In an era where replacing panels and components is the norm, perhaps it’s time to go back to basics.
Fashion trends come and go. What was once deemed out of style often stages a comeback. If we look at clothes, music, even cars, trends seem to come full circle roughly every 30 years.
In the collision repair industry, there’s an argument to be made for returning to the basics. In today’s environment we tend to focus on replacing panels and parts on vehicles in an effort to get them completed as efficiently as possible.
Yet as vehicle complexity and severity continue to increase, controlling the cost of repairs becomes ever more important, especially when you add pre and post repair scanning, recalibrating sensors, working with mixed materials—it all begins to add up.
Granted, in some cases it makes sense to replace rather than repair. If we look at bumper covers, the store can order a replacement cover and have it pre-painted before the customer brings a vehicle into the facility. In just a few hours, the repair is completed and the customer is back on the road.
By contrast, repairing the same bumper cover will require bringing the vehicle in, doing the repair, waiting for it to cure, adding the primer, waiting for it to set and then painting and finishing it—a process that takes far longer than if we were to just replace the bumper cover.
Yet I feel there are some big opportunities in repairing versus replacing parts. If we look at the numerous plastic items on vehicles today such as rocker panels, air box assemblies and fuse panels, most of these parts are not being made by the aftermarket. As a result, obtaining new parts can be cost prohibitive because there are few sources that offer them.
So in many cases, it makes far more sense to repair them.
Making this more feasible are advances in equipment technology, such as the development of nitrogen plastic welding.
Today, nitrogen plastic welders and accessories are readily available and affordable. They enable technicians to repair parts that in the past would have been scrapped. You can now repair a broken plastic bracket on a headlight assembly or bumper cover, instead of discarding it.
Opportunity to repair
When you factor in that a modern replacement headlight assembly on a mainstream vehicle can now cost upwards of $2000, why not repair the broken bracket if you have the technology available to do it?
There’s no question that under current conditions, severity will continue to increase, which could drive up the cost of insurance premiums and the overall cost of repairs.
Yet if we’re able to find a way to repair a broken headlight assembly, door mirror, rocker panel or airbox housing, it can make thousands of dollars’ difference in the cost of the repair and the difference between a repairable vehicle and a total loss.
It means more work for repair centres and more skills opportunities for technicians. It also reduces the environmental impact since less resources are required for manufacturing new parts.
As an industry, we often complain about things that are beyond our control, but if we take a long hard look at some aspects of the repair process, there are definitely things we can control, such as our ability to repair plastic parts.