Friday, March 31, 2017

Aluminum vehicles require high-tech, high-touch repair

Automakers are betting the ranch that aluminum body frames and panels will deliver the new fuel efficiency requirements imposed upon them. Aluminum, while lighter and potentially stronger than steel, doesn’t fare well in collisions as seen in some of River City Auto Body’s repair vehicles.
The dents require more care and more often than not require replacement of the panel. According to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study, aluminum is more expensive than steel in a raw state, in its conversion to a usable sheet metal, and in its assembly — resulting in a 60 to 80 percent cost premium. That aside, you want the finish to last. River City Auto Body has been repairing and refinishing aluminum long before fuel economy became the reason for changing metals.

Ford is one automaker that was using aluminum well before they ramped up their flagship truck production to all-aluminum in 2015. A common issue with those older panels: Corrosion under the paint. It’s a quirky way the paint bonds to the metal that’s gotten better with manufacturing improvements. Some repair shops aren’t up to speed on those improved techniques.

Audi, Volvo, and several other luxury and sports brands have been using aluminum body panels for twenty years – Mercedes Benz even longer, going back to the early 20th century. Those cars have an unwarranted reputation as being hard to fix right. According to Doug Richman, vice president of engineering for Kaiser Aluminum this simply isn’t true. “They’re not more complex, they’re not more difficult. They’re different.

“Technicians need aluminum-specific knowledge to do repairs properly,” he says. When repair staff is up to speed on aluminum repairs and how to avoid corrosion issues, your repair can be done efficiently, and the finish will last. River City Auto Body techs have this specialized training for this generation of vehicles, the last generation of aluminum cars, and the next one.

SAE International, initially established as the Society of Automotive Engineers, has an interesting write up on aluminum body repair for additional reading.

 Photo by Vlad Teodor, used with permission.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A fresh look for your RV this spring

How often do you paint a house exterior? Every five to eight years here in the Midwest. Our seasons take a toll on our largest investment’s exterior.  How about the exterior of the second-largest investment for some: The RV? Both investments are bombarded by sunlight, acid rain, ozone, and temperature changes that wear a finish over the years. River City Auto Body also sees – in nearly every RV – how the flexing and bouncing down the roads can crack welds, seams, and/or paint, taking some value out of the investment.
The process is similar to an auto repair/repaint job in only one regard: Repair first.
Any body work to repair damage should be done before painting, otherwise, there isn’t much point in painting. This vehicle is exposed to four seasons of corrosive weather, too, even if temporarily stored inside or under a tarp. That means rust. River City Auto Body inspects for rust before any surface is painted because the vehicle will continue to deteriorate even under a coat of paint or primer.

The largest consideration for your RV is taking it to a shop with the capacity to handle large vehicles. Almost a no-brainer there: If it doesn’t fit in the paint bay, it doesn’t belong in that shop. Some will attempt a makeshift temporary booth, resulting in inconsistency in the finish. River City Auto Body built a permanent booth we’ve specifically designed from the ground up for massive investments like RVs and tractor trailers.
Consider three more facts:

  • Homeowners repaint the house to keep up with the times. An RV doesn’t last nearly as long, but it isn’t uncommon for a vehicle to be in use two or more decades. River City Auto Body can accommodate any color scheme you desire… even if it’s simply a fresh coat of the factory colors.
  • Homeowners repaint to house to add to resale. If your RV is on the market for the upcoming vacation season, it could be worth it to boost its looks with fresh paintwork.
  • Some repair operations offer a quote, but it isn’t free. River City Auto Body quotes are free. Always.   


 Photo by Tomasz Zajda , used with permission.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Bring some clarity to warranty, guarantee and honesty

With more than three decades in the collision repair business, River City Auto Body witnessed more than a few similar business come and go over challenges involving those three words in the article title. Realistically, no one expects warranty and guarantee to mean the same thing. However, they're frequently used for the same principle: When something goes south, it gets fixed. Period.
Warranty and guarantee do mean the same thing from a legal standpoint. The Uniform Commercial Code, which has been adopted in some form in every state, protects consumers when it comes to promises made by a seller.
We simplify it here:

·         Pieces and parts are warrantied. This comes from the manufacturer. For example, who hasn't come across a product recall? Some piece or part fails or creates a safety-compromising situation. It's replaced. Done. A warranty is a form of a guarantee, and comes from the maker/manufacturer. You see them ranging from 30-days for consumer electronics to years for car systems to the rare Lifetime Warranty.

