Safe driving practices can reduce your chance of an accident, but even the most careful driver can’t steer around hail. What does it take to get hail damage repaired, and how can it affect the value of your car?
How Hail Damage Changes How Your Vehicle is Classified and Insured
It is possible for hail damage to be so severe that it totals the vehicle. However, most states have a special “hail” category for this type of damage that keeps the vehicle from getting a salvage title. In Wisconsin, a car receives a hail brand on the title if repairs cost 70% or more of the fair market value and the repair did not require the replacement of body panels. Unlike a salvage title vehicle, a car with a hail-branded title is still considered “clean,” so it can still be insured and licensed like an undamaged car.
Hail Damage and Insurance Coverage
Hail damage should be covered by any comprehensive insurance policy, and any repairs need to be approved by an insurance adjuster. However, it’s rare for the initial estimate to be accurate because finding all the hail damage at once is difficult. If you’re having the vehicle appraised before bringing it to an autobody shop, park the vehicle indoors or in the shade to make dents more visible.
Once the car is in the shop, the technicians will usually find some dents that were missed on the initial inspection, and the additional work needs to be approved by the insurance company. We have an adjuster on staff so we can get changes approved by the insurance company as quickly as possible so your car can be repaired.
Why Internet Quick Fixes Don’t Work
There are plenty of Internet videos claiming hail dents can be fixed with dry ice, hair dryers and even air being forced into body panels using small pumps. These methods don’t work because the metal used in body panels doesn’t usually have a memory. Once the metal is bent, it most likely stays bent.
When a body technician fixes a dent, they’re carefully reshaping the sheet metal to return the contours that were pressed into the metal at the factory. It takes a significant amount of experience and training to bend the panel back into the correct shape without breaking the paint surface or stretching the sheet metal too thin.
Saving Time and Money with Paintless Dent Repair
In accidents, the metal can be bent to a point that the paint flakes off and the only way to reshape the panel is by welding on material to provide points to pull the dent out from the surface. However, hail dents are usually small and shallow enough to allow paintless dent repair, especially on late model cars that have paint that is flexible enough to maintain contact with the panel as it is distorted.
There are two main techniques used in paintless dent repair:
- The dent can be lifted out from the outside surface of the panel using a glue puller. A small tab is glued onto the dent, then a clamp or slide hammer is used to pull the dent outward.
- The dent can be pushed out from the underside of the panel using levers. These levers have a variety of tip shapes and lengths, letting the technician apply pressure on the metal to shape it to the curves of the panel.
With either technique, the technician starts at the edge of the dent and slowly works inward to create a flat, even surface, bending the metal slightly with each pull or push on the panel.
While paintless dent repair works on the vast majority of hail dents, it may not be possible to use this technique for dents that are at the edges of panels or behind bracing structure in some hoods. However, where it can be used, paintless repair is a lot simpler and less time consuming than traditional body repair, cutting repair times from a couple of weeks down to a couple of days. Better still, this repair method can usually eliminate the need for panel replacements that could brand the vehicle title with hail damage and reduce its value.
When You Need Hail Repair, Go to Merton Auto Body
If you want hail repair done right, bring your vehicle to Merton Auto Body. We’re an I-CAR Gold Class certified shop, so our technicians have the latest training in auto body repair techniques including paintless repair. We also have an appraiser on staff, so we can get repairs of undiscovered damage approved quickly to get your car back on the road faster. Have broken glass or more extensive body repair? We can fix that, too.