Technicians at John Eagle Collision Center in Dallas, Texas, made the decision a decade ago to deviate from repair procedures and glue the roof back onto a hail-damaged Honda Fit.
New owners of the vehicle, unaware of the repair, in 2013 nearly died inside it following a fiery crash. A jury, with knowledge of the repair procedure that called for more than 100 welds intended to maintain the vehicle's collision safety, ruled in favor of the drivers and against the shop, ordering it to pay them more than $31 million.
Eight years later, vehicle repair has only become more complex, making the repair manual even more important, says Liz Stein, vice president of industry relations for Assured Performance Network, which specializes in providing certified collision care.
“It’s the same when you buy IKEA furniture,” she says. “How do you put it together without instructions?”
When so much in vehicles nowadays is connected, repair procedures are updated frequently, says Jack Rozint, the senior vice president of sales and service for Mitchell International, who has more than 20 years of experience in the automotive industry.
That’s why it is increasingly important for technicians to access the original equipment manufacturer’s repair procedure for each repair.
“Look it up every day, every car, from start to scratch,” Rozint says.
Take responsibility or bear liability.
Technicians can believe that since they’ve done a repair before, they can do it again the exact same way, but that’s not the case, says Chuck Olsen, senior vice president of automotive technology solutions at AirPro Diagnostics. Olsen is also Collision Industry Conference committee chair.“Back when I was slinging wrenches it was to our benefit to memorize repair procedures,” says Chuck Olsen, VP of automotive technology solutions at AirPro Diagnostics. “But today, things are changing so fast that having that mindset is a detriment.”
Olsen says you cannot overemphasize the amount of responsibility technicians carry to ensure their customers’ safety. Stein concurs.
“Shops bear the liability if they improperly repair a car,” she says. “So it’s in their best interest to do it properly, and you can’t do it if you’re flying blind.”
Research, rinse, repeat.
Shops can access OEM repair procedures through a variety of subscription service channels, Stein says, as well as through sites such as I-CAR and Collision Advice.
“Each OEM has a website with OEM repair procedures, but if you want a one-stop, OEM1Stop is a site created by a roundtable of OEMs,” she says.
The industry standard used to be I-CAR training, adds Rozint. Technicians would be trained across equipment, tools, and processes for each new car. That’s no longer the case, he says, due to the increasing complexity of today’s vehicles, which is why repair procedures should be accessed on the day of the repair.
Timing is everything.
It’s not uncommon for repair procedures to be updated after their initial publication, Rozint says.
“In some cases, [OEMs] find out a repair procedure they published isn’t the best way to fix the car,” he says.
Unless techs are reading the repair procedure before the vehicle that passes through their bay, Rozint says, they can’t be sure you’re performing the correct steps.
If your shop, like many, relies on software services like ALLDATA or Mitchell, AirPro’s Olsen says you may be reading information that is six or seven months behind, due to the continuous updates. That gap is slowly closing, he notes—in past times the procedures could be two years behind.
“For [repairing] late models, my recommendation is to access the repair procedures directly from the original equipment manufacturer,” he says.
When buying an OEM certified subscription, Olsen recommends identifying which makes and models your shop sees the most and buying the corresponding manuals.
Each new generation of vehicles is increasingly more complex than the last, with a variety of advanced driver assistance systems. Added safety features also require complex repair procedures, including the meticulous calibration of camera and lidar sensors, making the repair manuals even more vital, says Chuck Olsen, senior vice president of automotive technology solutions at AirPro Diagnostics.
“It’s so important to review service information because it could call for an ADAS calibration, or it might not, and you don’t want to calibrate something that was fine to begin with,” he warns.
Get paid to hit the books.
Barry Dorn, vice president of Dorn’s Body and Paint Inc. in Mechanicsville, Va., says his shop charges by the hour for the time spent researching repair manuals.
Through the shop’s management system, CCC ONE, Dorn says blueprinters and technicians log how much time they spend looking for the repair procedure, reading the repair procedure, as well as the time they spend conferring with technicians and estimators to create a repair plan. The hourly charge is based on the rate the shop has for each OE.
“It’s not one rate fits all,” he says.
Grab a pen.
Whether you go directly to the OEM or use a third-party site, Stein says it’s paramount to document each step as you go through the repair process. Electronic documentation shows proof that the repair procedures were followed, she says.
Systems like CCC ONE have electronic documentation baked into their software and can show statistics, such as how many times the repair procedures were accessed, and even for how long.
“It’s one thing to pull the repair procedure,” Stein says, “it’s another thing to show you followed the repair procedure.”