Best Practices For Fast Tracking Repairs









By Larry Montanez III, CDA and Jeff Lange, PE

One of the catch phrases in the collision repair industry, that has been used for the past year to year and a half, has been “Fast Track Repairs.”  Fast Tracking repair can mean different things to different parties involved in the collision repair industry.

Insurance Companies see this term as: to repair the vehicle as quickly and cost effectively as possible to limit the amount of costs incurred by the insurer.

Collision Repairers see this term as: to repair a collision damaged vehicle as quickly, efficiently, safely and cost effectively as possible to obtain a greater gross profit.

Consumers see this term as: I get my vehicle back quickly.

Car rental companies see this term as: a loss of profits due to less rental days, but may be an increase in the total amount of vehicles rented per day.

We see this term as: an extremely viable repair process, if the damage is accurately categorized, to repair a collision damaged vehicle as quickly, efficiently and safely to ensure all parties involved in the repairs of a collision damaged vehicle can be satisfied.

The process of Fast Tracking vehicle repairs has been utilized, by some repair facilities, but many are making assumptions as to the actual sustained damage by just visually inspecting a collision damaged vehicle instead of knowing what is actually damaged.  This article will attempt to set up a list of suggestions and/or guidelines on how to perform Fast Track examinations, which will eventually become a Best Practice or Standard.  Let’s look at the procedures or steps to accurately categorize the type of damage a vehicle actually sustained.

  1. Review our EME54 Theory® and follow it.  (see Hammer & Dolly Dec. 2008, Jan. 2009)
  2. Wash the vehicle to visually view the vehicle in a clean condition, plus this is the first step prior to any repair procedure.
  3. Examine the vehicle by walking around the vehicle.
  4. Start in the opposite corner away from the point of impact.
  5. Look at all panel gaps for symmetry.  If any misalignment is found, take notes and inspect further to discover the root cause.
  6. Operate all closure panels for acceptability.  If any component is found to be inoperative or operates unacceptably, take notes and inspect further to discover the root cause.
  7. Take quick measurements of the wheel positions.  For the rear wheels measure from the rear lower edge of the rocker panel to the center of the wheel on the left and right side.  For the front wheels make sure the steering wheel is centered and the front wheels are straight, and then measure from the front lower edge of the rocker panel to the center of the wheel on the left and right side.  If any misalignment is noticed, take notes and inspect further when the vehicle is on a lift and the wheel assembly is removed to discover the root cause.
  8. Obtain the vehicle measurements, from the OEM and or ALLDATA repair information, and use a tape measure and/or tram gauge to verify the longitudinal measurements.  If any misalignment or deviation from the specifications is discovered, take notes and then prepare the vehicle for three dimensional measurements.  If no misalignment is discovered and, taking into account the severity of the sustained damage, the description of the collision event, the information gathered in steps 1-7 and the function of the damaged components, then vehicle might be a candidate for a Fast Track Repair (Skip to Step 11).  If misalignment is discovered go to the next step.
  9. Disassemble the vehicle, as necessary.  Place the vehicle on two post lift or Structural Realignment Apparatus (SRA) and place an electronic measuring system on the vehicle.
  10. Measure the vehicle complete to ascertain the root cause of the misalignment discovered during the quick check process.  Once the root cause of the misalignment is discovered, determine the proper repair process to correct the misalignment (Skip to Step 12).
  11. If no misalignment was discovered, disassembly the vehicle as necessary.
  12. Protect and store all reusable components.  Order all required replacement components, if necessary, and/or send someone to go pick the components up.
  13. Start repairs if replacement components are not necessary and/or required to perform the repairs.  If components are required for repairs, once all the parts arrive, begin repairs.

To better help everyone understand this process, let’s look at two examples of lightly damaged vehicles and how different the analysis was.

2010-nissan-altima

Vehicle 1-2010 Nissan Altima:  Vehicle was impacted directly in the front.  Damaged components are as follows:  Scrapes and gouges to the front bumper fascia (requires replacement), multiple ductile fractures to the foam absorber (requires replacement), fractured grille assembly (requires replacement), multiple rearward deformities to center front edge of the Aluminum hood panel (requires replacement), multiple ductile fractures to the fiber reinforced composite radiator core support (requires replacement).  Our analysis began at 9:00 am.  Examination of the vehicle revealed all panel gaps are acceptable, all closure panels operate properly, quick checks of the front and rear wheel positions are correct and even additional visual inspection of the hood to the left and right fender panels are acceptable even though there was damage to the core support and hood panel.  Visually, there appears to be no structural misalignment.  After obtaining the vehicle underhood dimensions, we opened the hood panel and took multiple tram measurements to verify the condition of the vehicle in the upper body area.  We found no obvious misalignment.  We placed the vehicle on a two post lift and took multiple tram measurements to verify the condition of the vehicle in the lower body area.  We found no obvious misalignment.  We then blueprinted the vehicle and checked with the dealer for the availability of the required replacement components, we were told all the components were in stock and we would have them tomorrow morning.  The dealer is only 30 minutes from the shop so we decided to pick them up.  While our driver was on his way to pick up the replacement components, we disassembled the vehicle, drained the fluids from the radiator, evacuated the Freon, sanded and prepped all adjacent panel for blending, masked the vehicle and bagged it.  The driver arrived back at the shop just before lunch and, after checking the parts, the hood and front bumper fascia were sent to the prep area.  After lunch (1:15 pm) the hood panel and front bumper fascia were prepped for refinishing.  At 3:00 pm the vehicle and components were placed in the booth for refinishing.  The next morning, at 8:30 am, the vehicle was reassembled and prepped for delivery anytime after 12:00 noon.  As you can see, this vehicle was fast tracked and was repaired quickly and safely basically overnight.  Now let’s take a look at another vehicle with identical damage.

