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.

How to Buy Auto Parts Online

Buying auto parts online can be extremely hit and miss. There are so many uncertain variables if you do not know exactly what you need. Choosing the right auto parts online store can be the difference between getting the right part at the right price or finding yourself chasing the proverbial rabbit down the hole. The tips and tricks presented here will help you have a pleasurable shopping experience online.

You Do Not Have to Be an Expert

It comes as no surprise that the past several years have been financially heavy for most people here in the US. This fiscal struggle is everywhere when you take a moment to focus on our spending habits. For instance, new vehicle sales have gone down considerably in the past 5 years while restoration of existing autos have gone up exponentially. These days, we are becoming DIY mechanics, replacing faulty auto parts with new ones as necessary. However, most people are not aware that they can save even more money by buying auto parts online instead of at their local store.

You Do Not Have To Be an Expert!

In years past, consulting with an expert before buying replacement auto parts was the only way to go. We had to trust what our local mechanic was saying as gospel.  Nowadays, with access to a world of information with the onset of the internet, provided you know a little bit about your car, it isn’t really necessary to start your search with your local mechanic. If you want to buy auto parts online you can do it provided you know the make, year and model of your vehicle. Buying replacement parts online is even easier if you happen to know the part number.

Save Time When You Buy Online

If you shop for new car parts locally your selections are limited in terms of price and quality. What’s more, you are not guaranteed to find the exact part you need. This is painfully true if you are shopping for an uncommon auto part. Shopping online for auto parts can be far more efficient in terms of getting quality and accurate results. That’s because there are dozens of online auto parts stores that deal in the sale of auto parts. This means you are likely to find the precise part you need, even if it is an unusual one.

Saving Time

If you shop at traditional venues for auto parts you might have to drive to several different places before you find the part you are looking for. Driving from one place to another takes time. If you shop online what would have taken hours if not days can be accomplished in thirty minutes or less. Therefore, if you have a busy life as most of us do,  shopping online for new parts definitely frees up your time to do what you need to be doing instead of shopping for your parts around town.

Save Money Buying Online

Let us suppose that you decide to buy a used 2001 Ford Mustang, but it needs a new suspension. If you shop locally for the shocks and struts, it will cost you $400 or more at retail pricing. If you shop online for the exact same suspension parts, you can get them for as little as $200. That is half the cost, and usually shipping is free. When you buy new parts online it cuts out the middle man. That’s what makes it so much cheaper.

Warning – Do Be Careful

If your car is in desperate need of a replacement car part immediately, then you will pay for that time sensitive need.  if you have a day or two to spare to allow for your purchase to arrive, it is a much better idea to shop online than it is to buy locally. However you must be careful to order exactly the right part the first time. If you have to send a part back because you ordered the wrong one, it could cause a significant delay. It is also a good idea to ensure that any website you consider buying auto parts from is legitimate before making any kind of purchase.

Trust in these tips and tricks when shopping for auto parts online and you will save time, money, and will enjoy greater satisfaction in knowing you accomplished your goal of getting your car back on the road for less.

A Checklist For Your Auto Maintenance

Auto maintenance is the most important duty that a vehicle owner has. Any proud car owner can tell you that. If you want your car to live a long life and perform well, then you want to ensuring regular maintenance checks are key. Other than ensuring a lasting life for your vehicle there are also many other reasons to do timely car maintenance. Keep reading to understand why auto maintenance is important. You can also find below a list of the things that go on your checklist to make better keep tabs on this process.

The first and most important reason is safety. Any fault in the car such as worn out tires, faulty brakes or engine issues may not be obvious to the owner until it is too late. Regular maintenance helps get this out of the way and ensures your safety. A well-maintained vehicle also gives better performance and reliability. With regular check-ins at the auto shop, your visit for repairs will reduce. This makes things easier and more cost-effective. Especially because of preventive maintenance costs lesser than actual repairs.

As the old saying goes, “An once of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.” In other words, take care of your vehicle and it will cost you much less to own in the long run. Also, it is much easier to plan and budget for maintenance than it is for when a breakdown happens at the worst time and causing you to be greatly inconvenienced. Not to mention the expense that was not planned and usually at a much higher expense.

