Friday, July 7, 2017

Six fails to avoid if you want your vehicle finish to last

When River City Auto Body finishes a repair or detailing for a client, the client usually comments, "Looks great. Now what do I do?" Regular washing, drying, polishing, and waxing is the easy answer. But the devil is in the details, so here are the detail fails to avoid.

Fail 1: Using dish or laundry soap. You wouldn't shower with these cleaners because they're harsh. They strip grease and oil fine, but they can also strip off the vehicle's protective wax! Use a liquid car soap. More soap isn't better, either, so follow the instructions on the bottle. Use a soft-bristled brush, in small, circular motions, to remove more stubborn stains and grease, but generally a microfiber cloth is enough to clean less dirty areas. Rinse as you go, too. It keeps soap from building up. A wash a week -- by hand, in the shade -- is plenty.

Fail 2: Air drying. Start drying the vehicle right away to prevent water/soap/mineral spots. These spots will be worse if you didn't wash in a shaded area. A clean, soft, microfiber towel absorbs most of the water.

Fail 3: Dragging a towel across the car. Sure, it saves time, but it can trap dirt, possibly scratching the surface as you go. Use a bunch of clean towels, turning frequently, and working a small area at a time. Then allow the car to air dry completely once you've removed most of the water.

Fail 4: Glaze, polish, and wax are the same thing, right? Not even close. Glaze has a fine grit... like sandpaper, only gentler. It helps remove swirl marks for polishing and waxing later. Polish is a better alternative if the paint doesn't have swirl marks. Waxing fails are coming up, but first, another plug for microfiber. A microfiber towel or mitt is good for applying glaze or polish because it lifts any residual dirt into the fabric. Sponges aren't as effective at doing that. Your old Van Halen t-shirt is the worst for your car finish because it will just grind the dirt into the finish in those tight little swirl patterns.

Fail 5: Waxing too often. Once every three months is ample protection for the paint, unless you have used a glaze. Always follow glaze with wax because the abrasives in the glaze remove old wax. Microfiber -- again -- is the best wax applicator. Waxing too frequently will dull the shine, which is probably the opposite of what you wanted.

Fail 6: Using a buffer. Some people are really knowledgeable with this handy tool. Others, not so skilled. Overuse, or improper use, can cake wax onto the car or lead to paint removal if it’s used too aggressively. Use the same amount of pressure you'd use to crack a hard-boiled egg's shell without crushing the egg white. Dual action buffers or random orbit buffers are best for rookies.

It's easy to avoid all six fails: Just bring your car to River City Auto Body for your detailing needs. We do hundreds of vehicles a year. You do one.


 Photo by Wen hui Wang , used with permission.

Friday, June 16, 2017

How to shop for auto collision repair shops: Part II

In the last River City Auto Body article, we gave you the first three of six tips that’ll make your collision repair an easier even that heading to the DMV or the dentist. (Sorry again, dentists) Here's the rest of our list of things to look for in a reputable facility to return your car to you with the fewest headaches. Both articles are combined in a downloadable flyer from our website at this link.

4) Get more than one estimate. You're not required to get several, but it is recommended, and here's why. Some shops will write a lower estimate just to get you in the door. Sometimes, it isn't even intentional: They might not have viewed all the damage.  River City Auto Body encountered that last week.  Another shop had written a repair to buff the headlight…. when the vehicle came here for an estimate, we noticed that the headlight actually was cracked and needed to be replaced, not buffed. When you get quotes…

5) ...Share the estimates. Feel free to show one shop's estimate to other shops. We're competitors, but at the end of the repair day, it's your car's appearance and safe operating condition that matter most. One shop might miss something… like that headlight, or replacing an airbag.

Be wary of a shop that discourages you from sharing their math. There are unscrupulous shops that will write the estimate for all new OEM parts, then get the job in the door and use aftermarket or used parts on the repair to pad their profit… or pay your deductible for you. Certification comes into play here as well:  Shops that are committed to the cost for the I-CAR and OEM certifications have to use the parts recommended by the manufacturer or they lose their certifications!

6) Trust your gut. When you visit the shop, is the staff rude? Is the shop dirty or disorganized? Do you get a bad vibe? If so, walk.

 River City Auto Body is fortunate to be asked to estimate a lot of collision repairs. And we earn the business of a great many of those customers. Attention to detail and customer care are the intangibles that make a difference between a satisfied customer and a happy customer. When you're treated like family, it makes collision repair a lot better than the DMV or the dentist.

 Photo by Erwin Wodicka, used with permission.

