Fixing a vehicle’s autobody is a serious matter; that’s why it’s so important to have the job done by professionals. The car body shop industry is vast, with market size of about 47 billion only in the USA. There are several specializations in this field, but this article focuses on bodywork repairs and paint jobs. In this line of work, there are excellent, decent, bad, and poorly trained professionals, like in every other activity. However, this is one of those activities in which customers may not notice a lousy job. Eventually, the poor job will come to light, which is why adequate research, word of mouth amongst your friends, and intuition play a fundamental role when it’s time to choose an autobody shop to repair your car.
Fixing a car’s autobody is not a science; it’s a mix of technical skills, knowledge, and craftsmanship. It’s difficult and almost impossible to find two cars with the same damages; every case is unique.
There are different kinds of jobs, all of which require a great deal of responsibility but, respraying the bodywork of a car is not the same as repairing the front end of a vehicle after it was involved in an accident. Fixing a car’s bodywork after an accident needs to be flawless so that the car’s structure is as strong as when it came out of the factory. Everything has to be perfectly aligned and the repairs are crucial for the car’s and its passengers’ safety; many of them go unnoticed after the job is completed. That’s why it’s essential to take your car to a well-known autobody shop where you can be sure that skilled professionals will repair your vehicle.
Taking your car to a dependable auto body repair shop will ensure that they have everything necessary to solve your problem, leaving your vehicle’s bodywork as good as new. You will also know that they used high-quality materials and body parts to do the job. A good repair should last for years, while a lousy repair will deteriorate with time if it goes unnoticed. There are several reasons to take a car to an autobody shop, some were mentioned, but not in detail.
Here are the most common reasons why people take their cars to the autobody shop:
- Collision repair: there are light and heavy collisions. Light collisions can look bad but don’t compromise the structural integrity of the vehicle. On the other hand, major/heavy collisions affect the vehicle’s structural integrity, turning it into a driving hazard. In every case, a body repair expert must review the car to detect any structural damage before starting the job. Every autobody shop should have a frame rack to stretch and align deformed chassis; most modern frame racks are fitted with lasers that aid in making the job more accurate. Hail/tree damage: weather can be rough with a vehicle’s bodywork. Light damage can be repaired using a technique called Paintless Dent Repair by working the metal, keeping the original paint of the vehicle, and avoiding the cost of having to prepare and repaint the damaged area. When the damage has broken through the clear coat of the paint, they are impossible to fix without having to disassemble, prepare, and repaint the affected area.
- Dents, dings, and scratches are the most common damages, usually produced at very low speeds or when the vehicle is parked. Most of these accidents happen in a parking lot while maneuvering at low speeds. Another common mishap is when someone parked next to you carelessly opens his car’s door and bumps your car. These damages are only visibly aesthetical but annoying. A bigger problem is when the paint is scratched; leaving an exposed area can rust. The steps to follow to repair these kinds of damages are similar to the ones described above. Sometimes it is possible to straighten out the metal or plastic, but the vehicle may need a conventional repair depending on the size and type of damage. Something to keep in mind is that “paintless” dent removal techniques can’t be used on areas that have been previously damaged and repaired.
This is an example of dents that can be repaired using “paintless” dent removal technique.
This is how the finished job looks.
- Fender bender accidents: these accidents produce minor damages to the vehicles involved. Some examples of fender bender accidents are as follows: when a car gets rear-ended at low speeds, is bumped by a distracted driver, or when a vehicle hits another car’s bumper while parallel parking. These accidents don’t affect the car’s performance, they are merely aesthetical, but again, it’s essential to pay special attention to areas where the paint was removed to prevent rust.
- Paint job refresh: a vehicle’s paint job deteriorates primarily because of exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Exposure to dirt and other pollutants doesn’t help to preserve a paint job either. Without proper care, paint tends to fade over time. Sometimes the paint of a car wears unevenly, and it looks even worse. A deep car detailing (the polishing and restoration of the clear coatings) often solves the problem. If anything, the car detail improves the look of the vehicle. When the paint job can’t be refreshed using this method, the car will have to be repainted. To do this, the autobody shop professionals will have to remove the old paint, smooth out the body, and apply a primer coat before painting the whole car. When a paint job refresh is performed, some unwanted surprises can appear. One of them being signs of previous repairs that were poorly done; this can mean a lot of extra work.A high-quality autobody shop should have a modern spray booth to ensure even coats and efficient, quality paint finishes, avoiding the dreaded orange-peel finishes. Spray booths keep 99% of the contaminant elements outside the painting area. Modern spray booths are heated, which helps speed up the painting process without affecting the quality of the job. Some advanced models have different modes that help make the job easier.
