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Wednesday, 28 January 2009 18:19

McGee---"I've Been Doing This For Twenty Years..."

Written by Tom McGee

How many times have you heard over the last several years? “I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years, and I know how to create a damage report, repair plan, and perform the repairs.”

    We have a tremendous number of highly qualified individuals working in the collision industry. However, vehicle manufacturing and construction methods, accessories, and safety systems have made virtually impossible for anyone to remember everything that they need to know about how to repair every vehicle they encounter.
    Not only do we have concerns about how to repair the vehicle, but if we don’t take the time to identify our repair options at the time we create the damage report and repair plan, we may find ourselves ordering incorrect parts, not ordering required parts or materials, or escalating the cost of the repairs to a point where the vehicle becomes a total loss.
    Today, we must provide continuing education and documented repair procedures for technicians doing the repairs and, just as importantly, for those preparing the damage reports and repair plans.
    With today’s vehicles there are four common areas that need to be considered. They are
    ● Knowledge
    ● Information
    ● Skill
    ● Tools, Equipment and materials

1. the fact or state of knowing. 2. range of information or understanding. 3. what is known, learning. 4. the body of facts, etc. accumulated by mankind.
    With a collision damaged vehicle, we need to know a tremendous amount of information. As vehicles change, the information we need also changes—not just year-to-year, but on a daily basis! Just as we need to know how the vehicle is constructed, we also need to know how it reacts in a collision. Plus, it is very beneficial to have a thorough understanding of the purpose, function and operation of every part or system on the vehicle.
With the wide variety of materials being used today, i.e., high-strength steels, advanced high strength steels, aluminum, magnesium, carbon fiber, plastics and glass, we need access to information on their characteristics and what can and cannot be done to each of them during the repair process.
    For example, I may know the principles behind sectioning, but if I don’t understand the types of materials that are involved, how do I choose the right welding or attachment method? Not knowing—or just as importantly, not knowing where to find the information—can lead to conflicts, delays, or possibly an improper repair.
    On each vehicle you encounter, ask yourself, “Do I and my staff know everything that we need to know about that vehicle to perform our jobs?”

1. an informing or being informed. 2. something told or facts learned; news or knowledge 3. data stored in or retrieved from a computer
    Considering that every vehicle has its own unique characteristics, and not all damage created by a collision is the same, the amount of information that we can get on a specific vehicle becomes critical. The ability to retrieve data on the specific year, make, and model creates opportunities for improving the overall performance of the repair process.
    Let’s consider a vehicle that has been involved in a collision, resulting in moderate damage to the left front corner. The lower frame rail is damaged. At first, it is determined that a full replacement should be performed. But is that the correct choice or the only choice you have? If it is decided to replace the rail, ask yourself, “On this year, make and model vehicle:
    ● What other parts or systems will be affected if a full replacement is performed?
    ● Are there one or more locations where the rails can be sectioned?
    a) Is there a repair procedure that supports this decision?
    b) Is there a part available to perform the sectioning procedure, or do I need to start the process with full replacement rails?
    c) Does the sectioning procedure use a full insert, a backing, or a butt-joint without backing? If we use an insert or backing what size should they be?
    d) Does the part get welded during repair as it was during the manufacturing process, or is there some other recommended or required attachment method?”
    ABN Figure 1, no caption
    These are not the only questions that could be asked. There are many more decisions that must be made related to the parts adjacent or attached to the rail, not to mention the many other parts and systems that need to be considered following a collision of this type.
    Not only can access to information help make better repair-and-replace decisions, consider the impact that information can have on estimate accuracy, the number of supplements generated, accuracy in initial parts ordering, daily technician productivity, cycle time severity, etc.
    Knowledge and information can also greatly improve communication between insurers and repairers. And just as importantly, it can provide a great tool to help explain to the vehicle owner how their vehicle will be repaired and why.

1. great ability or proficiency. 2. a) an art, craft, etc. esp one involving the hands or body b) ability in such an art, etc.
    Having the knowledge and information about a specific vehicle does not totally ensure a proper repair. Technicians are in fact artists who need to possess a wide range of skills and abilities to work on the variety of materials, parts, and systems found on today’s vehicles.
    Consider the technician’s welding skills. Many years ago, technicians primarily needed to know how to weld or braze using an oxy-acetylene torch. Today skills are necessary for GMAW (MIG) welding both steel and aluminum, squeeze-type resistance spot welding, MIG brazing, and weld-bonding.
    As vehicle accessories have evolved, the need for expertise in diagnosing and repairing occupant protection systems, electrical components and systems, steering and suspension systems, mechanical systems, brakes, etc. is also part of just about every repair we encounter. Taking the time to acquire knowledge, to understand specific applications, and to develop skills must become part of our industry’s culture.

1. any hand implement, instrument, etc. used for some work. 2. any similar instrument that is the working part of a machine, as a drill. 3. anything that serves as a means.
    As we are creating damage reports, repair plans, and performing repairs, we also need to understand that there may be specific tools, equipment or materials necessary to perform a repair. In the past we relied on how a part was attached during the manufacturing process as the determining factor in how we would install a replacement part. Today, with the variety of materials being used, that decision may not be the right choice.
    ABN Figure 2, no caption
    Parts that were originally welded-on during the manufacturing process are now commonly attached by bonding, weld-bonding, or with mechanical fasteners, including rivets. Choosing the incorrect installation method of a replacement part may jeopardize the strength of the part.
Having the knowledge and information regarding vehicle-specific recommended repair procedures helps tremendously in determining:
    ● if materials such as rivets need to be ordered,
    ● if we have the right tools to remove and install the rivets,
    ● if we have the correct type of welding equipment to install the part.
    Knowledge, access to information, skills, and the proper tools, equipment, and materials are all required to perform repairs that restore a vehicle’s structural integrity, fit, function, and appearance, while making the repair as close to undetectable as possible.
    Just saying, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years” is not enough.

Prior to joining ALLDATA as the Collision National Accounts Manager, Tom McGee was on the I-CAR® staff for more than 18 years holding the positions of I-CAR President & CEO, Director of Industry Relations and Product Operations, and Technical Director.

Tom is an ASE® certified Master Collision Repair/Refinish Technician and also has the ASE Damage Analysis and estimating certification. An Automotive Collision Repair graduate of Ferris State College in Big Rapids, Michigan, Tom has a wide range of experience in the collision industry, including operating a collision repair facility. He also has experience as a career and technical school instructor, training manager and instructional designer.

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