Industry Overview: Auto Body Repair

by James Florence


Whether or not you’ve recently been in an auto collision, it’s helpful to be familiar with auto body repair industry basics. Photo: Coelho’s Body Repair & Auto Sales, Inc. (2015)

Automotive work is a multifaceted field that consists of many subdivisions, from manufacturing to engine repair. One important segment of the industry is auto body repair, which concerns aspects such as vehicle paint and collision repair. The following article contains useful information to help you get more acquainted with this part of the automotive field, including key terms, DIY tips and answers to frequently asked questions.

Key Terms

Chipping: Auto paint is said to “chip” when stones and other debris cause the colored paint finish to break off in small pieces. Auto body shops can buff out and refill chipped areas with matching paint to make the damage invisible.

Clear coat: This is the top layer of auto paint that’s applied to add shine and protect the colored basecoat. A clear coat doesn’t have pigment added to it, so the color of the basecoat shows through.

Dent repair: This is a method of removing dents by pushing or hammering them out from the underside of the vehicle. Vehicle dent repair is effective for large and small dents, and it may require the application of fresh paint depending on the severity of the dent and the condition of the paint surrounding it.

Direct repair program (DRP): DRP insurance programs are usually an agreement between auto body shops and auto insurance companies. DRP repair shops agree to repair collision damage using a standardized set of rules and procedures in exchange for insurance companies directing customers to them.

Touch-up: This localized auto body paint repair only covers a small area. Touch-up paint jobs usually hide nicks, dings, chips and scratches that occur on car hoods, doors, bumpers, and fenders.

DIY Tips

Repairing rock chips
After cleaning the chipped area with soap and water, rub a bit of polishing compound over it and clean it again, this time with isopropyl alcohol. Carefully apply the correct type of paint to individual chips and, after allowing a couple of days for the paint to cure, re-polish the area to blend it with the rest of the top coat. Touch-up paint can be purchased at an auto supply store.

Removing aerial contaminants
Aerial contaminants such as bird droppings, insect remains and tree sap are extremely corrosive to a vehicle’s paint, which is why it’s important to regularly clean affected areas. Kerosene is a good product for this—it’s inexpensive and it’ll remove contaminants without harming the paint.

Polishing out a minor scratch
If your car’s exterior gets scratched, in some cases, it can simply be polished out. Run your fingernail across the scratch—if your nail drops into a groove, the repair will likely require additional paint, but if it brushes seamlessly over the scratch, there’s a good chance it will polish out. To do this, apply a small amount of rubbing compound to a rag and rub it vigorously over the affected area. After just a few seconds of polishing, it’ll appear as if the scratch had never been there.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My insurance company gave me a list of auto body shops in their direct repair network. Do I have to use one of these shops or can I choose where to get my repairs done?
A: Your insurance company can suggest auto body shops in its direct repair network, but you have the final decision on where you take your vehicle for collision repairs. Your obligation is simply to take your car, truck, van or minivan to the body shop you prefer and contact your insurance company to let them know where your vehicle is.

Q: Do I have any say in the parts that are used to repair my vehicle?
A: Auto body shops have a variety of materials and parts they can use to repair vehicles damaged in collisions. Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts are the most expensive, so many shops automatically install used parts, refurbished parts or even salvaged parts to cut down on costs. If you caused the accident, the wording in your insurance coverage may require the body shop to install used, remanufactured or salvaged parts in your vehicle. However, you may have the option to pay the difference for OEM parts if you prefer. If, on the other hand, the accident was not your fault, you can tell your auto body shop which parts to install. Ask for OEM parts that will restore your vehicle to its pre-accident condition in terms of safety and value.

Q: My insurance company wants me to bring my car to their claims center for an appraisal. Do I have to do this?
A: Insurance companies can ask you to bring your vehicle to their claims center before taking it to an auto body shop, but it’s not a requirement. You can take it to them for an appraisal if you want, but you’re under no obligation and may request that your insurance company inspect it at your chosen repair shop instead.

Q: Why choose a Diamond Certified auto body repair shop?
A: At a time when you most need assurance of a job well done, Diamond Certified helps you choose an auto body repair shop with confidence by offering a list of top rated local companies that have passed the most in-depth rating process in the United States. Only auto body shops rated Highest in Quality earn the prestigious Diamond Certified award. Most companies can’t pass the ratings. American Ratings Corporation also monitors every Diamond Certified company with in-depth and ongoing research and ratings. And your purchase is backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee, so you’ll feel confident choosing a Diamond Certified auto body shop for your vehicle repair.

Use Diamond Certified Resource to find top rated companies.

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