Friday, November 14, 2008

Choosing the right body shop

It may be one of many people’s nightmares to have to go and seek out the correct body shop, having to find a good body shop or fender bender as some may call them is not always easy. The possibility of having to go and see one at some point of your driving career is more than likely, maybe through no fault of yours it may be that someone has by accident scratched the paint on your car.

If you happen to have the paint scratched on your car then the first point of call is your local body shop. Or there are always those who want their vehicle customized, or adding extra parts to the vehicle that will have to be sprayed at the body shop. When customizing your vehicle, for example, and wanting a complete paint job, it is best to shop around before parting with any money to choose the right body shop.

Dark dank body shops are a thing of the past, although you may come across one down some back alley somewhere. Today though, the majority of body shops are clean, airy, quality tools on show with clean working environments. Having said this, you still have to ensure that even though everything looks smart and clean, at the end of the day, it is the work that matters.

Most of today’s body shops are very clean, neat and very well lit. These are usually the ones at the top end of the scale. It is normal for a well run body shop to have different areas of work designated. For example, there may be an estimating area; this is the area you will bring your vehicle to get an estimate on repairs and where your finished vehicle will be presented. This will normally be well lit so damage on the vehicle can easily be spotted.

If there is major damage on the vehicle then it will be removed to the area set up for disassembly and onto a frame machine. There are fewer cars now that have a true frame, the machine now is really used in straightening the uni-body construction this is typical on most of the modern cars. The term uni-body basically means that sheet metal is stamped, formed, and welded together, forming the structural part of the car's body.

It is critical to measure the vehicle's body for correct uni-body alignment. If, for example, there is one millimeter error then that is all manufacturers will allow. Many body shops use a laser measuring system alongside a frame machine these are used to make certain everything is properly straightened.

Once the uni-body is straight and correct the next stage is moving the vehicle to the area for metal work. Here, new sheet metal will be mounted and any panels with damage are straightened. This is accomplished by skillful technicians using dollies and hammers. Even today though, work done by technicians has changed by technology. If you look above, there will be vacuum lines connected to sanders and grinders; these are to pull any dirt and dust away from this area of the shop. It is amazing how clean these areas are kept.

Once the metal work has been completed, the next stage is the paint prep area, normally in this area dust extraction systems are used to remove any dust that occurs during sanding and paint primer spraying. Body shops use infrared light systems in this area to cure paint primer quickly. These lights usually speed up the drying time, allowing the primer to cure in 20 minutes rather than 24 hours; therefore, your car is ready to go a lot quicker.

The next step will be for the vehicle to move to the paint booth where all the final colors and clear coats will be applied. Many body shops will have different booths the best ones being “downdraft” units these have filtered fresh air entering the top of the booth, any over-spray is drained out through grates in the floor. This produces the best paint finishes, however, as with everything, it’s the operators that make the difference.

The most important thing at this later stage is that the vehicle gets finished in a paint booth that is clean and dust free. This outweighs a dirty booth of a fantastic design. This is when maybe you should ask to see any finished vehicles in the body shop to check the painters work before leaving your vehicle and any money is spent. The things to look for are, smooth finishes that have very few dust specs and ensure the colors match from one panel to another. These are evidence of a quality paint spray done by a professional.

The final stage for the vehicle is the area for final assembly where the trim is re-attached, after which the car will be thoroughly cleaned and readied for you to collect or be delivered. If you have a body shop in mind or have had one recommended then ask for a tour around their facilities. Most good body shops will be more than happy to oblige. If not, then beware.

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