Find Your Body Shop
Most people have experienced the confusion of trying to put something together without using the instructions. You bring that new TV stand home and figure you can assemble it based on the picture on the box -- only to find the extra bag of screws that you forgot to use after you are finished. Luckily, it’s only a piece of furniture and it shouldn’t be a life and death situation. You can just figure out where the screws go and finish the project. However, that’s not the case with putting a car, truck or SUV back together during a repair.
If a few screws or bolts are missing from your vehicle after a repair, it can cause catastrophic problems. It may seem crazy, like how much can one little screw do? You have to look at it as there is a reason that the engineers who designed the vehicle put that screw there. Today’s vehicles are designed to absorb and transfer the energy from a collision in a specific way, through the entire vehicle. If one piece of the structure is missing or wrong, the entire process of absorbing and transferring energy is interrupted.
It’s All About Safety
This is why original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), or vehicle makers, publish procedures on how to fix a vehicle after an accident. These OEM procedures are what the collision repair industry refers to as a “body repair manual.” This is essentially a book that explains where different parts go, what tools to use, how tight to make something or where to cut to replace a part. Failure to follow the instructions can cause serious injury or even death if the vehicle is ever in another accident. When developing these procedures, engineers create repair procedures that will allow the vehicle to react as originally designed for the ultimate safety of the passengers.
Sure, many collision repair technicians can take a badly damaged vehicle and make it look like nothing ever happened. But that TV stand also looked like the one you saw in the store, even with the missing screws. That doesn’t mean that it will still have the structural integrity to support the weight of the TV.
Before selecting a body shop, you should ask if they follow the OEM recommended procedures in the body repair manual. You can even ask if that particular OEM has a procedure for the repair that is being performed. If they say that they do not, or that they will make a better repair than the OEM’s procedure, you may want to look elsewhere for your repair. Keep in mind though, the OEMs do not publish specific procedures for every task that is performed on a vehicle. Many of the OEM recommendations may be a general statement, such as saying what materials can be repaired, how to prepare a part for refinishing (painting) or even a general procedure for sectioning (cutting off a damaged metal part so a new one can be installed). Either way, the shop should be able to show you and explain the documented OEM information.
Lives at Risk
Depending on the OEM, special tools, specific materials or intensive labor may be required to repair a vehicle to OEM specifications. This can drive up repair costs, but you can be sure that your vehicle will be safe when you head back out on the road. Take into consideration that trying to save a couple bucks by allowing a repair facility to cut corners and not follow OEM instructions may put you and additional drivers and passengers at risk.
There is never a good time for collision damage on your vehicle, but as a consumer, you can help ensure a complete, safe and quality repair by making sure your vehicle is repaired by trained professionals following OEM procedures and recommendations. It isn’t worth it to get a sub-par repair just to save a few dollars and put everyone in the vehicle at risk.