Sunday, November 20, 2011

Good Shop....Bad Shop - How Can You Tell the Difference?

The auto body and collision repair business is a very specialized part of the automotive repair industry.  Repairing a vehicle after it's been involved in an accident requires the knowledge of many different skills.  The repair technician must have a strong knowledge of metals and their properties when working with vehicle frames and body panels.  He needs strong mathematical skills to determine exact dimensions and to make sure that a repaired car or truck will travel straight and true when fixed.  He needs to understand chemistry when it comes to the chemicals and compounds needed to complete the repair work.  Paints must be mixed precisely to ensure that the paint matches even when the rest of the vehicle has been sun faded.  And, in most cases, he must be a master mechanic on top of everything else!  Suffice it to say, a good auto body technician must have a good amount of schooling behind him and to be really good, he must also be somewhat of an artist!

Like any other business, there are good shops and there are bad.  But, how do you tell the difference?  Having a car repaired after an accident is expensive and the last thing you want to do is find out after your repairs are done, that the technician who did them was not as knowledgable as he seemed.  So how do you evaluate the prospective body shop you are contemplating having do your repair work?

A good place to start is "word of mouth".  Ask your friends, family and neighbors who they have used in the past.  It's a good start for weeding out the shops with the horror stories and also a good way to start a list of "good experience" shops.  Check the Internet for shops in your area.  Pay attention to the reviews of these places.  Although, Internet reviews are not always completely accurate, they can be a great start to pointing you in the right direction.

Next, ask about Certifications.  A good body shop will undoubtedly have certified technicians.  The best shops will not only insist on their technicians being certified, but will assist their technicians with on-going education in these areas.

In the auto repair industry, the two biggies are ASE and I-CAR.  We'll start with ASE, The Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.  The following is an excerpt from an article by Tom Torbjornsen, Maintenance Editor for AOL Autos and an expert author in the automotive repair industry.  He provides an excellent explanation of the benefits of having a "certified" technician work on your vehicle
 
ASE (The Institute for Automotive Service Excellence)
"Until the early 1970's, consumers had no way to distinguish between incompetent and competent auto technicians. In response to this need, the independent, non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) was established in 1972. At present there are about 420,000 professionals with current certifications. They work in every segment of the automotive service industry: car and truck dealerships, independent garages, fleets, service stations, franchises, and more.

Here's how ASE certification works: Prospective candidates register for (and take) one or more of ASE's 40-plus exams. The tests are grouped into specialties for automobile, medium/heavy truck, truck equipment, school bus, and collision repair technicians as well as engine machinists, alternate fuels technicians, parts specialists, and collision damage estimators. Upon passing at least one exam and after providing proof of two years of relevant work experience, the test taker becomes ASE certified. Certification, however, is not for life. To remain certified, those with ASE credentials must be retested every five years. ACT, known for its academic and occupational testing programs, administers the tests. They are conducted twice a year at over 800 locations around the country. The exams stress knowledge of job-related skills. They're not easy to pass; approximately one out of three test takers fails.

You, the consumer, benefits from ASE certification. How? Two ways: 1)It is a valuable yard stick by which to measure the knowledge and skills of individual technicians; 2) It is a valuable yardstick by which to measure a repair facility's commitment to quality (by employing ASE certified technicians). Consumers should look for facilities that display the "ASE Blue Seal of Excellence" logo on outdoor signs, in customer waiting areas, in the Yellow Pages, and in other advertisements.

ASE's mission: To improve the quality of vehicle repair and service through the testing and certification of repair and service professionals in the Automotive Industry.
To better understand ASE certification and testing, here are the tests as outlined at the ASE website (www.ase.com)"

Next would be I-CAR Certification.  Also from the same article, Tom Torbjornsen writes the following: 
Now let's take a look at I-CAR
Founded in 1979, I-CAR (Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair) is an international, not-for-profit training organization dedicated to improving the quality, safety, and efficiency of auto collision repair for the ultimate benefit of the consumer.

I-CAR has adopted a concept we call "Outward Vision". This concept is driven by the need to define the "Ideal State" of the Collision Industry relative to technical training. I-CAR's definition of the Industry's "Ideal State" is:
That every person in the Collision Industry has the necessary technical knowledge and skills relevant to their position to ensure a complete and safe repair. I-CAR continues to develop and deliver technical training programs to professionals in all areas of the Collision Industry. Furthermore, I-CAR provides a communication forum for anyone interested in proper collision repair. Finally, that I-CAR's primary funding is derived from student tuition and services, insuring that I-CAR can remain unbiased in developing courses and services on an industry-wide basis.

I-CAR Mission Statement:
To research, develop, and deliver quality technical educational programs related to collision repair; to raise the level of available knowledge and recognize professional achievement; thereby improving communication throughout the Collision Repair, Insurance, and related Industries for the ultimate benefit of the consumer.

