Improper PDR can create safety concerns and place customers at risk
Your smart phone’s weather app sounds an alert, the area map a blotch of red showing severe weather. As thunder roars and wind speed increases, the tinny sound of cars’ pelted sheet metal marks the beginning of hail season. To a collision repairer, it may sound like “pennies from Heaven,” but if you’re subletting paintless dent repairs (PDR,) are those contractors as committed as you are to following OEM repair procedures?
A quality PDR job is no longer just “making metal flat,” experts say; it can be a matter of a customer’s life or death to follow OEM repair procedures. David Pinto, owner of the CAR Guy (Custom Automotive Reconditioning) in New Jersey, has performed PDR since 2000. Even prior to becoming chairman of PDR Nation, a nonprofit serving paintless dent repairers, he had the goal of focusing the organization’s efforts less on certification and more on educating its members.
But the alarm sounded for Pinto at the 2017 SEMA Show and the co-located Collision Industry Conference (CIC) meeting, with discussions during the fallout of the recent John Eagle case illustrating just how critical it is for repairers to adhere to OEM repair procedures.
“The liability is all on the repairer, and if you make a mistake, it could come back on you and cost you your livelihood,” he said. “One of my favorite sayings is, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know,’ which can be kind of scary.”
Simple door ding repair can risk someone’s life
“For you guys fixing a door ding in a Toyota, if you do it wrong, you could be risking somebody’s life. It takes five minutes to do it the right way,” said Shawn Mueller, PDR technician and co-owner of Hail Strategies Auto Hail Repair, based in the St. Louis area.
That particular example, he noted, is called out by Toyota in its procedures to not use a wedge on a door belt molding because, even if the damage it causes is not visible, it can reduce the pressure of the molding against the glass. Because side-impact airbag sensors measure a steep and quick increase of pressure within the car door cavity, a reduction of air pressure can cause the side-impact airbag to deploy later than it should, subjecting the occupant to greater injury.
For Mueller and his business partner, Josh Alleman, who is also a technician, each repair includes a thorough in-process quality control (“QC”) procedure that begins with a pre-scan and printing off applicable repair procedures. A dented roof means the headliner will have to be at least dropped. So if wires will need to be disconnected, what codes will that set or what calibrations may be required?
“For a 2018 Armada, the first step in removing the headliner is to disconnect the negative battery terminal,” Mueller said, noting that means more than a dozen procedures are now required, some minor, but two that he views as “significantly important,” including recalibrating the rearview monitor’s predictive course line display.
In-process quality control reduces comebacks, risks to safety
Mueller said a PDR contractor’s “in-process QC” procedure, which is easy for a collision repair shop to audit, should include the following:
• Are they printing OEM repair procedures, and are they placed in or near the car, such as on a cart?
“Because if they pull them and they never make it to the car, who’s going to read them?”
• Are parts organized in storage bags or bins and carts?
“Or do they just throw every bolt in the same cup and then later try to figure out how to put it back together?”
• Did they restore corrosion protection or sound-deadening materials, as required?
“If there are a bunch of poke marks or pick marks in the sound-deadening, they clearly didn’t replace it. And the lack of corrosion protection is easy to tell.”
• To prevent cross-contamination, are there tool covers or tape on the technicians’ carts?
“If I fixed a high-strength steel Chevy Silverado, and then I go to the hood, which is aluminum, I need to have some way to make sure I’m not embedding steel in the aluminum.”
• Is the technician willing to review the vehicle with you, with their lighting system shining on the panels?
“It takes one or two minutes to go over the car, and that gives you peace of mind.”
Scans, calibration, and ‘no drilling holes’
When Pinto met with OEM repair program representatives at CIC, each reinforced how critical it is to not drill access holes.
“I had always assumed that drilling holes was a rust issue. I live in the Northeast, where everything rusts in a matter of hours. So I’ve always been reluctant to drill anything, anyway. But they explained to me that there are safety issues with it for airbag timing, pressure sensors in the doors, and structural issues.”
Pinto also helps run a Facebook group, together with another organization, the National Association of Paintless Dent Repair Technicians, on the use of diagnostic and scan tools to educate their members on ADAS and other diagnostics issues. Those who do their own pre- and post-repair scanning realize they can profit from the procedure, but others lag behind in adoption of the newer technology.
But Pinto sees some progress, especially with newer technicians who understand the importance of such procedures. He also sees room for improvement for OEMs to insist that their franchise dealers follow the same procedures, such as prohibiting holes from being drilled in panels.
“I’ve been pushing some of the OEMs to include some of that language in their certified used car program. I think that would go a long way.”