors that will not close
  • Dangling parts
  • Fluid leaks
  • Deployed airbags
  • Broken or missing lights

Types of Minor Collision Damage

This is the type of work APR does. We’ve chosen not to invest in the “heavy equipment” used by full-service shops because many, many repairs can be done without it, and for those jobs, we’re often able to save customers a lot of money. Here’s what we can fix:
  • Large dents
  • Bumpers and other plastic parts
  • Paint scuffs and scratches
  • Most hail Damage
  • Door dings and parking lot dents

Repair Methods

Small dents can often be quickly repaired by pushing out dents with Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) tools, preserving the original paint. Minor scratches are buffed out. Deeper damage is filled with putty and re-painted using state of the art, color- and texture-matching methods.

Should You File an Insurance Claim for Minor Collision Repair?

Every situation is different, but in some cases, minor collision repair can actually cost less than your insurance deductible (the amount you have to pay out of pocket before the insurance company will pay the rest). Minor collision shops can leave literally hundreds of dollars in your pocket compared to full-service facilities. Even in cases where your deductible is higher than the repair cost, bear in mind that if the damage is reported to your insurance company, your monthly rates may go up in the future. These accident-based rate increases penalize you for up to three years, so even a $30 per month increase over 36 months adds up to $1,080 out of your pocket. If this is more than the cost of the repair—and you have the cash on hand—it may make sense to pay for the repair now in order to save money in the long run.

Definitely Take the Smaller Jobs to a Minor Collision Repair Shop

When you just have a parking lot door ding or hail dents, a minor collision shop is a no-brainer. PDR removal of a small dent may only cost $50. Small touch-ups range from $50 – $75. Even a bumper panel can usually be repaired for around $250. That’s not chicken feed, but it’s many times lower than a full-service shop’s price tag for the same work. Questions? Give us a call at (316) 262-8888. We’ll do our best to help.

5 Hidden Benefits of Car Window Tinting

5 Hidden Benefits of Car Window Tinting

5 Hidden Benefits of Car Window Tinting - Photo of a window tint technician installing film on the hatch window of a vehicle. What’s the first thing you think when you see a vehicle with tinted windows? That it looks cool, right? Window tinting makes a vehicle stand out, like sunglasses for a car, but people who have tinted glass know that it’s about more than style. The real beauty of car window tinting lies in its functionality, offering five distinct benefits …

1.Vehicle Interior Protection

Tinted auto glass blocks 99 percent of UV rays, which degrade interior surfaces. It also blocks infrared (IR) radiation (long wavelengths of light that are invisible to the human eye but which transmit heat into the vehicle), reducing surface temperatures of the vehicle interior by as much as 60 degrees. Pullout: FACT: The sun gives off half its total energy as IR radiation, so there’s a lot of it in sunlight. Keep UV and IR rays outside the vehicle, and you have a significantly cooler ride. Over time, this radiation shield preserves your vehicle’s upholstery and hard surfaces, as well. Leather and vinyl age much more rapidly in the presence of heat and UV rays, becoming prematurely cracked and faded. Window tinting prevents this damage, maintaining the value of the vehicle.

2. Fuel Efficiency

Because window tinting cools the cabin, it allows the air conditioning to run less often, which can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 25 percent in hot weather. Efficiency is boosted even more for hybrid and electric vehicles. In either case, the cost savings can be significant.

3.Passenger Comfort

You’ve probably had the experience of burning yourself on parts of a car interior, or peeling your bare legs off of a sticky, vinyl seat on a blistering hot day. Vehicle interiors can get so sauna-like in the summer that they’re not even fun to climb into. Driving should be fun, and tinted windows add a lot of enjoyment to the experience. With window tinting, the vehicle stays cooler all the time, even when it’s sitting empty in a mall parking lot for three hours in 100 degree sun. Interior temperatures without tinted glass can reach 120 degrees in 20 minutes and 133 degrees in an hour. Having a radiation shield attached to the windows makes it a much nicer space to escape to after a long day of shopping. Or fishing. Or working all day. Window tint takes the road-trip experience to a whole, new level. Cooler temperatures, less glare to contend with … you get hooked on it, once you’ve tried it.

4. Driver and Passenger Protection

Everyone knows that UV rays can give you skin cancer, but not everyone knows that window tinting film cuts 99 percent of this harmful radiation. Ninety percent of skin cancer cases are caused by exposure to the sun, and Americans spend and average of 34 hours per year driving. Starting to get the picture? Most people don’t put on sunscreen before driving somewhere, but that’s a lot of time in the sun, so maybe we should. Tinted windows literally save lives.

5.Driving Safety and Security

Improved Driving Visibility

Window tinting improves driver visibility by reducing glare, a benefit that comes in handy when you’re dealing with oncoming headlights, snow and water reflections or those blinding flashes that happen when another vehicle reflects the sun straight into your eye like a laser beam.

Tighter Security

Imagine you’re a thief. You’re wearing black to conceal your presence as you slip through the night with cat-like movements, car-to-car, down a quiet street. You’re watching everywhere at once, ready to bolt at the slightest sound of another person. You pass a quick glance into each vehicle as you walk by it, looking for purses, briefcases, cell phones, cameras, musical instruments, anything you can pawn for a few bucks. What do you do when you come upon a car with window tinting? You move on. You can’t quickly see if there’s anything worth stealing, and it’s not worth making enough noise to find out. You’re a thief, but you’re a cowardly thief, a rogue of ill repute who will probably go to jail. Shame on you. Shame. When you have tinted glass, you can say, “Well, mister thief man, you won’t be stealing my stuff because I have tinted glass.”

Stay Cool

5 Hidden Benefits of Car Window Tinting - Photo of a sleek sedan with window tinting driving on the open road. Window tinting looks cool. No matter what you drive, it adds a subtle Batman element that not only turns heads, but also improves the resale value of your vehicle. If you’re ready to upgrade your ride, tinting gives you excellent bang for your buck, and it adds new layers of cool to the driving experience.