Now do you understand the significance of certifications when choosing a technician to work on your car? As in all fields of expertise, there is "more than meets the eye." Working on today's vehicles requires intense training and continual education to keep up with industry changes. Go do your homework! Save yourself money and hassle over the long haul. Take your valuable "second-largest-purchase-you'll-make-in-a-lifetime" vehicle to a qualified professional.

Lastly, take a look at the shop's previous work and look at the shop itself.  Although the building that houses the shop is not nearly as important as the people who work there, and I've seen some extremely good work come out of some of the most unlikely places, there are a few things that should be taken into consideration.

A good, legitimate shop owner should be proud to show you pictures of their past work.  They should gladly hand over a list of references with previous customers that you can contact.  Here at LDJ, we ask our customers to fill out a form when their vehicle is finished that asks them to evaluate our performance.  From their satisfaction with the overall job to their experience with our staff.  We also ask them if it's OK to let potential customers contact them.  It's a very simple procedure that most of our customers are happy to participate in. 

Lastly, get everything in writing.  From the estimate to an explanation of your repairs and any warranties involved.  All good repair shops will warranty their work and should be happy to provide you with all of them in writing.  Parts warranties will come from the parts manufacturer and will depend on what the manufacturer covers under that warranty, but, most manufacturer's warranties do NOT cover the cost of labor.  Body work warranties vary between shops, but, a good, reputable shop should have no problem guaranteeing their own body work.  Using high quality compounds, bondo, and sealants may cost a little more, but, will outlast the cheaper brands by far.  Here at LDJ, body work is guaranteed for the life of the vehicle because we use only the best fillers and compounds.  Paint warranties are a different story altogether.  Different paint manufacturer's have different warranties and some warranties change with the grade of paint the manufacturers have.  Be VERY CAREFUL when agreeing to the type of paint being used on your repairs.  Remember, the paint is going to be there for a long time and using a high quality paint will insure that the color will not fade, chip or peel.  The shop should provide you with, at the very least, the length of time recommended by the manufacturer and most reputable shops will also give you the option of an extended warranty.  Some paint manufacturers offer certification in their particular brands and shops certified by them can offer you greater warranties that those not certified.  These certifications include the better manufacturers like DuPont, PPG, Diamont and other large paint suppliers.  Using paint certified shops can save you a lot of money should the paint peel, crack or become sun faded because certified shops can offer you labor warranties should the vehicle need to be re-painted and there is a lot of labor involved in the re-painting of a vehicle.

Following the above guide lines should help protect you from financial woes when looking for a good collision repair facility.  Of course, nothing speaks louder than your own personal opinion of how comfortable you are with the shop and the technicians you choose.

5 comments:

  1. Those who have taken the service of auto body once, can’t even they tell the difference because some mechanics are just made to rock your cars. I want to know if guys give discounted coupon or take part in sports competition. Last time got auto body job in my truck.

    Auto Body

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Auto Body and thanks again for your comments. I think what you're saying here is that some shops have just made everyone think that all "mechanical" services are the same. Unfortunately, this is what we have to call a "stereotype" of the industry, which simply means that ALL businesses of a certain nature are branded because of the foolish mistakes of a few. The easiest way to keep yourself from becoming a victim of one of these shops is simply to "do your homework". Ask questions and make sure you get the answers before turning your vehicle over to a shop you haven't done business with before.

    Also, yes, we do offer discount coupons for many of our services. These coupons can be found on several of our sites on the Internet like Yelp, Merchant Circle and many more. All of these sites make it very simple for their members to offer coupons to potential customers which is why we support ALL of these sites. Best thing to do is "let your mouse do the work" and check into the service you are looking for on these and other local sites that you may have at your access.

    Thanks again for your comments!

    Larry and Dee Blackman
    LDJ Auto Body and Custom Shop
    ldjautobody@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi,
    Nice post and we should take care of all these and really these tips will be helpful for everyone. One important thing is that we should trust only the experts.
    Auto body repair Toronto

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi CVG! Wonderful to hear from our Canadian partners!

    Thanks for your comment. I think the important thing here is to educate the average consumer on what things are really important in our industry and to let them know there are things which they should be aware of when choosing a shop. Also, we'd like to let our consumers know that auto body repair is a little more than skill with a rubber mallet and a paint gun! LOL Thanks again and we wish you good luck in the new year and a safe and Happy Holiday Season to all!

    Larry and Dee Blackman
    LDJ Auto Body and Custom Shop
    ldjautobody@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. what a great blog regarding to Auto Body Collision Repair thanks for sharing this great information

    ReplyDelete

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Thanks for reading and we look forward to hearing from you! -Larry and Dee Blackman, LDJ Auto Body, Gibsonton, FL.