The No-Excuse Guide to Following OEM Repair Procedures
SHOP STATS: Dents Unlimited Location: Columbia, Missouri Operator/s: Marc LaFerriere Staff Size: 3 body techs, 1 painter, 2 estimators (collision repair business only) Shop Size: 17,000 square feet Average Monthly Car Count: 50 (collision repair business only) Number of DRPs: 1 Annual Revenue: $1.8 million
“Follow OEM repair procedures!” FenderBender magazine frequently tells its readers.
Maybe—like so many things in both life and collision repair—that’s easier said than done. So how about an article devoted to a rundown of how one shop owner researches, follows, and documents the OEM repair procedures used at his shop?
Enter Marc LaFerriere, the owner of Dents Unlimited in Columbia, Missouri, a shop with 11 OEM certifications and annual collision-specific revenue of $1.8 million (Dents Unlimited also does PDR and mechanical repairs).
LaFerriere says he recently took on the role of production manager in his shop, while also acting as one of two estimators alongside three techs and a painter–he’s actively researching OEM repair procedures in his shop.
Like the vast majority of respondents to the 2022 FenderBender Industry Survey, LaFerriere says he references OEM repair procedures for most jobs, relying on shop knowledge for routine repairs on lower-tech, older vehicles.
The survey asked, “Does your shop pull and follow OEM repair procedures for most repairs?” and 82 percent of respondents said “Yes.” Another 16 percent responded “Sometimes,” while 2 percent responded “No.”
Here’s more on how LaFerriere follows OEM repair procedures at Dents Unlimited.
To keep repairs on track, LaFerriere says he tries to get ahead of any procedures that may need to be pulled.
“A lot of that gets done when we estimate the vehicle up front, especially if we know it’s a bigger hit or more structural stuff,” he says.
Dents Unlimited has access to the procedures of all the OEMs by which it is certified. LaFerriere says he prefers to use each individual OE’s website for searching information because they are the most up to date on various repairs. He notes that automakers can alter procedures repeatedly for the same model year in a short amount of time. He also notes that terminology for various parts can differ between OEs.
Other options for pulling repair procedures include third-party platforms like ALLDATA; LaFerriere says he’ll purchase short term subscriptions to OEM repair procedures for brands by which the shop is not certified.
He estimates that 90 percent of jobs require some form of procedure research.
“They’re all getting pretty complex,” he says, noting however that he’s cautious about putting time into research prior to capturing a given job.
Body techs will occasionally look up procedures during the repair itself, though Laferriere says he prefers to do the research upfront by himself, or his estimator will do it.
“I’ve just found [the technicians are] better served working on cars and not finding procedures on OEM websites they’re not familiar with,” he says.
If all goes according to plan, LaFerriere says any needed procedures will be found, printed, and included in the job packet that’s given to the technician prior to the repair.
He stresses that it can be a time-consuming process.
“If I’m replacing a rear bumper in a 2010 Camry LE, with no reverse sensors, I’m not going to pull that procedure,” LaFerriere says. “The late-model stuff gets more attention because of the new technologies.”
Any structural repairs will trigger research, he says, noting that research can also be vital when it comes to smaller details such as one-time-use parts.
An example he cites are Nissan interior trim clips that need to be replaced following the deployment of roof airbags. He says that information about one-time-use parts will sometimes come up in CCC, but sometimes it’s only found on the OEM’s site.
Knowing about one-time-use parts up front can reduce parts breakage, LaFerriere says, and help avoid back-ordered parts that slow repairs, while the parts profit can help cover time used for research.
The Bottom Line
Pulling procedures and then documenting the work with photos is vital when it comes to working with insurance companies, LaFerriere says. Printed procedures and photos are shared with insurers.
“It takes the negotiation out of the process with insurance partners who don’t see the process done at other shops,” he says.
There’s value in using OEM websites for finding procedures, LaFerriere says, because in his experience some insurers say they won't pay for procedures found on third-party platforms. OEM position statements can also be a sticking point, he adds (see box).
He says he still faces resistance to certain procedures from some insurance companies, noting that there is a difficulty with trust in the relationship between insurers and shops. He underscores the fact that the liability for a bad repair falls on the shop.
“The bottom line,” LaFerriere says, “is it’s got to be fixed properly whether insurance pays for it or not.”