Regular maintenance also keeps the car looking fresh and stainless. Dents, scratches, faded paint are also things that can be taken care of during a regular maintenance routine. A well-maintained car is eventually much easier to sell. If you would like the option of being able to sell your car at a good price to be open, then auto maintenance will do that for you.

And finally, all of us are aware that vehicles can emit harmful gasses. A car that has its engines, automotive fluids, and emissions checked regularly causes lesser harm to the environment. Of course, there is always the option of purchasing hybrid automobiles that are environmentally friendly. Few automobile companies such as Tesla, Ford, and Toyota offer this.

Below is a basic checklist for your auto or car maintenance. The table below may not be an exhaustive list. The list can be printed out and used to check with at the auto maintenance workshop before picking up your vehicle. Remember, a well-maintained vehicle means a happier and safer driver behind its wheels.

Items on your checklist

Mark as done/not done

Engine lights

Lights

Tire pressure and condition

Windshield washer fluid

Air filter

Transmission fluid

Battery and cables

Belts

Exhaust

Fuel filter

Hoses

Oil filter

Power steering fluid

Chassis lubrication

Wiper blades

Polish

Antifreeze

Spark plugs

Steering and Suspension

Fiberglass Filler – What is it and Why Use it on Auto Body Repairs?

What Is Fiberglass?

Raw fiberglass come in a soft fabric like material. When saturated with liquid resin and harder, it becomes hard and very strong. There are not too many fiberglass auto parts on modern day cars, as they have all started using other composites like SMC and Carbon Fiber. However, fiberglass was on early model corvettes, truck hoods, and many other parts. There are still aftermarket parts that are manufactured from fiberglass and it still used for boats and jet skis.

The Difference Between Fiberglass and Fiberglass Filler

Fiberglass filler comes in a can and is mixed with a cream hardener. It mixes a lot like regular body filler, but it is thicker and a little harder to mix. The filler actually has fiberglass mixed in it. It comes short hair and long hair. This is the length of the fiberglass that is mixed in the filler. Both provide excellent waterproof properties as they do not absorb water. Both fiberglass fillers are stronger than regular body filler. The long hair filler provides the most strength out of the two. However, these fillers are very difficult to sand. The filler is also thick, which makes it hard to level and smooth like regular body filler.

Why Use Fiberglass Filler If It’s So Difficult To Sand

The reason we use fiberglass filler in auto body repair is not really the added strength, but for the waterproof properties. It is recommended to apply a thin layer of fiberglass filler over any welding that is performed. Body filler absorbs moister, which will leads to corrosion and rust. By using the fiberglass, we eliminate the moister absorption problem. Since our main purpose is to seal the welded area, the short hair fiberglass is sufficient for the application.

What Can Fiberglass Filler Be Used On

This filler can be used over bare metal or fiberglass.

Finishing The Repair

As I mentioned, fiberglass does not sand well. That is why I recommend only applying a small amount to the welded areas and rough sanding it. After this is done, you can apply body filler on the top of the fiberglass filler and finish the repair as you normally would using body filler.

Warning

You should always wear proper protective equipment when sanding any filler. However, extreme caution should be taken when sanding fiberglass products. It not only itches and irritate your skin, but it is extremely unhealthy to breathed the fiberglass. Be certain to wear an approved dust respiration, gloves, eye protection, and you may even want to wear a disposable paint suit. If some of the fiberglass does get on your skin, take a cold shower. This will help keep your pores small and allow the fiberglass to wash off.

Auto Body Dent Repair – Developing A Repair Plan

Developing A Repair Plan

In this article we are going to review how to remove a dent from an automotive part. We’ve determined that the panel is mild steel and repairing the damage would be a better choice than to replace the panel. Now we need to develop a repair plan and decide which repair method to use on the damage.

