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Checking for Hidden Damage: Reducing Extraneous Repairs

Posted on 11/21/15

An Estimate is Only an Estimate

For most of us, writing an estimate is a means to an end. The goal for writing the estimate is to identify exactly what parts and labor operations will be required to complete all of the accident related repairs, deliver the vehicle back to the owner in pre-accident condition and do so as quickly as possible. However, in far too many cases the estimate “falls short” of identifying everything that was actually needed to complete the entire repair. Falling short can translate into increased cycle times, increased rental costs, and lower CSI scores. Failing to identify all of the accident related damage up front often opens the door for customer comebacks.

A complete repair plan documents the vehicle in its current condition, and creates the “play book” for completing the vehicle repairs. A thorough repair plan also identifies all the damage that is not related to the accident, and identifying non-accident damage is just as important as identifying the accident damage. Think of this as “profit protection.”

Five Ways to Identify Hidden Damage

Below are five ways to set the customer expectations, set your team’s expectations, and protect your profit margins:

  1. Identify all vehicle damage, accident-related or not
    With the customer by your side, take out a marker and start circling. Walk around the entire car and take notes, on the car, of exactly what is accident-related, customer pay, and damage that will be left on the vehicle. It is also a good idea to take lots of detailed pictures.
  2. Perform a diagnostic scan on every vehicle before and after collision repairs
    Today’s vehicles are manufactured with advanced electronic systems. These sophisticated systems can be damaged even during a minor collision. However, most collision shops do not have a trained individual for OEM diagnostic procedures. In addition to staffing issues, diagnostic equipment presents a significant capital investment.

    CDS’s patented asTech® device is the option for shops looking to ensure all of the vehicle-damaged systems are identified before vehicle repairs. Utilizing the technology of the asTech® device and team of professional diagnosticians will ensure that you locate damaged vehicle systems in the estimating process. Scanning at pre- and post-repair intervals provides documentation that all of the damaged systems have been repaired.
  3. Perform 100% teardown on every vehicle
    In modern vehicles, even a bumper job calls for a tear down to identify all of the damaged items. It is tempting to skip right over the teardown process on the “small jobs,” but it’s those jobs that need to turn out as efficiently as possible. Completely tearing down every vehicle will allow you to identify hidden damage that cannot be seen during the initial customer estimate.
  4. Measure every vehicle
    Measuring a vehicle will identify any hidden structural damage. Take advantage of available measurement systems that allow you to measure the vehicle in your parking lot or in an estimating bay. Be sure to check under hood and upper body if you suspect damage in those areas. Any variances and you’ll need to investigate further.
  5. Identify and research OEM documentation on every vehicle
    If you don’t, you’re flying blind without a net. Your estimating system is not a replacement for OEM repair documentation. P-Pages are just guides. Only the manufacturer can tell you how to fix their vehicles properly. You should also be consulting the OEM position statements on the need to scan. Using OEM repair information may just prevent your team from causing more damage during the repair process. Think door panels, door handles, etc... and then... Stick to the Plan.

After you have identified all hidden damage, set proper customer expectations, and created your repair plan, it’s time for your team to execute. By working to eliminate any opportunities for failure, your team will succeed. For more information about using diagnostic scans from the asTech® Remote Diagnostic Device to help your technicians perform quality repairs, contact an asTech®  master technician today!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.