Wednesday, 22 April 2020 15:47

Virus ‘Killing’ IL Car Repair Firms

Written by David Blanchette, The Telegraph


The coronavirus stay-at-home orders and layoffs mean people are driving fewer miles, avoiding wear and tear on their vehicles, crashing less often and requiring fewer roadside assists.

That’s good news for drivers, but bad news for area automotive service businesses.


Brad Pedersen owns Prairie Street Auto in Bethalto, IL, and his repair business is down more than 25 percent since the viral pandemic precautions started.


“This is normally a busy time of year as more people are getting out on the road,” Pedersen said. “With the stay-at-home order people are putting less miles on their cars and that equates to less wear, anywhere from brakes to tires to oil changes.”


The repair and maintenance work itself has become more involved, Pedersen said, since every car he works on must be disinfected twice, both before the job begins and prior to the customer picking it up. He’s also noticed customers right now only want the bare minimum amount of work done on their vehicles.


“People aren’t doing a whole lot of repairs; they’re trying to do the things they must in order to get by,” Pedersen said. “They are letting a lot of things slide because of money. I think it will take a while for people that have been laid off to get back on their feet.”


Work is typically scheduled a month in advance at the body shop portion of Andy’s Automotive in Alton, and that pre-pandemic workload is now starting to slow down.


“People are still wrecking cars,” said Andy’s Automotive owner Mark Anderson. “But the ones that are happening in the last couple of weeks, people are kind of putting them on the back burner.”


Anderson said there are still a number of people who have “essential” status and need to get to work, and whenever there are drivers on the road, there are bound to be accidents. But he said people who have had fender-benders in recent weeks are more carefully weighing the economic factors before they decide to call him.


“If the car’s not drivable or if there’s no out of pocket insurance deductible, they usually just come on by,” Anderson said. “But if they may have to come up with a $500 or $1,000 deductible, it’s not really a good time to be putting that money out right now. If it’s somebody who is laid off, naturally they’re not going to do it.”


Anderson said his shop uses a commercial automotive business sanitizer to disinfect the entire shop three to four times each day, and his workers also clean every touchable surface of the customers’ vehicles before and after the repair work.


“We clean all of the door handles, the customer waiting areas, employee computers and keyboards,” Anderson said. “In the cars themselves we disinfect the areas that get a lot of touch, the steering wheels, shifters, radios, climate controls, keys. We wipe those down so when we get in it, we know it’s clean and when we’re done the customer knows it’s clean as well.”


Roberts Motors of Alton has a unique way of sanitizing the customer vehicles brought in for repair or maintenance work. The technicians employ a “fogger” that quickly and thoroughly disperses disinfectant throughout the vehicle.

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