Auto Body Like It Never Happened

The Auto Body Repair Process and What You Need to Know…

January 14, 2020

Collision 1 auto body repair technician preparing an estimate after a collision.

The auto body repair process in and around Seattle, Auburn, Bonney Lake, and Centralia, Washington can be confusing if you are not familiar with collision repairs. You are probably picturing a team of overall-clad, talented technicians working hard to get your car or another vehicle type back to its former glory. And, if so, you wouldn’t be far off. But there’s a lot more to the auto body repair process than that, we have raised the bar for quality collision and auto body repair at all 4 (four) Collision 1 Puget Sound locations, including our convenient Seattle collision repair center.

If you’re involved in a car accident, it can pay to know about the auto body repair process. Not only will this knowledge allow you to get to grips with the potential costs and timeframe of the collision repair process, but it will also help you to set realistic expectations for the auto body repair.

Thousands of collision accidents happen in Seattle every year. Hopefully, you are never involved in one. But if you are, here’s what to expect.

It Starts at the Accident

Right after the accident has happened, it’s important that you assess the damage to your car. Take photos of the actual scene for documentation and case filing if you plan to do so. If you are badly hurt, call an ambulance and the police first for assistance. You should contact the respective local authority if the accident took place outside of the Seattle city limits. For a collision that happened in any part of Washington, you can also use the “Online Motor Vehicle Collision Reporting” page provided by the Washington State Patrol.

Give an unbiased statement of the accident to both your insurance company and the police. Take note that both Seattle and other Puget Sound areas have a distracted driving law in place. You should be honest and declare if you were on the phone while driving. This will prevent further complications with the authorities.

Don’t forget to exchange contact information with the other driver involved in the accident. Ask about their insurance policy and how you can reach them for repairs. This part is crucial when it comes to covering the collision repair cost. If the other driver claims to have no insurance policy, you should ask the proper legal authorities for help as Washington requires all drivers to have auto insurance.

Estimating the Repair Cost

You’ll need to take your car to a reliable auto body repair shop in Seattle or one that is closer to receive an accurate repair quote. Note: When searching, you may be better searching for a “Collision1 auto body repair shop location“, rather than “auto body shop near me“. While you can easily send any Collision 1 body shop pictures or have a consultation over the phone, taking the car into the shop will result in a more thorough and accurate quote.

Our Seattle collision repair center will for example have one or more collision repair and auto body technicians conduct a visual inspection of your vehicle to assess the level of damage, including the internal damage, and assess which parts need to be replaced. Keep in mind that the first estimate will typically only include the visible damage. When technicians start getting under the exterior of your car, they will most likely find even more damage which can result in additional repair costs.

Most auto body service centers in the Seattle area, including Collision 1, will use computer software to create estimates and will forward these to your insurance company. You will also be provided with a copy of the repair estimate so that you can compare it with quotes from other repair centers.

A quick word when it comes to choosing which quote to proceed with. The cheapest option is rarely the best option. Always choose the company that provides the most thorough quote and who you feel most comfortable trusting.

Also, a word on repairing vs writing off your vehicle. When it comes to insurance claims, remember that the depreciated value of your vehicle will be considered. The older it gets, the smaller the payment will be. Your insurance company assumes that old age exposes some parts of your car to wear and tear. That means you are almost always better off repairing your vehicle rather than scrapping it.

Finally, if you’re dealing with another driver, the liability will be determined by fault, as mandated by Washington state laws. Washington is a pure comparative negligence state where the one at fault is responsible for the damage.

Blueprinting and Teardown

To give the collision repair and auto body technicians a clear picture of your car’s condition, they will come up with a blueprint. This will be their map toward repairing your vehicle in a systematic process. The parts will be torn down for further examination. This is where more damage can surface that the auto body service center missed on their visual inspection. A reliable auto body repair shop will contact you and your insurance company right away to adjust the estimate if needed. Don’t worry, this happens regularly and is part of the way the industry works.