Friday, June 2, 2017

How to shop for auto collision repair shops: Part I

Do you look forward to going to the DMV? Or how about the dentist? (Sorry, dentists.) River City Auto Body 'gets it' that you're not necessarily overjoyed to be facing a collision repair either. Here's a short list of things to look for in a reputable facility to return your car to you with the fewest headaches.
1) Don't let the insurance company shop for you. If they tell you have to go to a certain shop, it's called steering, and that's not legal. They can recommend, but not require. See our two articles on steering
2) Ask your friends. Internet reviews are nice, but you don't know those reviewers like you know your friends. Referrals are the life blood of any business. More importantly, referrals tell you who your friends trust.
3) Look for certifications. A shop that keeps fit, finish, durability, value, and safety top of mind is what certifications represent. You'll eliminate 9 of 10 body shops if you search only for ones with I-CAR certification. I-CAR Gold Class shops have current, up-to-date training that contributes to complete, safe, and quality repairs. Only 10 percent of shops currently complete the rigorous training requirements.
You'll also want to see what the vehicle manufacturers, like Ford, certify in the training, tools, and technology needed to provide top-notch repairs. Also, Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) certifications are as important as your seatbelt. With all the technology in the vehicles today, you just can’t repair the cars the way you did 10 years ago… even five years ago.  Without knowing current techniques, the vehicle occupants’ safety is at risk.  Certifications show which shops and technicians are qualified to do the repair.   
River City Auto Body invests a lot of time and money in the training and certification of our team. It’s the right thing to do for them professionally, it helps us stand out professionally from competing shops and dealerships, and it is the absolute best thing to do for you and your vehicle. That being said, we’ll have three more tips in the second part of this series, including a real eye-opener on how a repair shop might be paying your deductible.

Photo by Sorapong Chaipanya, used with permission.

Friday, May 19, 2017

What acid rain does to your car's finish

In our part of Wisconsin, River City Auto Body sees the impact of pollution on vehicles resulting from acid rain. Actually, we see it from acid snow and acid fog as well. Even acid dew. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, any sort of moisture that makes it to the ground after passing through pollution is acidic. And it takes a toll on your car.

First, acid precipitation is unavoidable. If you garage your car, at some point, it's going to get wet. Acid rain results when sulfur and nitrogen particles are emitted into the atmosphere. A third of the particles comes from cars, trucks, chimneys and smokestacks. Two thirds of these particles come from electric power plants. We have them all over… if you don't live next to a power plant, wind currents take care of sweeping the nitrogen and sulfur into our area from points west. Sulfur and nitrogen react with water to make sulfuric acid and nitric acid. Which weakens and fades paint over time.

The real enemy however, is the sun. The precipitation hits your car… during evaporation the droplet magnifies the sun's intensity causing the acid to pit the surface microscopically… then the acid is left when the water evaporates.

Imagine the gradual effect of millions of tiny acid-made pores over the life of your car's finish. Even on some of the newer cars River City Auto Body repairs, the paint damage from just a year or less is visible to the naked eye.

Here's how you can minimize acid rain damage beyond just covering the car when it rains:

·         Wash your car frequently with mild soap followed by hand drying it with a clean cloth. River City Auto Body thinks the Auto Detailing Network is right on when it suggests a thorough wash weekly.

·         Wash it right after a rain. Just hosing off the rain spots won't help because it only activates the acid deposit.

·         Use wax or sealants designed to protect the clear coat finish, or – better yet – have your car professionally detailed.

·         Come see River City Auto Body for painting and finishing to bring back that showroom look.


 Photo by Olga Yastremska, used with permission.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Five tips for handling damage during hail season

Hail can fall any time of the year, but according to National Weather Service statistics, May is the most common month in southeast Wisconsin for hail that's pea-sized or larger. It was exactly a year ago that dozens of vehicles were at River City Auto Body with damage from quarter-sized hail that fell late morning on Saturday May, 7… exactly when there were a lot of cars out and about on family errands.
Hail damage is cosmetic. Your car still runs. But you have to look at the pockmarks and dents every time you're in your vehicle. Unrepaired cosmetic damage from hail is going to lower the resale value of your vehicle, or will cost you when your lease ends.

Here's how to handle hail damage:

1) If you're driving, safely reduce your speed. A pea-sized hailstone can fall at as much as 20 mph on a parked car. If you’re traveling at 65 mph in a head wind, the velocity of that little dent maker is more than tripled. And you'll hit more of them by covering distance.

2) If possible, get under an overpass in the breakdown lane with your hazards on until the storm passes. Hail episodes seldom last more than five minutes in a location.

3) If you have hail damage, don't delay in calling River City Auto Body and your insurer. Most dents are small. They can, however, compromise the paint's ability to prevent corrosion or rust on the underlying metal the longer the dents go unrepaired.

