Sunday, 30 September 2007 17:00

Frame Systems: Measuring for Dollars

Written by Robert Hornedo
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If you’re not thoroughly assessing vehicle damage, a lot of money is being left on the table and you are not doing your job. You are in business to repair damaged vehicles, however, many shop owners and estimators leave a good portion of the damage untouched, unpaid for, and perhaps jeopardizing your customers.

Not noticing the “induced and secondary” damage that may be related to the primary impact is careless and irresponsible not to mention costing money and exposing yourself to future loses via comebacks and or lawsuits.

Vehicle design is unforgiving

Welding dissimilar metals properly is a science in itself. Certified welders may not even know how to properly weld the complex metals of the vehicles needing repair. Electronic components on the vehicles are another specialized field. Fiber optic cabling, high voltage batteries and a host of other electronics can boggle the minds of many engineers. And keep in mind the “energy management” we must rebuild into the vehicle structures.

Energy absorbing structures must be reengineered in the body shop for proper energy management and ai bag timing. An airbag deploying just a fraction of a second off can potentially cause more occupant injury than the crash energy itself.

Knowledge of this technology is powerful and enables one to estimate damage thoroughly and sets a standard for the techs to repair the vehicle completely. And of course, the knowledge enables you to charge for everything required to properly repair the vehicle to manufacturer’s standards and procedures. I-CAR has an excellent compilation of all the manufactures that offer technical repair procedures online (

Need new skill sets

Properly identifying all the damage requires a new set of skills that need to be honed and taken seriously.

It’s a prodigious task that can make you or break you. However, this presents an opportunity to take your shop to another level of expertise which, with a keen eye and the proper use of new tools available in the industry, you can do a complete analysis of the damage the first time around. This is a good argument for taking advanced classes to know all about the new technologies now being used on vehicles.

Measure before estimating

Primary damage is easy to identify. It’s the secondary and inertia damage that is a bit tricky. The right tool can make it a breeze. And with the right tools you can document the damage, document the repair, repair to the +- 1 mm required by many of today’s vehicle manufacturers, and reduce the amount of time spent replacing suspension components until you have it right.

Oh, by the way, an acceptable wheel alignment does not mean you have the structure corrected dimensionally nor structurally sound. Measuring the vehicle to assess damage is a simple four step process:

        1. Lift vehicle onto a two-post lift.

        2. Measure the entire vehicle front to back with an electronic measuring system (Car-O-Tronic, Velocity just to mention two of the most popular).

        3. Digitally photograph the vehicle damage.

        4. Print your findings and write a complete estimate.


Does it really pay?

Some might argue that it doesn’t pay to measure all vehicles. And particularly when the insurance company involved says, “we are not going to pay for it because we don’t see any damage.  It was a light hit.” If a bumper needs to be removed for repair, it justifies measuring the vehicle. We need only find one structural control point out of manufacturer’s recommendations and your time and energy was worth it.

Keep in mind the “energy management” discussed above. One millimeter out of manufacturer’s recommendations could alter the airbag timing. If you don’t find damage, then great. At least you know for sure and you were thorough, complete and professional. You might not get paid to measure some vehicles where damage was not found and so you lost some time, but you didn’t expose yourself to a potential lawsuit by leaving damage you may not have noticed otherwise. And then you will be getting paid for many other vehicles where damage is found that otherwise would have been left untouched.  The inherent vehicle designs make measuring all vehicles a sure bet in your favor. 

What to invest?

How much time and money do you spend to get work into your shop? Advertising, outside sales reps, and marketing to insurance companies is expensive and time consuming. Don’t stop doing what is already working for you, I do suggest adding an element to your work processes.

        Walk your parking lot and count how many vehicles are already there. Add up the total number of frame hours per vehicle and multiply by 30%.

        For example:

        •25 vehicles total in process or are waiting to be repaired

        •150 hours (6 hours frame time each on average not including set-up time)

        •150 hours times 30% = 45.0 more frame time hours

        •45.0 hours times your labor rate (45.0 hours x $55.00) = $2,475

That’s $2,475 more net profit possible with just 25 vehicles.

It’s a lot easier to find more hours with the vehicles you already have to repair, than it is to find more vehicles to repair. Think about it for a moment. Do the above math by figuring the number of vehicles you repair each month, each year and notice how much money and damage has been potentially left behind. The above example is a small shop. Adjust the numbers for your shop accordingly.

A new path

Once you make the commitment to measure all vehicles, you will be on the path to a higher net profit, a complete repair, fewer comebacks, lower receivables, happier customers including insurance companies, higher employee retention, and phenomenal personal satisfaction.

Even if only the bumper cover needs repair, measure it. More often than not, you will be glad you did. Measuring For Dollars is a real method that, with commitment, can work for you.


Photo caption

Diagnose suspension damage up front with electronic

Measuring systems to reduce supplements (photo courtesy of Car-O-Liner Co.)


Photo caption

Damage Analysis system on two post lift

(photo courtesy of Car-O-Liner Co.)

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