First In Last Out

The first thing that you want to determine is the direction of damage. This is important so you can reverse the damage during repairs. In collision repair we have a general rule “the first in last out rule.” This means that the direct damage or point on impact is the area first hit in an accident, which makes it the first in. Therefore, this should be that last area to repair. Direct damage is the most obvious damage as it is easy to visually see. If you try to pull the direct damage first, you will stretch the metal, pull highs in the metal, and still have lows. You are basically going to chase your damage around while work hardening the metal until the metal become to work hardened, brittle and cracks.

Direct and Indirect Damage

Indirect damage is the damage that is caused by the direct damage. For example, as the point of impact is pushed in, it causes the surrounding metal to slightly move as well. If pushed far enough, the indirect damage can cause misaligned body gaps, cracked seam sealer, and/or popped spot welds. The indirect damage is less noticeable as it may not be visually noticeably without close observation. The indirect damage is the damage the happened last during the accident, therefore, this damage should be repair first. Always remember the “first in last out “rule when developing a repair plan. This will save you hours of time and frustration when it is all done.

Choosing a Repair Method

Once the damage is analyzed and you have determined the direction of damage, and the direct and indirect damage. Now it is time to decide which repair method is the best choice for the repair. If you can get to both sides of the panel a hammer and dolly method may be the easiest repair method. If you can not gain access to both sides of the panel a stud-nail gun may be a better choice. Other considerations, such as corrosion protection and noise preventions should be considered as well. This will be covered at a later time.

Don’t Force The Metal, But Rather Roll The Metal Back To Its Shape

Regardless of the repair method, the same principle apply. Start with the indirect damage and pull out on the lows and push in on the highs. You should roll the metal back into shape, rather than try to force it back into shape. Forcing the metal back into its shape may result in highs and stretched metal. condition. Pulling on the lows while rolling the highs out of the metal is the key to metal straightening, regardless of repair method used.

Auto Repair Sales – How to Sell $1,000,000 in Service

An auto repair sale is a popular topic with most shop owners. One million dollars seems like a magic number for a lot of shop owners. They’re either struggling to hit it, or they’ve made it and now they want two million or three million. Whatever the goal, fantastic auto repair sales performance is really quite simple (not always easy, but simple). To achieve outstanding auto repair sales performance you have to consistently do four things.

1. Listen carefully to the customer and quickly build rapport and relationship.

2. Ask for the largest possible sale while offering the greatest perceived value.

3. Get the work done. Quickly and correctly.

4. Lock the customer into a long-term relationship with your shop; repeating steps one, two and three at least three times per year.

In step one the key is quickly. To sell one million dollars (or more) in a year, everything is going to have to happen FAST! The rapport building process doesn’t have to take a long time. You can build a strong connection with a new client very quickly just by getting them talking about themselves.

Question: So, how long have you lived here?-What kind of work do you do?-How long have you owned the car?-Where’s your favorite place to go on vacation?-Tell me about your kids/pets… All these questions get the customer talking about themselves and give you plenty of opportunity to identify and comment on common points of interest or experience. None of this takes more than a few minutes, but during this process the vital process of trust building is occurring.

In step two, the key is asking for the LARGEST possible sale. Fear stops most salespeople from asking for the large sale. Instead they convince themselves that the customer will only accept a much lower figure; a figure that they (the salesperson) are comfortable with. This is why I spend so much time in the Advanced Service Writer Sales Training Class working on the closing question. The closing question is the key to overcoming the fear. With it memorized and practiced the fear subsides and the service writer is able to ask for much bigger sales than ever before. I’ve seen this tool add more than $300 per RO to a shops RO average. It is that POWERFUL!

The first two steps are pure auto repair sales step. Step three is a management step. The first two steps are all about the service writer controlling their actions. Step three requires them to motivate and lead someone else to action. The best way to do this is MBA “Management By walking Around”. It simply means you can’t forget about a ticket once it’s in the hands of the tech. You have to get out in the shop regularly (usually every 5-10 minutes on a busy day) and make sure that the work is moving forward. You have to quickly remove any obstacles to success such as parts problems, bad attitudes, or unexpected difficulties with the repair. This is a vital and often overlooked part of auto repair sales.

