Making Sense of Auto Collision Repair Jargon
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:
- Engine parts
- Fluid reservoirs
- Airbags (deployed)
- Steering system
- Braking system
- Hail damage
- Plastic parts
- Door dings and parking lot dents
- Large dents
- Paint damage
What minor collision repair consists of?
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 partsIf 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.