The Collision Repair Process
Check-in / Estimate
First step in the process is to write an estimate of repairs. The estimate indicates which parts should be repaired, replaced, and/or painted. It also indicates what type of parts should be used, how much the repairs will cost, and approximately how long it will take to make the repairs. More than one person may write an estimate. It may be written by your service adviser from the collision repair facility, an appraiser/adjuster from the insurance company, or an independent appraiser/adjuster for the insurance company. Before the repairs can begin, the insurance company, collision repair facility, and customer must all agree to the estimate.
Order Parts / Supplement
The service advisor will order the necessary parts and materials to properly repair the vehicle. Before repairs begin, the parts are verified to make sure they are in good condition and match the make and model of the vehicle. Before the vehicle is disassembled, it is washed and collision-related debris, such as broken glass, is removed. During initial disassembly, additional damage may be found that was not on the original estimate. In this case, a supplement is written to help ensure that the vehicle is repaired properly. A supplement is an addition to the estimate. Sometimes glass that was not damaged requires removal to access parts that are being repaired or replaced. A collision repair technician or a glass installer may do this type of work.
A structural repair technician uses specific locations and three-dimensional measuring equipment to determine if the vehicle frame or unibody structure was damaged during a collision. A vehicle that requires structural repairs is placed on a frame straightening rack or bench. Additional disassembly may be required to protect adjacent parts from damage or to access areas that require repair. The vehicle is anchored, and chains and hydraulic rams are used to accurately pull the frame back to specifications. If structural parts cannot be straightened, the parts are fully or partially replaced following vehicle maker recommendations. Most steel structures are welded, but aluminum structures may be joined using a combination of welds, rivets, and adhesive.
Nearly all vehicles involved in a collision need some type of body repair. A collision repair technician repairs damage to plastic, aluminum, and steel exterior panels. Major damage generally requires part replacement, but minor damage is typically repaired with hand tools and shaped to contour using body filler and sanders. Paintless dent repair (PDR), which is removing damage without using body filler or paint, is another option for repairing minor damage. Non-structural parts, including trim, may be bolted, clipped, adhesively bonded, riveted, or welded onto the vehicle. To reduce the noise, vibration, and harshness, some vehicle makers use foam fillers between the panels.
The refinishing process is when spray guns are used to apply coats of primer, basecoat (color), and clearcoat to the vehicle. The refinish technician may apply the paint and coatings to the parts on or off the vehicle. If parts are refinished on the vehicle, adjacent areas are masked off using paper and tape. A paint code on the vehicle is used to identify the paint formula (color) that the paint maker recommends. Often a process called blending is used to create a uniform color appearance. The graphics and pinstripes on a vehicle may be painted or applied as a decal. Painted graphics are applied free-hand, or they are applied in a series of masking steps. The vehicle is protected against corrosion before, during, and after the refinishing process.
Any Parts that were painted off the vehicle are reassembled and installed back on the vehicle. Additionally, any moldings, trim panels, emblems, or glass removed during the repair process are reinstalled.
Mechanical and electrical parts may also be damaged in a collision. This type of damage is repaired by an alignment and mechanical repair technician. Some of these problems may not be found until the vehicle is disassembled. Scan tools connect to the vehicle's computer to identify and clear trouble codes caused by the collision. All mechanical and electrical systems have the potential for being damaged in a collision, but most often it is the airbags and seatbelts, steering and suspension, wheel alignment, tires, and brakes.
A final inspection is done by the service advisor and technician to ensure repairs were completed per estimate, and to the standard of the shop and customer.
Once customer is contacted and has a confirmed pick up time, the vehicle undergoes cleaning of interior and exterior. More thorough detailing is available to purchase at check in.
Service advisor goes over repairs with customer. All final payments/deductible are paid and vehicle is released.