Auto Body Repair Questions and Answers

What do I need to know in the event of an accident?
In the event of an injury, call 911 immediately. If you are able to get the responsible party’s drivers license information and proof of insurance at the scene, it can speed the claims process significantly. Now, on to your car . . . Be careful . . . Just because a car will move under its own power does not make it ‘drivable’ . . . Front end damage, cooling system issues, broken glass, damaged lights, wheel / tire contact . . . If there is any doubt, it is always better to have it towed! (You’ll find our recommended towing solutions under ‘resources’). Law enforcement usually has a contracted tow company remove the car from the scene. If you instruct the tow truck driver to take it to 8809 Mission Gorge Rd. in Santee, it may save you or the insurance company the cost of a second tow. When the accident scene drama is all under control, you should always call your insurance company. If you are a return customer or a new referral, you may simply tell them “Philip Thearle’s Autowerks is going to repair my car” . . . Believe me, they all know us. All we’ll need is a claim number and we will handle things from there.


I see all those expensive imported automobiles . . . Do you fix my kind of car?
In our formative years in the early 80’s, we specialized in Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche exclusively. As me matured, we added Volvo, Saab, Audi, Aston-Martin, Land Rover, Jaguar and finally the big 3 from Japan . . . Lexus, Acura and Infiniti. Eventually, we took enough static from our high-end clients complaining that we were sending them away with their ‘normal’ cars and trucks, that we developed specialized teams in order to accommodate all comers. The good news for our customers is that we have only one quality level.


Do you get along with my insurance company?
We generally do. We have enjoyed long term relationships with the majority of major insurers. Every one of them will cover the cost of restoring your car back to true ‘pre-accident’ condition and without a lot of drama. We successfully arm wrestle with the others on your behalf to ensure that you receive exactly what you deserve.


Who should write the original estimate?
We prefer to own the responsibility for the original estimate; however some insurers may ask you to go through their drive-in claims center or even to another repair shop where they have a representative on site to create this document. This is never a problem . . . Just get their estimate, schedule the repairs with us and bring your car and their estimate in with you. If they have given you a check, bring it as well and they will change the ‘payee’ and the amount as necessary. It’s pretty simple. Please do not be concerned if their estimate does not represent your opinion of the damage. Explain your concerns to our customer service staff when you bring it in and the actual methodology and costs will be revealed after disassembly and during preparation of the supplement. Note: if the insurer involved is not on our list of top performers and you like the idea of having a competent advocate during this process, we are uniquely qualified. This strength has been elemental to our exponential growth and a prime contributor to customer satisfaction.


I’m being directed to another shop by the insurance company . . . What are my legal rights?
The short answer is this: California law specifically states that the consumer has the right to have his / her car repaired by the shop of their choice. Period! In the current business environment, however, that may not always be presented as ‘the case’. Consumers are frequently referred or ‘steered’ by an insurer to a specific shop or group of shops, and while we have forged strong relationships with most of the region’s top insurers, some ‘fringe’ insurers may illegally attempt to direct you away from us. Some of their ‘word tract’ methodology purposely suggests that there’s ‘trouble ahead’. Specifically, their inferences range from ‘you will have to pay any costs which exceed our estimate out of your own pocket’ to ‘we offer a lifetime warranty if you go to shop x’. Or you may hear ‘they’re not on our approved list’, ‘they’re too expensive’ or even that ‘your car can be fixed much faster at one of our network shops’.
As our client, this is your ‘reality’ . . . Over the last twenty-five years, Philip Thearle’s Autowerks has never once charged a customer for any item we were unsuccessful in negotiating for under the terms of their contract and we promise not to start with you. The bulletproof details of our lifetime limited warranty are clearly stated on our homepage. Finally, any delays incumbent to the negotiation process with a non-listed insurer will be forgotten far quicker than the lasting nightmare caused by a ‘much faster’ but sub-standard repair. We are rated ‘A+’ by the Better Business Bureau. Remember . . . It’s your car . . . It’s your family . . . It’s your money . . . And it is definitely your choice !


