The 7 Stages of the Auto Body Repair Process

1 Estimate

Collision repair begins with an inspection of the vehicle by an estimator at the collision repair center where the work will be done. The results of the inspection are documented, photos of the vehicle are taken, and the information is passed on to the insurance company and/or provided to the customer. Many auto body shops today will input the info into computer estimate systems that provide detailed estimates on repairs. Keep in mind, these estimates are solely based on visible damage. Often, additional damage is uncovered after disassembly. Not everything will be apparent to the estimator during the initial inspection.

2 Disassembly

This is when the insurance provider can make a request for teardown or disassembly of the vehicle to insure all damage is documented accurately and determine if the vehicle is economic to repair. Only after the customer and insurer provide authorization to repair the vehicle, all parts can be ordered as required for the repair. Keep in mind only the vehicle owner can give the final authorization for repairs. If no teardown is needed and the vehicle is drivable repairs can be scheduled and once all the necessary parts for repair are received, work can begin on repairing the vehicle.

3 Body Repair

At this stage the parts will have been received and the vehicle has been disassembled so the body shop can begin repairs to the vehicles structure, if needed. The car is analyzed by an electronic measuring system to restore it back to factory specifications. This insures that the car frame is straight and structurally sound. Suspension repairs and wheel alignment will now be done if needed. It’s important to complete all mechanical repairs in conjunction with structural repairs if possible. Once the car is structurally and mechanically sound the body work can now be completed, the vehicles body is straightened and prepared for paint.

4 Refinishing

The vehicle is carefully prepped to insure paintable surfaces provide proper adhesion and a smooth finish. Parts are sanded then primer is applied, now the color or base coat is applied, followed by a clear coat to protect the finish. After curing, the painted surfaces will be polished to a glossy finish.

5 Reassembly

All repairs and painting have been completed the vehicle is now ready to be reassembled. Any electrical wiring, hoses, airbag system components or other components that were disconnected to facilitate repairs, are now restored to their original location. Trim and moldings are reinstalled. A test drive will be done at this point to insure windows doors, locks and electrical parts function correctly.

6 Detailing

Once everything has been reinstalled in the correct place the car now gets a wash and minor interior cleaning. The body paint is polished, surfaces cleaned and buffed. Again lights and safety components are checked before the journey from a car wreck nightmare to the showroom dream car comes full circle. In addition to a visual inspection, it’s important to also test drive to note any driving characteristics that may be associated with the repaired portions of the car. Once the car passes all tests it’s ready to be returned to the customer.

7 Final Inspection

At this point, the auto body shop should explain to the customer all the repair work that was done to their vehicle and go over the list of final expenses with the customer. It should include an itemized list of all repairs made and parts used to complete the work. The customer will then do a post-repair inspection along with the shop representative before accepting the keys.