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Toby Chess

Toby Chess is an I-CAR program instructor, training specialist, and former salvage yard operator. Toby is universally known in the collision industry for his work with first responders and advocacy for body shops and consumers. He can be reached at

Thursday, 26 July 2012 18:24

Matrix Wand is a Game Changer—Part 2

Written by Toby Chess

This month’s column is Part 2 of the Matrix Wand article that appeared in the July, 2012 issue. See summary of the Matrix Wand’s capabilities at the end of the article referencing photos. If you missed last month’s article, see it at

A customer at Autobody Hawaii brought in his 2009 BMW convertible with the front bumper on the passenger seat. It seems that he caught the bumper on a concrete barrier in the parking lot as he was backing up and pulled it off. While he was waiting for an estimate, I photographed the car. What I found was amazing. I measured from the strut tower to the core support and from the strut tower to 2 points on the bumper reinforcement. In the distance table of the photo, the left side of the bumper reinforcement was longer that the right side. Now, you could not see any damage to the reinforcement, but it was bent according to the measurements. I asked the customer which part of the bumper got caught on the barrier and he stated it was the driver’s side. The shop ordered both the cover and reinforcement at the same time instead of buying the cover and finding out when it was to be installed that the rebar was also bent. It should be noted that parts come from Honolulu once a week. Think of the cycle time savings plus the extra paper work and phone calls. Dale Matsumoto, owner of Autobody Hawaii, told me that when they compared the new reinforcement to the damaged one, it was very evident that the part had sustained damage to the left end.

A 2009 Nissan Xterra had been estimated by an insurance adjuster. Damage was to the right fender, right suspension and front bumper cover. The adjuster wrote the estimate for an A/M fender and cover (Figure 1).

The gap on the fender was 3mm larger with the AM fender than the original on the left side. I measured both fenders, and in the distance table, the length at the back of the part showed that the A/M fender was indeed 3mm shorter. The adjustor wrote no frame time on the vehicle. The vehicle was put on a hoist and raised so that I could measure the bottom of the frame. When the mechanic finished installing the right side suspension, he tried to align it, but the right side with all of the new parts still had a negative caster. I found that the right side was back at the lower control arm mounting brackets by 10mm. I proceeded to measure the under hood and bumper reinforcement. The photo showed that the vehicle was 10 mm short on the right rail. The adjustor was called on a Wednesday, and we sent him the data for additional frame labor and another alignment. He called back and authorized the supplement. The car was pulled and realigned that Friday and was delivered the following week. The insurance company had to pay for an additional eight days of car rental and all of this could have been avoided with a Matrix photo.

I left the Big Island on a Thursday morning. The next day I went to Island Fender and met with Van Takamoto, the owner of the shop.

We photographed a 2008 Toyota Prius, which was in the shop for a fender replacement only. I measured the vehicle and determined that the right rail was down by 10mm. The problem was there was no damage to the rail. I proceeded to call Rob Bailey (the matrix guru) about this inaccuracy. The Matrix computer can be hooked up to the office thru the Internet. Rob began looking at my picture and noticed that I used the fender holes on the passenger side (fender was already removed), but the top of the bolts on the driver’s side. He said that computer was picking up the difference between the depth of the hole and the top of the bolt. He told me to either remove the bolts or install the bolts and take another photo and re-measure. I installed the fender bolts on the passenger’s side and re-checked the measurement and this time there was no sag in the right rail. By the way, I measured the bolt head and sure enough it was 10mm high.

Here are some of the types of measurements that can be performed with the Matrix Wand:
• Measure width, length and heigth. (Figure 2)
• Point-to-point measurements and compare with Mitchell Data Inc.  (Figure 3)
• Measure under hood, bottom of vehicle to determine damage. (Figure 4)
• Measure under hood damage and compare to factory specs.  (Figure 5)
• Measure door openings and “B” pillar positions. (Figure 6)
• Measure engine cradle for damage. (Figure 7)
• Measure strut, knuckle, spindle and lower control arm for damage and also determine what parts are bad without guessing. (Figure 8).
• Measure if a sub frame has shifted, and this procedure could be added to the estimate at the time of tear down and not when it goes to the alignment shop. (Figure 9 and 10)

The only way that you can appreciate this revolutionary piece of equipment is to see it in operation at your shop.
Either call me at 310-995-7909 or email me at and I will set up a demo for you.


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