There are few things more disheartening than walking up to your vehicle in a parking lot only to realize that someone has put a sizeable ding or dent in its side, or perhaps used your bumpers as feelers during an aborted parking attempt. Even worse is having to deal with the type of damage left behind by someone carelessly rear ending you at a stoplight, especially if their love tap was hard enough to crack bumper covers and displace sheet metal.
Even if you tell yourself that you can live with the scratches, dents and scrapes, thereís no denying that the temptation to stop in at discount body repair chains and their ilk can be quite high. After all, these kinds of places are constantly advertising incredibly inexpensive paint jobs, panel repairs and parts replacements on all makes and models of cars. The results sure look convincing on television and in print, and many people stop in just to see what kind of a quote will be offered on the job at hand. Once there, inspections are performed, promises of quality are made on the part of the shop manager and a price is given that seems almost too good to be true.
At this point, you would most likely be wondering whether it was possible to get a factory-like finish with such a low investment on your part. Unfortunately, the short answer is Ďno.í While the natural urge to save money on car repairs is a strong one, you should really think twice before committing to drop your vehicle off at a local discount body shop. Letís look at a few of the main reasons why these types of establishments should be avoided at all costs.
Many vehicle owners are unaware of the fact that the most important aspect of quality body- and paintwork is the time thatís spent preparing panels before any paint, filler or metal patching is applied. The level of priming, sanding and cleaning that goes into even the simplest of repair jobs is the key to achieving a quality finish. Unfortunately, a significant time investment usually translates into a more expensive bill, which is why top-notch bodywork rarely comes cheaply.
Discount body shops are able to offer $250 paint specials by cutting serious corners when it comes to prep work. Instead of sanding down to the steel or plastic base of a panel and then gradually filling, feathering or layering multiple coats of paint, they will instead simply clean and spray an inexpensive lacquer or base followed by a clearcoat. Very little care is taken to ensure that the newly painted areas match the original paint color, or that filler has been properly leveled off and sanded, and this can lead to a mottled and bumpy appearance. The paint might look fresh and shiny for the first few days or weeks, but soon enough, it will lose its luster and the unprepared area behind the paint will once again show through.
Another favorite method used by fly-by-night shops to reduce costs is to source so-called Ďjobberí parts when replacing bumpers, doors, fenders and the like. These reproduction pieces donít offer the same quality of steel or accuracy of fit and finish as factory parts, and as a result, they often install with large gaps or at strange angles compared to the rest of the car. Will the discount or franchise body shop stand behind its work, or even still be in business, if a paint job peels or parts fail prematurely?
The simplest way to avoid any of these body shop nightmares is to have your vehicle worked on exclusively by dealership technicians who have been trained specifically on how to repair your particular brand of car or truck. Your local dealership is not only staffed by confident and experienced painters, welders and other craftsmen, but it also offers you direct access to factory parts at the best possible prices.
It is certainly tempting to go the fast and cheap route when taking care of your carís paint- and bodywork. However, almost without exception, a low quality body job is one that will have to be done again after the original problem works its way back up to the surface of your paint. This quickly erases any initial savings. Spending the money on a quality job done right the first time is always the best possible solution when it comes to this type of automotive repair.