Wednesday, 31 July 2002 10:00

CAPA tamper proof seals - now you see them...

Written by Dick Strom

On a recent Saturday my brothers and I and our families did some serious catch-up on Dad's place. A widower of 88 years, until severe osteoporosis limited his activities he kept his place prim and proper. Lawnmowers, pruning shears, and the like over a four-hour period, though, pretty well brought it back to its former state. In the process we also cleaned out a rag-tag accumulation of junk overhead in his garage. Among the clutter, an empty dynamite box dated 1953 brought back memories of a time soon after WW2, in which tractors were scarce and dynamite was relatively cheap, when we'd watch Dad blast stumps from our 20 acres. He learned the art of using the right amount and correct placement of dynamite while mining in his late teens. 

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When I was around six he'd allow us to observe up close as he "threaded" sticks of dynamite with a large wooden needle, then carefully crimped the "cap" on the end of enough fuse to allow us ample time to take cover behind nearby large trees, fingers in ears. I can still remember the thrill of the concussion felt to the bone, as stones, dirt and wood fragments missiled past our hiding places, and the wait afterward for rocks to quit raining and dust to settle as, it seemed, the world had disintegrated nearby.

My upbringing included being taught a healthy respect for potentially harmful things and dangerous situations, and to never implicitly trust any of these to not fail. Used properly under reasonably controlled conditions, these benefit; improperly, irresponsibly, or unquestionably used, they devastate.

The issue of CAPA-certified-hoods-gone-bad has flown in CAPA's face again, literally. The cover of Hammer & Dolly (5/02) shows the latest example of the durability of this debated CAPA hood to conform to a Toyota Tacoma's windshield and roof contour... debated in that, as H&D's Sheila Loftus editorialized, "CAPA tap danced around (this) flying hood issue (deciding rather) to play the old denial game [again]. CAPA said this defective hood [apparently with a design flaw that doesn't allow the secondary catch to function properly] wasn't a CAPA-certified hood because the CAPA sticker had been removed from it. Apparently, it doesn't matter that everyone who had a hand in the repair of this vehicle said it was a CAPA-certified hood. [ie:] if it doesn't say CAPA it isn't CAPA... the logic of a master thief who wears gloves on all his capers."

Ohio shop owner and CAPA's chairman, Bob Anderson, stated in the same H&D issue that removal of a CAPA seal is a serious problem - "I have no proof that it's a CAPA part if that CAPA seal is removed". CAPA's Stephanie Ackerman seconded, "The seal confirms the integrity of the part certification. If there is no seal, there is no way that we (or anyone else) can represent it as a CAPA-certified part."

A recent CAPA promotion states in part, "public integrity and public access go hand in hand... in running a credible program... CAPA is the only certifying organization that requires that each part (piece) be identified by a special, tamper proof seal" [my emphasis]. But it recently occurred to me that I don't recall ever seeing a hood with an intact post-repair CAPA seal [For some strange reason the chorus of that old Eagles song just came to mind: "You can't hide your lying eyes, and your smile is a thin disguise..."].

Might I suggest that CAPA's tamper proof seal isn't very tamper proof when the true "certified" identity of the latest flying hood is being debated because the repairer removed the seal? But I can't blame shops for removing those obnoxious yellow stickers from the underside of CAPA-certified hoods: They're about as conductive to a warm and fuzzy repair experience as would be blisters of questionable origin on a lover's personal parts. In fact, if I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd think CAPA placed their stickers where they are, ugly yellow and all, to assure they'd be removed, disguising the true identity of their inferior parts. But I'm not into conspiracy theories.

So I e-mailed several pertinent questions, especially concerning CAPA seal tamper-resilience, to my list of 57 shop owners, editors, insurers and damage investigators (whose views I respect, though don't necessarily agree with) who I occasionally query for their input. Their comments are quite enlightening.

To my first question, "Have you ever seen an intact post-repair CAPA seal on the underside of any hood?" responses ranged from "Never", to "On occasion, yes, though this is the exception, not the rule", to "The only CAPA sticker I've seen left on a hood was on the infamous hood on Dellarova's 88 Honda Accord, that blew up in his face several years ago when the welded striker separated from the inner reinforcement...

Just CAPA's luck, eh?", to "In all the vehicles we've reinspected, only twice" to "No one I know leaves the stickers on."

Responses to my question, "If you do use CAPA certified hoods, do you remove the seal, or leave it intact?" ranged from "We never install aftermarket hoods because of the huge liability issue," to "We remove the whole seal because who wants a yellow sticker on a black hood, thereby identifying the vehicle as having been wrecked," to "We rarely use CAPA-certified hoods, but on the rare occasions we do we leave the sticker on, tear the validation tab off, and place it in the customer's file."

