The Body Shop of the Future is Here, Right Now

Step into a certified collision repair center, and you’ll see that it’s not your father’s body shop. Capabilities of the shop and technicians have moved waaay beyond standards of a few years ago. Here are three important ways that collision repair services have changed for the better.

New Materials and Manufacturing Methods

Compare the materials used a few years ago to what we use nowadays. You’ll see a huge difference in the use of:

  • Lighter-weight metals. Car designers are constantly looking for materials that are light, strong, resist rust and cost less to manufacture. That’s why so many components in vehicle chassis, power trains, suspensions and interiors are now made from lightweight steel or aluminum alloys.
  • Composites. In this competitive battle with metals manufacturers design, supply and use composites in vehicles to reduce their weight. Composites must perform better and be produced at a lower cost than metals. Right now, useful composites include glass fiber-reinforced and carbon fiber-reinforced.
  • Joining methods. Modern lightweight designs and materials require new joining methods to literally keep all the pieces of your vehicle together. Adhesive bonding joins lighter-weight metals and composites. They’re used when traditional methods such as welding don’t.

These and other changes affect how repair technicians do their jobs and the equipment they use.

Sophisticated Tools and Methods

Collision repair now requires more and different technology than they did even several years ago. In addition to all the usual services you’re familiar with, modern repair centers now must support:

  • Ongoing communications. Building customer trust means keeping them informed throughout the repair process. Often, that means using software that enhances the accuracy of estimates and provides ongoing messaging throughout the repair process.
  • Repair of network-connected, more customized vehicles. These days, technicians often reach for their tablets as often as their wrench. That’s because they must repair or update backup sensors, navigation systems, on-board computers and other digital electronics. Many of these systems might need to be reset or recalibrated rather than replaced.
  • Technician training. For some time now, technicians have been plugging in their scanning tool to check vehicle systems. But the pace of change will continue to accelerate, especially since the use of sophisticated scanning equipment and software have become standard for auto-repair.

Repair centers must invest in the equipment and training that make these new capabilities possible. And speaking of training, repair techs have stepped into a new world, too.

Improved Capabilities in a High-Tech Environment

Collision repair techs are becoming highly skilled professionals, who work on highly sophisticated automobiles packed with loads of technology. This affects what your tech needs to know and do. Here’s a short list of more important skills:

  • Working well with customers. Leading customers through the repair process and keeping them informed.
  • New car construction methods. Techs need to update their techniques. Aluminum is becoming the metal of choice for many uses. But experienced technicians are accustomed to working on steel cars. So, many techs must learn new fabrication methods.
  • Joining techniques. Body shops face many more sophisticated combinations of metal and composite materials. Techs must invisibly weld very different substrates and apply a growing number of adhesives to these materials.
  • Control module restoration. As part of collision repair, techs must learn to restore and update the latest factory programming for engine control modules GPS, and all types of user-related vehicle preferences and contact information.

In the months to come, you’ll inevitably hear about any number of tech doo-dads. But basic 21st century collision repair will always include these basic elements: well-trained technicians operating in certified, well-equipped centers and managers who keep an eye out for better ways to serve customers.

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