4) Hail damaged sheet metal may need to be hammered and painted. For lightly damaged surfaces, trained technicians may recommend paintless dent removal (PDR), which involves using tools on the underside of a damaged panel. Either process takes time… PDR takes less time, but usually in a hail event, a repair facility has several cars with the same damage awaiting repair.

5) Check the repair thoroughly under daylight and fluorescent light from a few angles. If it's not done to your satisfaction, remember it is YOUR car, not the insurer's.

 Photo by Andrei Seleznev, used with permission.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Work van or work truck painting and repair demand special handling

There's on-going debate over which type of vehicle is best for a contractor or fleet vehicle. Contractor website toolsofthetrade regularly surveys business owners to find out what they're driving. A standard pickup is the vehicle of choice for 40 percent. Standard vans are used by another 18 percent. Thirty-six percent use a trailer, cube van, or a pickup with a service body. River City Auto Body respects that this isn't just your point-A-to-point-B mode of transporting equipment…
…it's a rolling advertisement.

As an ad, the condition of the vehicle says a lot about the condition of the business. Remember the TV sitcom, 'Sanford and Son?' That was one beat-up pickup: Fred, Lamont, Grady, Rollo, and Bubba were some beat-up sketchy characters. That isn't to say a beater truck is always going to be driven by deadbeat contractors, however the service vehicle is often the first – or only – visible advertisement for contractors. Make it count.

Four things to consider:
1) Repair damage immediately. With the amount of miles a typical local business puts on a vehicle, collisions are always a risk. When you have collision damage that's unrepaired, consider how many people see your name next to the dent or scrape every mile it rolls down the road.

2) Elements and acid-rain deteriorate the image. Many times the service vehicle has to be stored outdoors all year due to its size compared to a standard height (or width) garage door. Wisconsin's climate isn't kind to your advertisement.

3) More aluminum is being used today than ever before. Check out the River City Auto Body archive on aluminum frames and body panels. These require specific certification to be repaired and repainted properly.

4) Taller service vans are growing in popularity. Dodge's Ram ProMaster and Ford's Transit are just two of the dozen vehicles on the market specifically for business owners. First, consider these are taller and you will need a repair business with the extra-tall paint bays needed to accommodate the size. (River City Auto Body can accommodate any vehicle, BTW.) Second, some of these vehicles are now coming into their second owners: If you're that second owner, do you want the old business's paint scheme? You'd only be advertising their business, not yours. Even when you peel off the old decals, the climate changed the paint around the old logo. Start fresh. It's your ad.

 Photo by A Ancu, used with permission.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Auto insurance steering isn't us vs. them, it's about you

Earlier in the River City Auto Body article archive, we shared two 'myth-buster' articles on auto insurers steering claim repairs to a shop of the insurer's choosing. They can't require you to go anywhere for your repair: It's your vehicle. Yet they may attempt to sway your decision by suggesting a collision repair shop, and that's legal – mostly.

We work with a lot of insurers. They're an important part of protecting your vehicle investment and your peace of mind. Not to mention your wallet. River City Auto Body recognizes the valuable role your insurer plays in your life, and how they can make or break our business. Insurers work with the same auto repair shops every day. And since you, as a driver, aren't likely to have that much experience with getting collision damage repaired quickly or cost-effectively, you probably appreciate any effort the insurer makes to help you through the crisis.

The suggestions they make are in that spirit: The spirit of helping you. However, the insurance industry is, as a business, committed to cost savings. Those two concepts can be contradictory. To put it another way, the insurer works for its shareholders or policy owners (in the case of a mutual company). River City Auto Body works for you.

Something to consider… A 2016 J.D. Power and Associates study indicates consumers are more apt to shop for a new carrier after they've had a claim, whether they're happy with the claim response or not. So, if the insurer possibly will lose you anyway, what would their incentive be to do anything but cut its repair costs?

That survey indicated you are more likely to stick with them after a claim when you rank highly your experience in these 10 areas:

— Answering all customer questions
— Managing expectations regarding the settlement
— Expressing genuine concern
— Avoiding negotiated settlements
— Providing flexible appraisal appointments
— Returning phone calls
— Sharing information between representatives
— Providing proactive updates
— Ensuring customer is at ease with claims process
— Giving customers a time line and meeting it

Who delivers that level of individualized, face-to-face service, the insurer? Or the shop doing your repair? When River City Auto Body does right by you, we're actually helping the insurer keep customers. Our commitment to your satisfaction with our work is how we ensure referrals and repeat customers.


 Photo by Dmitry Kalinovsky, used with permission.