What about a rental car?
Hertz rent-a-car has an office here on site which makes things much easier and you don’t have to wait around for someone to pick you up. Clean, fueled cars are immediately available and are simply returned after the completion of repairs. Painless!


Do I still have to chase around and get three estimates?
No, California law currently states that you only need one estimate from the shop of your choice . . . You don’t really even need that unless the responsible party wants to pay for the damage ‘out of pocket’. More on that issue next. Right now, your biggest challenge is to find a reputable repair facility to whom you can entrust the future safety of your family and the integrity of your second largest investment. Come in and ask for a shop tour and let our state-of-the-art facility do the talking. If you elect to have us repair your car, simply bring it in and we will assist you throughout the process.


The responsible party wants to pay for the damage ‘out-of-pocket’. What should I do?
You should be very cautious, not only because those are often the first words out of an uninsured motorist’s mouth, but because of the difficulty in determining the extent of the damage without benefit of disassembling and disabling your car. Most insurers want to see the car prior to disassembly, which forces a ‘catch 22’ situation. Under the terms of your contract, you have to call your insurer to protect yourself just in case the responsible party suddenly ‘goes sideways’ when the actual cost of repairs are determined.


Why do estimates for the same damage vary so much?
Most estimates are an illusion . . . Primarily because the actual cost of repairs cannot be established until the car has been disassembled and the extent of the actual damage has been fully documented. Sometimes, if a repairer senses that you are ‘shopping’, they may understate the damage in an effort to get the job . . . Others may try to cover all possible eventualities and consequently read more into a project than really exists.


Can you explain the ‘deductible’ portion of my policy?
Your deductible is very much like a ‘co-pay’ in the health insurance arena. An insured pays their deductible directly to us at the completion of the repairs and prior to delivery. This is a non-issue for claimants.


What do the terms ‘betterment’ and ‘depreciation’ refer to?
‘Betterment’ is used to identify parts, in the case of some suspension components, tires and batteries, that show measurable wear or have a finite life span. The insurance company can by law, recover that portion of the replacement cost which had been used at the time of the accident. For instance, a tire which showed 50% remaining tread depth or a battery with a four year warranty and was two years from date of purchase would require that the customer pay for 50% of the replacement cost of the part itself plus tax. Depreciation is seldom seen these days but could be applied to a vandalized paint finish or cut convertible top, for instance. The insurance company is responsible for making the majority of these determinations but most insurance policies spell out the details.


I am the insured in this matter . . . Can you ‘save’ or ‘shave’ my deductable?
Never, and neither can any other honest repairer. The deductable is an elemental part of the legal contract with your insurance company. If you ‘successfully’ negotiate with a repair facility to waive or decrease it, you simply reveal that you are willing to disregard the terms of your legal contract. When you do so, you deliver a message that ‘anything goes’ and, since profit margins in this industry are frequently below five percent, the money, as they say, has to come from somewhere. You place yourself at the mercy of an unethical repairer who will figure some way to get that money back into the profit column. Think about this . . . If you were dissatisfied with the repair for some reason, who could you then turn to? Never a good game.


What are O.E.M. Parts?
This refers to parts and components supplied by an original equipment manufacturer directly to the car manufacturer who, in most instances simply assembles those components into what becomes their finished product.


What are ‘aftermarket’ parts and how do they differ from the originals?
These are usually manufactured ‘offshore’ without any connection to the O.E.M. Manufacturer and are commonly referred to as ‘replicas’, ‘knock-offs’ and other far more vulgar terms by our industry. While the fit, finish and corrosion protection inherent to these parts have historically been suspect, some insurers have begun to specify their usage right in their clients policies, leaving the consumer with only two options . . . Accept them ‘as-is’ or pay the difference in price to ‘upgrade’ to O.E.M. The directive to ‘read the fine print’ has never before been more important. We still believe that ‘the original is still the greatest’.


