Bad Versus Good Collision Auto Repair

by Don Elliott on April 19, 2012

Let me start out by saying that I am a big fan of a well-run body shop. I am amazed at the work quality technicians can accomplish when properly managed and motivated.

My sister called several months ago to report that she had been in an accident. A seventeen-year old driver ran a red light and caved in the right front end of her 2010 Mazda CX-9. Her insurance company sent her to one of their Designated Repair Shops (DRP) for an estimate and to have the work done. Not being familiar with collision repair shops, she had her car towed to the DRP, got her rental car and hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, the nature of insurance claims, cost cutting pressure, inexperienced technicians, and unrealistic cycle times create the perfect storm for a bad collision repair. With the right amount of time, money, and skill, auto repair shops can fix any problem. When the cost exceeds some percentage of the actual cash value (ACV) of the car, then there is no reason to perform the repair. The car is then “totaled.” You can then sell your car for cash and they’ll salvage any remaining parts that have value.

TAuto Repairshe estimate on my sister’s car was 58% of ACV, not enough for the insurance company to total the car, but definitely a major repair. After a month in the shop, she got the car back and left for a weekend drive. Things started out well enough, but the steering felt “different” and the car was a bit hard to control. On Monday, she took the car back to the shop, noticing that two of her tires had worn to the threads. One of the tires was a new one put on the car as part of the repair process.

After three trips back to that collision repair center, her insurance company sent her to different auto repair facility where they went to great lengths to fix the car right. Fixing the bad repairs took almost two months. As a side note, they wound up replacing the steering column and linkage, which “fell out” when this second shop had the car out on a pre-repair test drive, a very dangerous situation that could have resulted in somebody getting badly injured.

Most auto repair shops do a great job! Industry trade publications feature in every issue quality repair standards, training, and high business ethics as the hallmark of any successful collision or mechanical repair shop. However, the pressure is on from big insurance companies, shop owners, managers, estimators, technicians, and the customers themselves to fix the car faster, cheaper, and with the least expensive parts.

SPEAK UP, SHOUT, COMPLAIN, and GET AGGRESSIVE if your auto repair shop has not fixed your car to a safe and proper standard.

By the way, the second auto repair shop went out of their way to fix my sister’s car correctly to maintain her used car value. They even sent the car to a third shop and a Mazda dealer to have their work checked and certified. So far, after six months of hassle and concern, her Mazda seems to be running well, thanks to a good collision auto repair shop that was empowered to fix it right.

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