Some insurance companies will request disassembly first before catering to your insurance claim. This way, all the damages are documented and there’s no need for adjustments in the future. It’s also your insurer’s way of making sure that you’re not scamming the claim.

Take note that you have the last say about when the vehicle repairs are to start. If your vehicle is still in a drivable state, you can wait until all the materials are ready before the repair begins. But before giving the green light to your Seattle or other area auto body repair shop, check with your insurance company that everything is settled.

Metal and Frame Repair

Collision accidents can warp the car frame to an extent you can’t imagine. Once the collision repair efforts start, one of the first things an auto body technician will focus on is the car’s framework. They will use laser frame diagnostic systems to achieve accurate shaping. Frame machines are also used here so that your vehicle will be repaired back to its pre-accident form. Such a process will take days, if not weeks, depending on how damaged your car is.

Metalwork comes next. This is where the metal parts of your vehicle are replaced as needed. Every part will undergo the analysis of an electronic measuring system to ensure that the auto body and mechanical repairs are in line with factory standards. This is necessary to guarantee that the chassis is straight and the frame has structural integrity fit for driving. Wheel alignment and suspension repairs are also crucial here since it determines the maneuverability and safety of your vehicle while on the road.

It’s important that the frame and mechanical repairs are done in synergy to avoid emergency adjustments. Experienced auto body service centers will know how to do this.

Reassembly and Refinishing

Upon finishing the mechanical and frame repairs, your vehicle will be prepared for painting. Surfaces will be taped as needed before sanding and priming. After that, a base coat will be applied that is the same as the original, and that will be followed by a clear coat. Once the curing phase is done, your vehicle will undergo the glossy finishing step to bring back the shine it had before the collision.

Reassembly will take place after the painting process is over. Every piece and part will be restored to its original location. The wirings, airbag components, hoses, and other effects will be put back in place if they were removed. This is a painstaking process as the repairmen have to ensure that every bit is back in its proper location. Miss one screw and it can jeopardize the driving safety of the vehicle. This is another reason why you don’t want to trust the cheapest quote from just any Seattle area auto body shop. Remember the saying: pay peanuts, get monkeys.

An initial inspection will be done after the reassembly. It is also common that a Seattle auto body repair shop will conduct a test drive within its facility to ensure that everything is functioning properly. They will check if the doors are installed properly or if there are wires that have to be adjusted.

Detailing and Cleaning

After the dirty work, your car will be washed and the interior will be cleaned to remove any debris and metal dust. The paint will be re-polished for better shine and all other surfaces will be scrubbed to ensure a spotless finish. All the light components will also undergo further checking as needed.

This is also the point where the auto body repair center looks for minor glitches. Every tiny detail will be checked and fine-tuned to achieve showroom quality.

Visual inspections will be done and another test drive might also be performed after all the work is done. The production manager and the head technician should give their approval of collision repair once everything is finished. All the processes should pass the standards and local codes in Seattle or other respective Washington areas.

Final Inspection and Delivery

Finally, the vehicle is prepped for collection or delivery. Your Seattle auto collision repair center will contact you so they can discuss the collision repair process in person. You should be provided with a detailed and itemized list of all repairs and parts involved in the car work. The technician will also give you the final computation of the expenses with a complete breakdown of the items.

You should perform your own inspection on the exterior and interior of the car to see if everything is done well. A representative from the auto body repair center will be present to accommodate your concerns. Don’t take the keys until you’ve ensured that you’re satisfied with the collision repair. Never hesitate to point out any glitches you notice along the way.

The repair technician or collision repair representative should also advise you about the next steps you should take including check-ups and paint care. They will also explain their auto body repair warranty if they have one.

Auto body repair is a very complex process. It needs to be, to ensure that your vehicle is transformed back to its original shape. All damages, including those that took place before the collision, should be fixed as well. There are many collision repair centers that can be found across Seattle’s Puget Sound for your convenience. Trust one with an excellent track record in collision repair and with personnel that will discuss the course of repairs with you. We also ask you to consider, Collision 1 is where we provide collision repairs with our signature, “Auto Body Like It Never Happened”.