In step four we’re back to sales. The biggest missed opportunity in most shops is the opportunity to commit the customer to their next visit while they are checking out from this visit. All you have to do is tell them when their next visit is and most people will say ok. Notice I didn’t say ask them when they could make their next visit; I said tell them when their next appointment is. The key is assuming that they are going to return and doing them the favor of scheduling this. I teach several simple techniques in the Advanced Service Writer Sales Training Class that make getting this commitment very easy, simple and natural.

So, there you have it, the four simple (not necessarily easy) steps to selling one million dollars (or more) in service. If you consistently follow these steps the million bucks is yours! An auto repair sale isn’t difficult if you know the steps and have the tools.

How Do You Choose The Best Auto Glass Repair Company?

The windscreen provides structural strength to the body of the car and helps keep passengers inside the car when an accident occurs. This is also what supports the performance and inflation of passenger side airbags. It therefore needs to be top quality and should be installed properly to serve its function. Specially formulated adhesives are used on the auto glass to meet safety standards. When you have a damaged glass, the next step is to find a reliable repair company that can repair it back to functionality.

Because the auto glass does so much more than just keeping you protected from the elements, you want to make sure that it is accorded the best services. There are so many repair companies offering the auto glass services, but only the best can deliver quality results with yours. You can find the best for the repairs by being attentive to factors that matter most.

Ask for certification. Your auto glass repair company ought to be certified by the auto glass replacement safety standard body relevant in your area. The organizations have developed standards that need to be met when doing the replacements and only certified company will give you that kind of reassurance for your industry requirements. Visit the company if you can and ensure that proper licensing is in place.

Check the technicians. The company may be certified, but remember that an individual technician will be responsible for the repair works. Ensure therefore that you get a technician who is also qualified and certified to get the kind of results you expect with the repair works. A good technician should take you through the repair process and help you make the right decisions with the glass and adhesive to use.

Ask the company about safe drive away time. This is the length of time you will need to allow for the adhesive to cure to safe levels before you are allowed to drive the car again. Usually the type of adhesive used will determine how long the car will need to be out of service. Some adhesives will take only an hour to cure to safe levels, whereas for others it may be three hours or more. Incline more in getting quality repair works done but also ensure that you can also do with the off-time.

Consider OEM glass for the replacement. OEM parts are originals from manufacturers and they are always superior in quality. Find out whether the auto glass repair company uses the original products or aftermarket ones so you can make an informed decision. It is always a much better choice to use OEM glass that matches your vehicle perfectly.

Ask about insurance claim acceptance. Most repair shops will accept billing the replacement costs to your insurance company when you are thinking of filing a claim. Take care of the deductible and enjoy the repairs works affordably.

Think about warranty. A reliable repair company for your auto glass should be able to provide you with a written warranty and even a record for the completed work. It goes to show confidence in services offered as far as quality goes.

Will My Auto Insurance Cover Me If I’m in an Accident Out of State?

One of the best parts of living in the United States is the fact that we can, any time we want to, hop behind the wheel of our car and drive to destinations unknown to see any of the 50 states. Nobody’s going to ask for a passport, nobody’s going to ask what you’re doing. They’re just going to smile, wave and drive on. But is your auto insurance going to make sure you’re protected when you slip across state lines?

The good news is, nine times out of ten the answer to that is going to be yes. In the eyes of most auto repair shops American auto insurance is American auto insurance, and as long as your insurance carrier decides to ante up when it’s time to pay the bill they don’t care which state you happen to be from. You’re pretty much free to come and go as you please.

There are, however, a couple of things you need to know about driving out of state. First and foremost, every state has a different minimum driving age. While you can get a permit when you’re fifteen (and a half) in Virginia you have ot wait until you’re sixteen in New York, which means driving around with a VA Learner’s Permit up north is asking for trouble. Other states enforce strict curfews for drivers under 18. If you have a new driver in the house, make sure you check out the rules of the road before you go traveling.

