Hail season is considered to be from mid-April to mid-September.
It is during this time when body shops expect a rush of business with damaged cars flooding in. Auto body shops are slammed with work as inclement weather surfaces throughout the region. Shop owners are often looking for ways to quickly repair these damaged vehicles.
Paintless Dent Repair (PDR), used for hail damage, minimizes the steps needed to perform a repair on the body of a vehicle. Dentsmart, a company that provides PDR, is committed to providing comprehensive education on this process to all technicians.
“PDR is a skilled process of manually removing dents without damaging the automobile’s finish,” said Jeff Williams, Dentsmart partner. “While it is a specialized repair process, a majority of repairs are completed by hand. Standard tools include lights, hand tools, glue-pulling systems and hammers.”
Keith Volquardsen, a PDR expert with The Claims Bridge, shows body shops how to make money performing PDR services when a hailstorm takes place. He warns businesses to be prepared when a hailstorm comes. When hail happens, shop operations can get busy which is why PDR services are necessary, he said.
“Vehicles that require paintwork can overload a shop’s paint booths, so working closely with the PDR company to minimize work blockage is critical,” Volquardsen said. “Body shops that offer hail repair should consider operating two shifts to minimize the effect on the daily operation and to expand their paint booth capacity.”
Williams has seen the PDR industry change in several important ways that benefit both shops and customers. New technology and specialized tools have changed the repair process, he said.
“The introduction of panel shrinking devices has caused heat to shrink and metal to stretch,” Williams said. “While effective, they can be intrusive.”
PDR does require a technician to touch the vehicle physically, so we’ve seen little to change the process; however, specialized tools have become available.
“Many of these tools come in various shapes and sizes, different materials and have interchangeable working surfaces,” he said.
Technological advances do benefit technicians and the industry as a whole, but certain advances make it harder for PDR technicians to get a grasp of the tools required to repair these cars, Williams said.
“Dentsmart embraces these challenges,” he said. “Our advanced training programs not only include PDR repair processes, estimating and customer service skills but also advanced electronics and safety systems, structural design, panel composition, position statements and OEM repair procedures.”
Debbie Haxton, another partner at Dentsmart, said a hailstorm can mean more revenue, but it’s a lot more involved than just simply repairing dents. There is havoc that begins in the front office, she said.
“In a matter of minutes, a shop can go from capacity—trying to handle their normal conventional workload—to 100% over capacity when a hailstorm hits,” Haxton said. “There are a lot of questions to be addressed. How to handle the calls from customers and insurance providers? How to efficiently handle estimates and scheduling so you capture the job?”
Dentsmart and other PDR companies are using new technology to serve its network shops and provide better customer service, Haxton said.
“At Dentsmart, we developed a proprietary hail management system—an automated estimating program that interfaces with the body shop's estimating program,” she added. “We also capture all of the photos during the estimating process.”
So, the next time you see a hailstorm coming your way, think about PDR and how it can raise your bottom line. Adding another item to your menu of services requires strategic planning and the correct training, tools and equipment to do the job right.