The Collision Repair Process

If your vehicle has been damaged in a collision, you have probably heard this common misconception: your vehicle will never be the same. Chances are, it wasn't your insurance company representative or an employee of a collision repair business who said this. That's because every day collision industry professionals return collision-damaged vehicles to their previous condition - both structurally and cosmetically.

So, what does it take to repair your vehicle properly after an accident? Because of today's complex vehicles and high-quality paint finishes, technicians need to be properly trained in the entire repair process to achieve complete and safe repairs.

Preparing a Detailed Estimate for Repairs

The repair process begins when a detailed estimate is prepared, indicating all of the repairs needed to restore your vehicle to proper function and appearance. In some cases, this damage assessment requires removing damaged body panels or other parts. This results in the most accurate initial estimate possible. The parts listed on the estimate are then ordered. Thompson's S&S Collision staff and your insurance company will explain whether the replacement parts are new parts ordered from the manufacturer of your vehicle, used parts ordered through an automotive recycler, or new parts manufactured by a company other than the manufacturer of your vehicle. Thompson's and the insurer can explain the pros and cons of using each of these types of parts.

If you vehicle was hit hard in the collision, we will use a measuring system that checks specific points of your vehicle structure against dimensions provided by the vehicle equipment manufacturer. Thompson's will also need to measure your vehicle several times during the repair process to make sure it is within the recommended tolerances. In most cases, this tolerance is as strict as three millimeters - the thickness of three dimes. Some vehicles today require a tolerance no greater than one millimeter.

Repairing and Replacing Damaged Parts

Whenever appropriate, original parts are repaired. Severely damaged parts need to be replaced. A properly trained technician can repair sheet metal and plastic so that it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find any indication of damage. In some cases, parts not included on the estimate may need to be ordered during the repair process if "hidden" damage is found.

Ready for Paint

After repairs are complete, the vehicle is ready to be painted. The areas to be painted are first prepared. Repaired areas are finely sanded, primer and corrosion protection products are applied, and areas that won't be painted are "masked off" and protected. The painter then uses a paint mixing system to mix the paint that will match your vehicle's finish. A paint code on your vehicle provides the starting point, but generally requires a trained eye to match the paint to your vehicle. Often, paint will require "blending," a technique used to facilitate matching the color of your car. The paint is sprayed inside a spray booth designed to keep dust and other contaminants off the new finish.

Once the painting is complete, the vehicle is reassembled with all trim pieces, decals, and stripes. If any new glass is needed, it is usually installed at this point. The wheel alignment will also be checked if the collision damage was severe, if the vehicle spun, or if tire, wheel or suspension parts were damaged in the collision. This helps to catch any potential problems with the steering and suspension parts.

Interior and Exterior Detailing

Finally, your vehicle will be taken to the detailing area for a thorough interior and exterior cleaning. Any minor imperfections in the new paint surface will be removed by polishing and buffing. A final inspection checks that all work meets Alpine's standards and the final paperwork is prepared for the vehicle owner and the involved insurer.

Throughout this process, Thompson's S&S Collision Repair will be in contact with the insurance company handling the claim. The insurer may want to review the estimate and inspect the vehicle before or during the repair process. In some cases, we may need to obtain insurer and vehicle owner approval before completing additional necessary repairs not included in the initial estimate.