2010-volkswagen-passat-sedan

Vehicle 2- a 2010 VW Passat:  Vehicle was impacted directly in the front.  Damaged components are as follows:  Scrapes and gouges to the front bumper fascia (requires replacement), multiple ductile fractures to the foam absorber (requires replacement), cosmetic scrape to the top of the front bumper reinforcement (repairable by sanding and refinishing), fractured grille assembly (requires replacement), multiple rearward deformities to center front edge of the hood panel (requires replacement), multiple ductile fractures to the fiber reinforced composite radiator core support (requires replacement).  Our analysis began at 9:00 am.  Examination of the vehicle revealed all panel gaps are acceptable, all closure panels operate properly, quick checks of the front and rear wheel positions are correct and even additional visual inspection of the hood to the left and right fender panels are acceptable even though there was damage to the core support and hood panel.  Visually, there appears to be no structural misalignment.  After obtaining the vehicle underhood dimensions, we opened the hood panel and took multiple tram measurements to verify the condition of the vehicle in the upper body area.  We found no obvious misalignment.  We placed the vehicle on a two post lift and took multiple tram measurements to verify the condition of the vehicle in the lower body area.  We observed that the right front lower uni-rail, at the front two measuring locations, was longer (outward towards the right) then specifications.  Conversely, we found that the left front lower uni-rail, at the same locations, was shorter then specification (inward towards the right).  With this evidence of misalignment, we decided to investigate the root cause of the misalignment further by placing an electronic three dimensional measuring equipment apparatus under the vehicle to properly measure the vehicle.  After measuring the vehicle electronically, we observed the right front lower uni-rail was over to the right 5mm at point 1 and point 3 and the left front lower uni-rail was in towards the right 5mm at point 1 and low 4mm at points 3 and 4 (See photo 1).  So our analysis proved the left and right front uni-rails of the vehicle were swayed towards the right and that the left front uni-rail was sagged (See photo 2).  With this information, we now know, and can prove, the vehicle has structural damage and requires structural realignment and that this vehicle is not a candidate for Fast Track Repairs.  We now have a decision to make.  Since the replacement components are not needed to realign the vehicle, we can either schedule the vehicle directly on to a SRA and then have the vehicle ready for when the replacement components arrive or we can place the vehicle outside to await the replacement components.  Most importantly, we now know what is damaged, what needs to be repaired, how to attempt the repairs and how long the repairs will take.  To better understand the damage to the above vehicle, please watch our presentation from the AASP-NJ North East Trade Show that was filmed by Collision Hub for Collision University.  You can go to YouTube and search “Triage for Collision Repair” (Collision Hub, Collision University video from the 2011 North East Trade Show, AASP-NJ Sponsored Class by P&L Consultants with Car-o-liner NA or use the URL link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6SmcqOixtw&feature=g-all-u&context=G22367e8FAAAAAAAAJAA).

We hope this article has helped the industry to better understand the kind of damage that can be seen as cosmetic (fast track) or structural, how to prove it and how to lower the overall touch/repair time of the vehicle by working smarter not harder.

Feel free to contact us at anytime if you have any questions that we could help with.

 

Larry Montanez, is a CDA at Lange Technical and Co-Owner of P&L Consultants (www.PnLEstimology.com) with Peter Pratti Jr. P&L Consultants work with collision repair shops on estimating, production, and proper repair procedures. P&L conducts repair workshops on MIG & Resistance Welding, Measuring for Estimating, Advanced Estimating Skills. P&L also conducts investigations for insurers and repair shops for improper repairs, collision reparability, and estimating issues.  P&L can be reached by contacting Larry at Office (718) 891 – 4018; Cell (917) 860 – 3588; Fax (718) 646 – 2733; E-mail larrygoju@aol.com.

Jeff Lange, PE, is president of Lange Technical Services, Ltd. of Deer Park, New York. www.LangeTech.net  Jeff is a Licensed New York State Professional Engineer who specializes in investigating vehicle and component failures. Lange Technical Services, Ltd. is an investigative engineering firm performing forensic vehicle examinations and analysis for accident reconstruction, products liability and insurance issues.   Jeff can be reached at 631-667-6128 or by e-mail at Jeff.Lange@LangeTech.net.