Next, I asked, "If you do use CAPA-certified hoods, does the decision of whether or not you leave the CAPA seal on depend on whether or not a hood insulating liner will be covering it?" Responses ranged from "I've never seen an 'exposed' CAPA sticker... if it's intact its covered by the insulator," to "on the very few CAPA hoods we use, we don't remove the decals whether or not they're covered by a hood liner."


But the most revealing comments came as a result of my last question, "Any other pertinent information concerning CAPA-certified seals removal, or CAPA in general?" Here are a few of the responses.

From Charlie Barone, former shop owner, presently owner of AutoClaims Solutions, Malvern, Pennsylvania who inspected the faulty Tacoma pickup hood and wrote the original story: "This Toyota Tacoma hood story is getting better and better. As I've recently learned, CAPA was allowing Jui Li (the manufacturer of the faulty hood) to 'rework' the striker since early last year when it was discovered the secondary (catch) was essentially useless. Despite CAPA's knowledge of the problem, they didn't decertify the part until I reported the failure in New Jersey on 3/18/02. We're talking benign neglect!

"I know a rebuilder who removes all identification labels and goes as far as filling in with plastic any embossed or stamped identification marks. He sells at auction and his theory is 'let the buyer beware.'" [several respondents mentioned 'filling' being done].

"My favorite CAPA seal removal story is that during the Avery v. State Farm (on imitation parts) case, State Farm had a very large Florida shop that did a large volume of repairs for SF, perform repairs while SF videotaped it. In the video, as their technician 'prepped' the parts for refinishing with wax and grease remover and a scuff pad, he flipped the hood over and with a most practiced swipe removed the entire CAPA sticker and wiped off the adhesive residue. He performed the procedure so quickly and naturally, no one even noticed it in the edit of the video! The act was verified at the end of the video where the final repair was presented ready for delivery. At one point the vehicle (ironically a Tacoma pickup) was shown with the hood open... with no insulator... and no CAPA decal!

"Also, in the video SF wanted to show how well the gaps compared between the OEM and imitation CAPA fender. Again, what was not noted was that the bodyline stampings were very different between the OEM and imitation parts, which weren't apparent until the still shots were compared side by side. CAPA 'certification' only worked as long as no one took a good hard look at it. CAPA's old 'spin' is beginning to look more like 'running in circles'." [Mark Pierson - Princeton Auto Body, Princeton, IL., present president of AASPI and vice president of CCRE].

"I've raised this issue of 'tamper-proof CAPA stickers' as a bunch of garbage when (CAPA's) Jack Gillis says they don't know if it was a certified hood or not because the sticker wasn't attached. I understand that they want us to leave half of the sticker, and save the other half in our files. But we remove the whole thing because who wants a yellow sticker on a black hood, thereby identifying this car has been in an accident? That's ludicrous! And I suppose that if we even saved the sticker, which may or may not happen, and the hood or other CAPA part fails, they probably won't trust the shop even then because that sticker could have come from another part, another car, another job.

"After all, who knows if that part was really the certified part if there is no sticker to certify that it was certified. CAPA has never recalled a part, just decertified them. If CAPA really wants to own up to the quality issue, they should have the CAPA number stamped into the metal, and then if the part is decertified, pull all the parts and destroy them, because it is now false advertising they are certified when in fact they aren't. It's just as unethical to continue selling a now decertified part when it comes in a box marked 'CAPA-certified', implying it is certified when it isn't. If the sticker is 'supposed' to be removed when the part is decertified, then why not cut out of the box the words 'CAPA-certified' printed on its outside?" [Chuck Sulkala, shop owner/industry leader].

"We've always taken the CAPA sticker off - it's nothing anyone would be proud of installing or having on their vehicle." [comment voiced by several shops].

Once obtained a roll of CAPA decals from a distributor to use as I needed. It would be interesting if this could be achieved in this day!" [another shop owner's comment].

Hide and seek

When we were kids playing hide-and-seek, the younger brother of a neighbor would stand in plain view with his hands over his eyes, his immature mind reasoning that if he couldn't see us, we couldn't see him. We accommodated his immaturity, as I suppose CAPA expects us to accommodate theirs, again. But the stakes are deadly high when hoods block drivers' view of oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, people will have to die as a result of shoddily constructed parts before public attention and court-mandated action will be taken... it's just a matter of time.

From a business standpoint, with all the grief "certified" hoods have caused CAPA and insurers, I can't understand why they don't drop them from their menagerie of so-called "certified" wares. And if CAPA is so proud of their product, why don't they stamp their name prominently into the metal. But then shops would need to beg insurers for more money for the added expense of having to fill and finish over the CAPA name to hide the inferior part's true identity.