What are ‘LKQ’ parts?
We’re talking ‘used’, ‘junk yard’, ‘experienced’ or ‘pre-owned’ parts here. Any way you slice it, they can offer a far better solution than ‘aftermarket’ (see above). The difficulty comes in trying to source quality comparable parts with ‘same year or newer’ status in a timely manner.


So, why should I choose to you repair my car?
We have been in the business for over twenty-five years and have successfully completed nearly fifty thousand repairs. We are held in the highest regard by our many customers, dealer partners and the better insurance companies and are well known throughout southern California for consistently producing the highest quality finished product available. It is really pretty simple . . . Why would you settle for anything but the best?


Everyone says they are ‘the best’ . . . Who else believes in you?
The most profound answer is that our satisfied customers provide us with the majority of our new and return business via word-of-mouth, a phenomenon which has enabled us to grow this company without benefit of so much as a single yellow page ad. We have been exclusively referred by Cunningham BMW for twenty plus years and are also the preferred provider for Bob Baker Lexus, Toyota of El Cajon’s Santee location and many independent repair shops. The Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) and Allstate insurance company frequently rate us ‘number one’ based on their published customer satisfaction index (C.S.I.) Scores among their San Diego county preferred provider network. We are also a P.P.O. To A.I.G. Private Client Group, Unitrin and E-surance.


What about my personal belongings?
While we like to think we are surrounded by honest people, we still urge you to remove anything of value when you drop your car off for repairs. We have bags and trash cans available and staff ready to assist you. Many projects require a visit to a dealership, or some other resource and are temporarily out of our custody. It doesn’t matter how ‘perfect’ or how ‘on time’ the repair job is, your opinion of us can be forever tarnished by the mere absence or ‘relocation’ of some loose change left in the car. With our reputation on the line, we just can’t afford to go there. Thank you for understanding.


How long will the repairs to my vehicle take?
The yardstick used by insurers and repairers alike used to be ‘$1000 worth of repairs per week’. A more modern metric usually revolves around an agreed number of hours which a repairer commits to devote to your car . . . Usually 3.2 to 4 hours per day. We usually beat these still somewhat arbitrary parameters by a significant margin after the following variables have been eliminated: when the car has been fully disassembled, an accurate estimate and repair plan are produced, the arrival date for the parts is confirmed . . . Then and only then can a repair facility give a projected delivery date that is credible. While we have developed unique methodology to streamline and accurately execute our parts procurement process, we are still at the mercy of the parts manufacturers and their distributors.


How does the payment process work and what are your business rules?
Insured’s usually receive partial payments during the process . . . Claimants sometimes do as well. As an insured the same rules will apply plus you will be expected to pay us the deductable when your car is ready for delivery. Please do not cash these checks or drafts even though they are made out to you, as they really belong to your car and we’ll expect you to surrender them as you receive them. If you deposit an insurance draft or check, you will be expected to replace it with guaranteed funds in the form of a cashier’s check.


How does the payment process work and what are your business rules?
Insured’s usually receive partial payments during the process . . . Claimants sometimes do as well. As an insured the same rules will apply plus you will be expected to pay us the deductable when your car is ready for delivery. Please do not cash these checks or drafts even though they are made out to you, as they really belong to your car and we’ll expect you to surrender them as you receive them. If you deposit an insurance draft or check, you will be expected to replace it with guaranteed funds in the form of a cashier’s check.Here’s how the credit card game goes . . . Believe it or not, ‘rewards’ type cards can cost the merchant as much as 15 percent in fees. That does not play well with our incredibly lean profit margins and we simply can’t accept them. We will accept personal checks with proper I.D., balance verification and Visa, Master Card and debit cards for deductibles, betterments and customer pay jobs under a thousand dollars within the above stated limitations. To maintain profitability, we cannot allow replacement of insurance checks or drafts with personal checks or credit card vouchers. Again, if deposited by the customer, they must be replaced with certified funds in the form of a cashier’s check.

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