Collision repair presents new set of challenges and opportunities

Aug. 6, 2020
It comes down to technology, training, and tenacity in this ever-changing field of repair.

Today’s collision repair involves a lot more than pounding out a dent and sending the vehicle on its way. As vehicle make-up and technology changes, so do repair procedures and business models. That’s a fact shop owners and technicians are working through, and with. Collision work has grown infinitely more technical than in years past.

“I think the largest hurdle is making sure we’re doing a safe, proper repair per the OE,” says Eric Shaffer, owner of Thomas E Brown Auto Body Werk in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. “That changes the dynamic of how you’re doing business; it changes the dynamic of how the workflow happens through your shop. It’s not just a thought process; it’s a whole model change of your business because [the way] you’re processing that car now through the shop takes ten times longer what it normally would. Does it need calibration? Most of the time, yes. Are you subletting it or doing it in-house? And if you’re doing it in-house, can you stand behind [the repair] if you’re not using an OE tool? There are a lot of things you have to look at.”

The numerous sensors in today’s cars have changed the collision-repair game (see page 10). This is a large part of the reason why continued training remains essential in this line of work – not just in matters of diagnostics and sensor calibration – but even when it comes to welding and working with the aluminum and plastic components found on many of today’s vehicles (see page 8).

Many collision repair methods, like surface prep, painting, glass replacement, grinding, and cutting remain essential components of collision repair work. These, too, require the proper attention, tools, and best practices.

Dave Gunderson, senior account executive of transportation with 3M, encourages shop owners and technicians engaged in collision work to stay relevant with all the changes taking place in the industry – from materials to ADAS and diagnostics and everything in between. Luckily, training can be found in traditional and non-traditional ways, with many classes and sessions heading online.

“We don’t think instructor-led training will ever go away,” Gunderson says. “But 2021 models are coming out … and even with the Toyota Camry [for example] there’s a whole new repair manual. [We’re looking] at new types of training to address the complexity of repair.”  

In the Spring of 2020, in response to COVID-19, 3M opened its Collision Repair Academy virtual e-training with on-demand modules, in addition to how-to videos on social media and YouTube. Technicians are encouraged to log on from home to learn and review best practices.

It’s never too late to learn a new skill, and for technicians tasked with collision repair, learning new skills is essential to staying ahead of the curve.

About the Author

Sara Scullin | Editor | PTEN and Professional Distributor

Sara Scullin is the editor of PTEN and Professional Distributor magazines. These publications are part of the Endeavor Business Media Vehicle Repair Group, which includes Fleet Maintenance, Professional Tool & Equipment News (PTEN), Professional Distributor magazines and VehicleServicePros.com.

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