Diving Into the Fascinating World of Fasteners

Diving Into the Fascinating World of Fasteners

How many bumper covers, fender liners and plastic shields are currently sitting in the middle of the road in this country?

I would guess thousands, and why are they there? Undoubtedly one of the main reasons is that one or more retainers---aka fasteners, bolts, screws, clips and rivets---failed.

Why? Due to fatigue, of course, but in many cases it’s because they were incorrectly installed or the wrong ones were used.

Since 1988, the people at Blue Vista Data Systems (BVDS) in Las Vegas, NV, have created efficient systems to turn lost money into profits when it comes to clips and fasteners.

Every auto body shop on the planet has a plethora of retainers with specific applications, and with more than 700 car models out there containing an average of 30 locations requiring them, it’s a big deal.

The company recently launched a new website, bluevistadata.com, containing more than 28,000 retainers, broken down by location, OE designation and cost, complete with diagrams and specs for each.

With seven programmers working day and night to get the site clicking like a new Tesla, BVDS launched it July 1.

The site lists every retainer and its location, and is designed so anyone can use the system without changing their current distributor.

For more than three decades, BVDS has been a pioneer in the development of many of the retainer-related inventory and invoicing systems used today.

CEO Russ Ramsey explained retainers are small in size and often forgotten, but their impact on a shop’s profits can be significant. Things like retainers and other smaller items are often not included in estimates.

It’s the old Catch-22---if you invest in too many retainers and they never get used, that’s obviously problematic. But if you don’t have the right ones on hand, that can be even worse, possibly cutting into your cycle time.

“We have been in this business for a long time and have helped a lot of shops to make money on retainers, by making it easier to find the right ones and invoicing them correctly,” Ramsey said. “Our website has tackled the problems associated with retainers because with this system, all of the information they need is right there, with photos and drawings and an easy way to track them.

"It also enables your shop personnel to find out what they might need from the OE dealer prior to the repair.”

Annually, the overall number of OE retainers spike because every time an OE gives a vehicle a facelift or re-engineers it, new fasteners hit the market. If you’re not on top of it, you might be lost, especially if you’re working on a 2021 car, for example.

That’s why BVDS developed the most complete and comprehensive system out there to keep track some of the smallest, but most important, parts on any automobile.

Kurtis Rosenborough is the owner of Certified Auto Body Center in Las Vegas. He has been purchasing retainers from Ramsey and BVDS for at least 20 years, he said, saving him tons of money and time.

“I have used their products and their systems for a long time,” he said. “When cars changed big-time back during the mid-1990s with so much plastic all around, the game changed dramatically. We’re spending approximately $2,000 every month on clips and rivets and couldn’t get reimbursed by the insurance companies until we began using their system.

"We never got paid and now we do because our invoices are iron clad, listing exactly what we used and how many of them we installed. It also saves our parts manager time, because he finds the vehicle and all of the retainers are listed. Even some of our insurance adjustors have used Blue Vista to research all of the hardware required on a particular repair.”

Rosenborough’s retainers went from being an expense to becoming a profitable small but important part of his business.

“There are so many clips, fasteners and other retainers on the newer vehicles, it’s mind numbing,” he said. “Too many shops think that many retainers are ‘one size fits all’ but that’s not the case. They install a Christmas Tree retainer, which is not ideal for many O.E. and does not meet any of their standards. Why would you spend hours and hours doing a great repair on a vehicle and then install the wrong or poor-quality parts?”

Body Shop Manager Mike Giovengo at Friendly Ford in Las Vegas has known Ramsey for decades, and praises him as "the man" when it comes to the world of retainers.

His shop ponies up more than $18,000 retainers annually, many of which are rivets for the aluminum F150s. Getting paid for them in the past required a little dance with his insurance companies, but now Giovengo waltzes right through and gets paid.

“When it comes to things like retainers, you won’t get reimbursed unless you ask for them up front,” he said. “A lot of shops don’t keep that in mind, so when they are rushing around to finish the repair, they realize they need a few clips or rivets, for example. They just want to get the car done, so they install the retainers and eat the cost.

"The numbers really can add up. We fix roughly 1,200 vehicles every month, so if every car requires $8 to $40 in retainers, that equals between $9,600 to $48,000 annually. So, Russ and BVD have helped us to get them into our repairs more easily with specific and accurate information to document the cost.”

For shops who want to subscribe and use the system, the cost is $40 to $55 monthly, and there are a series of short videos to train parts managers, technicians and estimators how to use it.

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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