To restore your car after a collision, it has to undergo a list of bodywork repairs. Behind those sleek panels, dent-free hood, and spot-free side mirrors are hours of technical work. By knowing these stages of car bodywork, you can easily communicate your choice of auto repair shop. It will also help you better understand repair costs and how long it will take for the repairs to be finished.
In this post, we’ll give you a preview of auto body repair steps that happen during a typical collision restoration. Read on to learn how professionals transform your car from being a wreck into a good-as-new ride.
What is body work in cars?
In the automotive industry, bodywork refers to all the repairs and restoration done your car’s exterior. Some of these are painting, dent removal, scratch repair, frame straightening, and more. Basically, any repairs that concern your car’s body is considered bodywork.
When it comes to auto body repair, bodywork is the most common. You’ll probably need it several times throughout the entire time you own a car.
So why is car body work a big deal, you ask? Contrary to what newbie car owners think, restoring your vehicle’s exterior is more than just about aesthetics. It’s also a matter of safety and possibly stretching your ride’s lifespan.
Also, you may get pulled over for driving a damaged car, say you have a bumper that’s hanging by a thread. So instead of waiting for a ticket, it’s best that you invest in quality auto body work when the need arises.
The body shop repair process
If you’re new to the collision repair process, we’ve got you covered here with the basics. Below are the most common processes that take place once you bring your car to an auto body center for repairs.
1. Assessment and Diagnosis
Before any repair is done to your car, the technicians will have to inspect it closely first. They will look for all the possible damage to your car’s body, including dents, scratches, rust, and so on. From there, they can plan and choose the best repair methods.
Aside from that, the result of his diagnosis will let you fully understand the extent of your car’s damage. Sometimes, it may look like a common dent, only for technicians to find out that your entire frame is actually compromised.
Also, an initial assessment will let technicians give you a repair estimate. This way, there won’t be any surprises once it’s time for you to pay.
2. Repairing Dents and Damage
Next, the auto body technicians will start the repair process. For the most part, car owners like you go to repair centers for dents. In this case, technicians will either use traditional methods or the more affordable paintless dent repair or PDR.
Paintless dent repair
With PDR auto bodywork, the dent will be popped back into its original shape. For this, technicians will use specialized tools like suction cups or dent pullers to reshape the metal and fix the damage. The best here is that you don’t have to pay for a paint job since there’s no damage to your car’s finish.
However, some dents and damages can’t be repaired through PDR. If your technician tells you about this, you should expect a more traditional method that costs more.
With traditional repair, your car may need filling and shaping to restore its pre-accident condition. After that, the technician will sand the area and prepare it for painting.
Take note that you may need traditional autobody work if your car suffered from severe damage. For example, your car has a crumpled hood or smashed side panel.
3. Surface Preparation: Priming and Sanding
Once the technicians have successfully reshaped your car’s damaged body, the next step is priming and sanding preparation. As we’ve mentioned earlier, this step isn’t necessary if the damage can be fixed through PDR.
Priming the repaired part of your car’s body is necessary to make sure that the paint will adhere well to the surface. It will also act as added protection against rusting.
Here are the common steps involved in surface preparation:
- The technicians will wipe off any remaining grease, dirt, or wax.
- Priming and sealing.Next, an automotive primer will be applied to your car’s body.
- Once the primer is fully dry, the technician will start sanding the surface to remove any rough patches.
- Final cleaning.The last step of preparation is cleaning any debris or dust from your car’s auto body. This way, it won’t mess up the next step.
4. Painting Techniques and Application
The next step in your car bodywork repair is applying the paint. Take note that this is a very painstaking process since the technicians have to match your vehicle’s paint color. They usually use computer software for paint matching to ensure that it’s the exact shade.
Depending on your budget or your car’s original paint, technicians may either use airbrushing, brush application, or spray guns.
Overall, here’s what happens during a car paint job:
- Color matching.As we’ve mentioned earlier, paint techs will painstakingly match the paint with your vehicle’s original color. They will also look into the factory specifications of your car’s paint.
- Applying a basecoat.Next, they will apply a color-matched base coat to your car’s body. This is applied in thin but multiple coats while ensuring that each coat is dry before applying a new one.
- Applying a clearcoat.After that, your paint technician will apply a clearcoat as a protective layer for the paint. It will also add a glossy finish. Like the basecoat, paint techs will apply the clearcoat multiple times.
- Quality control. The last step of painting is letting the surface dry and inspecting it afterward. If you’re in the shop, you’ll see the technicians closely examining the painted part of your car. They may have to lightly sand some areas or apply additional coats during the final inspection.
5. Polishing and Buffing
The last step on your vehicle’s body work is polishing and buffing. These are the final touches that will make your car’s paint job shine better. It will also eliminate any remaining imperfections after the painting process earlier.
Here’s what you’ll typically see during this stage:
- Selecting the proper tools. First, the technician will choose the right polishing compound and pad that matches your car paint.
- Applying the polishing compound. Next, a polishing compound will be applied to the repaired and painted area using a circular motion.
- Polishing. After that, the technician will proceed to buff the surface to remove water marks, swirls, and any ugly spots on the paint.
- Applying a high-gloss shine. Depending on your car paint, the technician will also perform another buffing session. This time with a new pad and a high-gloss shine.
DIY vs. professional automotive body work
Sure, it’s just a small dent, but do you think DIY is the best route? As much as you get to save some bucks upfront, the real cost may get to you in the long run. If not done right, DIY repairs on car damage could only make matters worse. The worst part is that before you know it, the damage is already costly to repair professionally.
So to help you decide what’s best for bodywork on cars, here are some aspects we want you to consider:
- Assess your skill level. If you’re not much of a handyman, spare yourself – and your car – from the trouble and head straight to an auto body shop.
- The severity of the damage.Severe car damage requires complex repairs that are best done in an actual auto shop. It’s because auto body technicians have the right tools and skills to tackle serious vehicle damage.
- Compare the cost. Do you think it’s worth splurging on repair supplies and tools? If it will cost you several hundred dollars, you’re better off calling a professional auto body shop. Aside from saving money in the long run, you’ll also get better repair quality.
- Your level of commitment. Ask yourself, are you ready for any outcome on your DIY repairs? If you can’t risk damaging your car further, then knowing how to do body work should be left to the experts.
At some point in your car ownership, it’s inevitable that you’ll need automobile body work. After all, cars are not invincible to damage. It can get dented, scratched, smashed, and sustain all sorts of problems from fender-benders.
And when you figure in one, calling a professional is the best choice. Their repairs may cost a fee, but they can guarantee your car’s condition and safety on the road.