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How the Car Repair Process Works

If you’ve never been in a car accident, you may not know what happens when you bring your car to a repair shop. We’ll walk you through how the process works at a reputable collision repair centre.

Before you bring your car anywhere, however, it’s important that you call your insurance broker. Not all repair facilities are approved by all companies – but that’s for your protection. An approved repair shop generally provides reliable service, competitive prices and may provide other benefits as well. If you have your car taken to an unapproved company your insurance may not guarantee the repairs.

Once you know your car is in good hands, here’s the usual process you and your car will go through. Please note that this is an overview; at some auto body repair shops, the process is more detailed. Some shops provide a courtesy shuttle or easy access to a rental car while yours is undergoing repairs. Also, not all shops will follow all of the steps mentioned below.

Initial Inspection and Estimate

When your car first arrives at the shop a mechanic will look at it, try some tests (both manual and computerized, if applicable) and prepare an initial estimate of what they think is wrong with the car and the repair costs.

At this point you should be asked if you want an estimate just for the damage from the accident, or if you want general wear and tear repairs included too. For example, if the damage from the accident is to the front of the car, but the rear has some chips in the paint from driving on gravel roads, many shops may not include it in their estimate unless they are directed to.

In the insurance world, the term “betterment” describes these extra repairs because they put your vehicle in better condition than before the accident. They’re not covered. To save time and aggravation, speak up and ensure the mechanic knows your preferences. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Estimate Authorized by Owner

As the vehicle owner, you would then sign the repair estimate, or discuss your needs further with the estimator.

Insurance Approval

Your insurance provider reviews your authorized estimate and lets you know to what degree the repairs are covered and the amount they will be giving you. This will depend on your level of coverage, your deductible, and if you were at fault for the accident (and to what degree). While Ontario has “no fault insurance”, that doesn’t mean no one takes responsibility for an accident. It means each party in the accident gets compensation from their own insurance company.

It’s important to work with your insurance provider closely, ensuring that they have all the information they need about the accident to reach a fair decision about your compensation.

As you can imagine, this process could potentially take time. To speed things up, some insurers/brokers have streamlined approval processes in place at approved repair shops.

Repair Work Begins – Supplemental Estimate if Needed

Once the estimate is approved, parts are ordered, the vehicle is disassembled, and work begins. Sometimes additional problems are discovered at this stage. If this is the case, a supplemental estimate needs to be prepared, authorized by you and possibly approved by your insurance company. In some cases, supplemental estimated don’t need to be approved by the insurance company if there is a streamlined process in place. The shop is trusted to make the determination if the repair is essential.

Internal Repair Work Completed

If any work is needed to your car’s frame, engine or other mechanical parts, this gets done first.

Body Work, Reassembly, and Paint

Any dent or scratch repairs to body panels are completed, and if needed the panels are reattached to the outside of your car. If any panels are too damaged and the work order calls for new ones, those are attached as well.

Once reassembly is complete the next step is painting of repaired panels: this requires masking of the nearby parts that don’t need painting. The surfaces to be painted are cleaned and prepared, and your car is moved to the painting station.

It’s important to know that the new paint may not always be a 100% match for your car’s original paint, even if it was an official colour created by the manufacturer. That’s because the UV waves in sunlight can have a bleaching effect on your original paint over the years. If you’ve had any protective treatments applied, that may affect the colour as well.

Finishing Touches, Test Drive, and Completion

Once your car is fully painted and cleaned, it’s time for any final checks the repair shop provides (like wheel alignment) and a test drive. If everything is confirmed fixed then you are notified to come pick up your car.

Don’t Forget to Inspect the Work

When you pick up your car it’s critical to inspect the work to ensure everything is satisfactory before you drive away. Speak up if anything is amiss.

Know Your Coverage

We hope you never get in a car accident, but if you do it’s important to have a great auto body shop and the right kind of insurance coverage on your side. Talk to your broker to review your coverage and ensure you’re as protected as you think you are.


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