A bit about parts and the warranty. Remanufactured parts carry a tag or label shortened to 'reman.' Sometimes remans carry a warranty from the REmanufacturer which isn't necessarily the company that originally manufactured the part. That original maker is usually called the OEM, by the way, short for Original Equipment Manufacturer. ‘

This is where honesty comes in. River City Auto Body believes in using new, OEM parts whenever possible and fully discloses when the parts used in a repair aren’t. Even if you don't use us, please ask any repairer to give you that courtesy.  

·         Work is guaranteed. You can use the best parts, but what about the installation or assembly? When you find a business willing to put it on the line that their employees do work so well – even the intricacies of paint work – they'll guarantee the labor.

At any rate, as we mentioned last week, an insurer doesn’t warranty claim repairs because they don’t make the equipment, and they don’t do the labor. We guarantee our parts (new and used) and labor – even refinishing except for damage from acid rain or stone chips – for a year because WE CAN. The fit and finish of a job are too important to us to cut corners. As long as you own the vehicle, we guarantee our work for a year. No fine print. The fine-print mentality is another form of dishonesty.


 Photo by Val Thoermer, used with permission.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Auto repair mythbuster part II: The insurance co. said WHAT?

Last week, River City Auto Body introduced you to the topic of steering: When an insurance carrier ‘suggests’ you use a certain repair shop for your covered auto. It’s worth repeating: Your insurer may suggest, but cannot require, you have your car repaired at a specific auto repair shop. After an accident, you are under no obligation to take your vehicle to the shop of their choosing.  In order to help YOU stay in control, here are a six tactics you might hear from an agent or appraiser (neither of which are auto repair pros – they’re doing their jobs as employees of the insurer):

1.       "We can't give you a rental if you go to River City." If you have rental reimbursement on your policy, take advantage of it. If you are hit by someone else, they have to put you into a rental.

2.       "River City Auto Body won't agree with our appraiser." Shops that often ‘agree’ with appraisers are trying to remain friendly with the insurance companies. YOU are the customer.

3.       "They are not on our preferred list." ‘Preferred’ can mean the insurance company trusts the quality of the shop – and we’ve earned that status with many companies. Preferred also may mean the shop has signed an agreement to pre-negotiate your repairs by giving the insurer discounts, using inferior parts, and possibly not doing all necessary processes to repair your vehicle properly. In those cases, it sounds sketchy, and in fact the insurer is the customer, not you.

4.       "If you go to a non-preferred shop your repair will be delayed waiting for our adjuster to inspect the vehicle." Delays are a scare tactic. Most state insurance regulations require insurers to respond within a reasonable amount of time.

5.       "If you go to our shop we can pay them directly and it will be faster." It is your money, the check should be written to you!
The sixth one is an odd but common tactic: "We won't warranty the repair if you go there." Ask the insurer for a copy of said ‘warranty’ and ask who will do the re-repairs. Insurers don't actually repair anything. So they can’t do warranty repairs. More on repair warranties and River City Auto Body’s guarantee in next week’s article.


 Photo by Monkeybusiness, used with permission.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Auto repair mythbuster: You CAN take your car anywhere

When River City Auto Body welcomes a new customer, about half the time it involves an auto insurance claim. We make sure every customer knows – up front – that as the owner of a vehicle they can take the car to the repair shop of THEIR choice. Many people don’t realize that. But it is the LAW.
A mythology has evolved around car repairs and quotes and insurance coverage. We do our level best to help bust those myths, not just when it’s to our advantage to do so. This particular myth is one we find challenges customers too often because an insurance policy is a complicated contract. State law clarified one thing with certainty: Your insurer may suggest, but cannot require, you have your car repaired at a specific auto repair shop. If anyone tells you otherwise, you can call Wisconsin’s Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection to defend your rights at 800-422-7128. 

When insurers attempt to direct you to a specific shop, the practice is called STEERING in auto repair circles. You’ll see the topic quite a few times in upcoming River City Auto Body articles.

Repair ‘choice’ is a win for everyone involved. Repair shops gain an equal footing when there aren’t rules limiting competition. Insurance companies win because service can be fast, local and competitive. Most of all, YOU win because you have choice where to have work done… and since there is competition for your business, quality goes up and costs (including insurance premiums) are more manageable.

This isn’t like that “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” scheme we heard not too long ago. Here you have a situation where if you like your repair shop or what you’ve heard about a repair shop like ours, you can keep it. If you don’t like a repair shop’s reputation, you can go elsewhere. It really is that simple.

Repairing a vehicle after it’s been damaged requires precision to restore the vehicle to specs. River City Auto Body is so proficient at what we do that we’ve earned the trust of many insurance carriers as a Direct Repair Program (DRP) shop. However, not one of the insurers can tell you that you have to use us. Our track record and our ability to GUARANTEE our work as long as you own the vehicle will make you want to choose us for your damage repair. It IS your choice!



 Photo by Karammiri , used with permission.