Your car was involved in a pretty serious accident, and it’s been at the collision repair shop for a few weeks. They’ve just called to let you know it’s ready, and you will be anxiously picking it up soon. At this point you are a little nervous that the repairs were done right, and are wondering what to look for when you get there. Upon arrival, a technician should carefully walk around the car with you using a written checklist while explaining what was done and why. Ask them about the shop’s warranty, as many reputable collision repair shops guarantee their work for one-year or 12,000 miles. That said, it’s still important for you to conduct your own inspection before driving off. Here are some key inspection tips to use:
Is Your Vehicle Clean?
Dirt hides imperfections and that’s why your car should be spotless inside and out when you pick it up. Make sure that it has been washed and vacuumed out thoroughly so that you can easily inspect the areas that were repaired. Even your floor mats and engine should be clean. In addition, the technicians shouldn’t have left any old parts lying around in the trunk, engine compartment or interior; not even a single nut or bolt. When you pick up a clean auto it presents the shop more professionally, and gives you less reason to doubt their work. Once you’re satisfied with the initial “eye test”, a more careful inspection comes next.
Inspect Your Car’s Repaired Area(s)
Let’s say for illustration purposes that your car sustained some major front-end damage. That means not only were body panel replacements and painting required, but also repairs to the suspension, frame and engine components. Inspect the following:
The body panel seams for uneven gaps
Open and close the doors, hood and trunk to notice the fit while listening for strange rubbing sounds. Make sure they open easily and close securely.
If an air bag was deployed was it replaced?
Check the distance between the tires and fenders and compare those from side to side
Ensure that all hoses and wires are connected
Turn on your headlights and inspect the beam alignment
If the frame needed straightening request a copy of the frame spec printout and have the before and after numbers explained to you
If all those check out, now it’s time to carefully inspect your car’s paint and finish.
How do I Find Auto Paint Job Mistakes?
Even when technicians have the factory paint codes, one of the hardest parts of the collision repair process is matching paint to the rest of your car. Existing paint fading dictates that technicians still have to add a little tint to get your car’s restored finish perfect. Most vehicles on the road have what’s called an “orange peel” paint texture that’s sometimes hard to match. These are all reasons to pick up your vehicle during the day and look at it in the bright sunlight. Do so up close first, and then step back several paces from the vehicle to pick up any panel paint inconsistencies. Look for imperfections due to hairs, dirt specs or overspray.
Other Collision Repair Flaws to Look for
Performing these inspection steps will go a long way in ensuring that the collision repairs were properly completed. Also it’s important to test drive your vehicle before approving the work, and look for strange noises, poor performance and questionable handling. Does it drive and steer okay? Are there strange rattles or shimmies? If something just doesn’t seem right, ask a technician at the shop what could be wrong.
If you aren’t satisfied with their answers, request to speak with the owner for clarification and/or refuse to sign off on the work until it’s repaired satisfactorily. Some problems may not show up until later, such as uneven tire wear from a poor alignment, or fluid leaks where it’s parked. Don’t forget that most reputable shops offer warranties up to 12,000 miles and one-year. In the end, conducting your own inspection when you pick it up goes a long way in guaranteeing the job was done right.