How much liability insurance are you carrying? Technically you’re not required to meet the minimum liability coverage requirements of another state just because you happen to be driving through it, but you are still going to be responsible for any damages above and beyond your maximum coverage levels-and most judges really, really hate dealing with out of state drivers. Not your fault, there are just some people that like to roll through town and cause trouble and leave everybody else to deal with the consequences.

Regardless, the last thing you want to do is spend the rest of your life paying damages to an out of state court. That means you want to make sure your liability coverage is geared up and and ready to handle whatever life (or the California by-ways) happen to toss your way. Most experts suggest that you carry a minimum of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per incident in liability auto insurance to cover any auto insurance claims that happen to pop up, regardless of what part of the country you happen to call home.

Your auto insurance company is one of the most important resources you’re going to have when you start traveling, so make sure it’s ready. Then kick back and enjoy your vacation. You’ve earned it.

Auto Repair Services in Okinawa, Japan: Mechanics That Speak English

I recently visited Okinawa, Japan and found the people there are very friendly and kind. One problem, however, is that most of them do not speak English. On my first morning there, I spent the entire time looking for a person who could tell me in English where I could find a bank. I needed to exchange my U.S. dollars for Japanese yen.

In the neighborhood where I was staying I visited a grocery store, walked the streets, and finally found a small police station outside Kadena Air Base. They did not understand English, but they had a map. I said I was looking for a bank and they said “ginkou.” I thought they said “banko.” So I said “yes, yes!” They did direct me to a bank thankfully.

Now if it is that hard to discuss the location of a bank, imagine how difficult it is for a U.S. serviceman or woman to talk to an automotive mechanic about repairing their vehicle. Fortunately, I know of 2 American mechanics that are retired military who live and work in Okinawa near the Kadena Air Base. I saw firsthand the relief on the faces of customers who came in to drop off or pick up their cars.

Bill Siekert is the owner and head mechanic at B&M Okinawa. Bill explained that some of the automotive services provided on bases nearby are priced a little high because they are run under contract and frankly, they have a bit of a monopoly.

In Okinawa, some auto parts can be a difficult to find. Bill grinned as he said, “One way we have been able to help our customers is to go to the local junk yards in the area and find the parts we need.” It pays to have local connections. Bill speaks Japanese and has connections with local auto body specialists. Bill can arrange for any kind of automotive work that needs to be done.

If you are stationed in Okinawa, Japan you can contact Bill Siekert about his auto repair services or you can use this map with directions to his automotive repair shop.

Get The Best Auto Repair Services: Important Features To Consider

DIY Car Repairs: Are You Prepared For It?

A DIY approach for car repairs can definitely save your money, but only if you have the essential skills and tools to do the repairs on your own. If you don’t have any idea about vehicle repair and maintenance then you can end up costing a lot of money. It’s advisable to look for certified mechanics who can fix the problems on your car quickly.

When dealing with vehicle repairs, it’s very essential to get the repair and servicing done by an experienced professional. It’s very hard to trust any mechanic or repair shop with your car. If you have a classy and luxurious car, you should always look for a specialist who can assure quality services.

How To Find The Best Auto Body Shop?

Check The Online Review Websites

Before you decide to take your car to the nearest auto shop, you should first check the online review of the body shops in your area. There are many review websites where you can check the feedback from the old or existing customers about the repair station. It will help you to make the right choice.

Get The Opinion Of Your Co-Workers

The very first thing is to make a list of the top five garages or repair stations in your area. The best way to find the car garage is through referrals or recommendations from your friends or family. You may also check online to find the local repair shops or garages operating in your area.

Make A List Of The Top Five Auto Shops

Once you have made a list of the top five repair stations in your area, you should check their ratings and reviews online. There are many good review websites which offer genuine reviews of the garages or auto body shops.

It’s very important to speak with the old customers before choosing the garage. If the old customers are not happy with the services of the auto shop, you should look for some other option.

The Final Tip

When it comes to taking care of your vehicle, these auto repair shops can do the best job. You can also hire them for your expensive car models. They have certified mechanics who can do all the necessary repairs for your car.

Make sure that the mechanics are ASE certified. Keep your eyes and ears open to choose the best auto repair shop