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Monday, 07 January 2019 23:16

New Car Technology May Lead to Sticker Shock at Auto Body Repair Shops

Written by David Patch, Blade Staff Writer
 Cortney Mann repairs and puts on a new door on a 2014 Cadillac XTS at Steve Grabke's Body Shop on Dec. 19, 2018. Cortney Mann repairs and puts on a new door on a 2014 Cadillac XTS at Steve Grabke's Body Shop on Dec. 19, 2018. The Blade/Amy E. Voigt


Back-up cameras and lane-departure warnings may help people drive more safely, but they also drive up newer vehicles’ repair bills, the American Automobile Association reported in a recent study.


And a driver need not have been in a crash to face a four-figure repair bill. Even something as innocuous as an unfortunately placed windshield chip can cost big money if it affects the performance of an on-board safety system, the auto club reported.


“It’s just unbelievable,” said Steve Grabke, owner of Steve Grabke’s Body Shop on Angola Road in Holland, OH, about the complexity of repairing vehicles equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems.


Grabke said he has spent thousands of dollars training his staff to work on such vehicles, and replacing parts is only one facet of such repairs.


“You have to set up targets for calibration, and every vehicle is different,” said Gary Todd, the manager at Grabke’s shop.


And repair of some systems must be referred to dealer shops because it involves technology that is proprietary to the vehicle manufacturers.


Todd said Grabke’s has lost about 10 percent of its work to such situations.


“It is not unusual for windshields to get chipped or cracked, especially for drivers who commute on a daily basis,” Bob Kazmierczak, AAA’s director of automotive services, said in the report.


“This may be an eyesore, but when it falls in the line of sight of a camera or the driver, it becomes a safety issue that needs immediate attention by a facility qualified to work on these systems,” the report said.


Cameras and radar and ultrasonic sensors built into bumpers, body panels and even side mirrors are also vulnerable.


“While most drivers may not find themselves in a collision, these parts can easily be damaged when pulling out of a garage or bumping into objects,” the auto club’s report said.

When a customer brings a vehicle to an independent repair shop and it has to refer some of the work to a dealer shop, that becomes a “sublet repair” that eats up most, if not all, of the profit, Kazmierczak said in the study.

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