It can take a lot of work to fix a car after an accident, and that means even the best shops can make a mistake here and there. While you may want to get your car back as soon as possible, taking a few moments to inspect your car can make the difference between having a minor problem fixed now or dealing with major issues down the road.
The Initial Inspection
After collision repair, always pick up your car during the day, and make sure it’s outside before you sign off on any repairs. This makes it easier to see problems with the paint. You should also expect the vehicle to be clean, as dirt can hide damage and imperfections. The shop should thoroughly clean any areas they repaired, but they may leave areas that they don’t work on. For example, if you’re involved in a front-end collision, the shop will generally clean the outside of the car and the interior but will usually leave the trunk alone.
Check the panel gaps: The spaces between the body panels on repaired areas should be even.
Open and close the doors, hood and trunk, tailgate or hatch. They should latch and unlatch easily. If you have a motorized hatch or door, make sure it works correctly. You should also open and close all windows to make sure they move freely.
Check the distance between the tires and the edges of the fenders: If the body and frame are properly aligned, these should match side to side.
If a frame straightener was used, the machine can produce a print-out showing the changes made to your car to get it back into shape. It’s a good idea to have this on hand in case there are suspension alignment issues or other problems down the line.
Even the best auto paint job won’t be a 100% match with factory paint, but it should be close enough that it requires a detailed examination to notice the difference.
While it’s easy to match factory paint colors, the paint used on your vehicle has to be tinted slightly to match the fading of the original paint. Look at the edges where repainted and original paint meet. The difference between the paints shouldn’t be noticeable.
You shouldn’t expect the finish to match. It’s common for factory paint jobs to have a defect called “orange peel,” a textured finish that resembles the skin of an orange. This is almost impossible to replicate when repainting the car.
Check for embedded debris, including dust and hair. Contamination doesn’t just look bad, it can cause the paint to flake off.
Be sure to ask how to take care of the new paint. Depending on the curing process, it may be best to avoid waxing for a couple months and car washes for at least a month.
Aside from noting obvious repairs like new airbags, look around to make sure interior components are lined up correctly. If you spot loose parts like an extra nut or washer, be sure to ask about it: it may just be left over from an old component, or a mistake was made installing new parts.
Once you start the engine, check the gauge cluster for warning lights. If the vehicle was properly repaired, all error codes should be cleared in the ECU.
Turn on the lights and make sure they’re all working. Turn on the headlights with the car facing a wall: major headlight alignment issues should be obvious. While checking the lights, don’t forget to try the hazard light switch.
When driving, pay attention to how the car feels. Does the steering react normally? Does the vehicle track straight when braking? These can be signs that the wheels or frame are misaligned.
Do you hear rattling? This can be caused by a misaligned interior panel, a missing clip or a loose section of wiring harness.
Is the coolant temperature normal? Uncorrected front-end damage can lead to coolant leaks or prevent the radiator from getting enough air to remove heat from the coolant.
Long Term Issues
If the doors or trunk aren’t aligned or don’t have good seals, water can leak into the vehicle. Once the paint has cured to a point that it can handle a car wash, spray down your car and look for drips and signs of moisture inside the seals. Getting this fixed now will save you from needing rust repairs, electrical repairs and carpet replacement later on.
If the tires aren’t aligned correctly, it may not be obvious at first, but it can lead to uneven and increased tire wear.
Take the Headache Out of Collision Repair by Using a Reputable Shop
If you want your car fixed right the first time, go to Merton Auto Body for professional collision repair. We’re a preferred shop for most major auto insurance companies, and we stand behind our work by offering a lifetime warranty on repairs. We’re just south of Silver Spring Dr. in Merton, just a short drive from Lisbon, North Lake, and Pewaukee.