Another important thing is that the shop has a color specialist and cutting edge technology to ensure proper color matching. It is difficult when the surrounding panels are deteriorated by the environment or were repainted previously by an unqualified person. Most likely, the previous paint job will not match the rest of the car’s color. It’s an art to prepare the right color and to blur and stretch the paint of the fixed parts to match the rest of the car. If these factors are not taken into account, the repair will be noticeable, which is unacceptable.
Below are examples of different types of autobody repair work and a brief explanation about what has been done to fix the problems.
The first example is a paint job refresh. The car is a small SUV, Ford Eco Sport, also called a crossover. The vehicle had several minor accidents that had been poorly repaired. In addition to that, the paint and solvents used on the previous jobs were low quality, and it looked like every panel was painted in different tones of the same color. This is because the paint was deteriorating unevenly. In addition to that, the bodywork was filled with excessive body filler, which is never good. A good practice is to use as little body filler as possible.
This picture shows the excessive body filler that was used to reshape the fender instead of doing proper metalwork.
Here is the first step of a proper metalwork job:
Below you can see how the shape of the fender was remolded using metal instead of putty or body filler. This is the only right way to do the job, and when it’s done, the finished result looks much better. In the long run, the metal will not get deformed like the body filler will and will make the repair unnoticeable for the lifetime of the vehicle.
This picture shows the fender finished with the primer coat applied, and it is now ready to be painted.
Here you can see other panels that are ready to be painted. The doors, bumpers, and other elements were removed and painted separately.
Below are pictures of the final result:
Next, you will see a minor collision repair.
The damage to the rear fender was minor, and no structural damage was detected.
To repair the fender, the body specialists worked and stretched the metal to bring it back to its original place. After that, they sanded the surface and cleaned it. Then a small amount of body filler was added and sanded. After that, the surface was primed and left prepared to be painted with the rest of the parts. This car’s color is “Phantom Black”, Audi paint code LZ9Y, the black color is applied as a matte base. After that, a clear coating has to be applied to give the bodywork its final shining appearance.
This picture shows the rear bumper’s reinforcement bar. With the rear bumper’s cover removed (it had some parking marks), it’s evident that the car had suffered a previous accident.
The front of the car looked mistreated and the clear coating was almost gone because of debris from the road, lack of maintenance, and an exposed front end. Also, the front left fender had a small bump. In the picture, you can see it is ready to be painted.
This picture shows the rear fender repaired and the bumper is back in its place. The car is ready to be polished for a second time.
Another view of the same fender.
This picture shows the front fender already repaired and painted.
All the pieces back in their places.
At the time of writing this article, the car was still receiving the final touches before being delivered back to the customer.
Cars are a big investment. Most people use them to go from point A to point B and only take care of the mechanical parts of their cars. They only take them to the autobody shop if they have suffered a significant accident that prevents them from using it. One the other hand, there are car fanatics that polish their cars becasue they can’t stand to see a single scratch on their cars. Without going to either extreme, keep up with the bodywork of a car is key to keeping the value of your investment. If you compare two cars of the same make, year, model, equipment, and mileage, one well preserved and the other with bumps, dents, a ruined paint job, you will see a tremendous difference in value between the same cars. Even if the dented car may be in better mechanical conditions than the other, the look is arguably essential when it’s time to sell the car.
Another important thing to remember is that rust is a fatal enemy no matter how much anti oxide protection modern cars have. If you leave unpainted surfaces for a long time, they will eventually rust, and once a part starts to rust, it’s very difficult to save it. That’s why keeping your car’s autobody in good shape is vital to save money and time on future repairs. The moral of the story is that it’s essential to take your car to an autobody repair shop from time to time to avoid accumulating damages that will involve more significant expenses in the future. It will also keep your car’s retail price high! Lastly, it is imperative to take your vehicle to an autobody shop run by responsible and professional people to ensure that the repairs made to your car will last just as if the vehicle had come off of the production line.