Answering Common Questions About Auto Collision Repairs

Repairing your car after an accident is different than performing routine maintenance. It usually entails bodywork, and your insurance company is involved in the process. You may have some unanswered questions, which we’ll strive to address here.

What do I do if my car isn’t drivable?

Moderate to severe accidents may render your vehicle undrivable. If you’re in Chicago, we recommend calling Belmont Kolmar at (773) 725-8800, and they will tow your car directly to B&L Automotive Repairs.

How soon can the repair begin?

First, bring your car to us between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM for an estimate, no appointment necessary. The process takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Then, we’ll schedule an appointment for your vehicle repair.

Before we can get started, we need you to sign an authorization form and give us the claim number your insurance company issued when you reported the accident. We also collect a 10 to 20 percent deposit on any parts that must be ordered.

What if I need a ride?

While your car is being repaired, you can get around with a rental car. We work with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which you can contact at (773) 478-3310. Also, be sure to call your insurance provider and ask if your policy includes a free rental car.

What if my car is totaled?

When the cost to repair your vehicle is more than the car is worth, it’s considered totaled. In this case, you have three options. You can:

  • Accept payment from your insurance company for the value of the car (minus the deductible) and hand the vehicle over to them.
  • Accept payment for the value of the car and pay for the rest of the repair out of pocket.
  • Accept a lower payment and keep the wrecked car either to fix up as a hobby or to sell as scrap.

Will new paint match the rest of my car?

Yes. Our auto paint technicians use computerized paint matching technology. The first option is to look up the paint color using the VIN. If you have a custom paint job, technicians can use a spectrophotometer to measure the wavelength of light reflected off the car.

With this information in the computer, sophisticated software calculates the exact pigment formula needed to reproduce the color. To ensure accuracy, the technician sprays a sample onto a card. After making any final adjustments, the technician paints the replacement part of your car for an exact duplicate of the existing color.

Do I need to take any precautions with the new paint finish?

Once your vehicle is repaired and ready for pickup, you can drive it immediately. Feel free to wash it by hand any time, but avoid commercial car washes for the next few weeks. Also, avoid waxing the vehicle for three months to allow the paint to set completely.

For answers to any of your remaining questions about auto collision repair, please contact B&L Automotive Repairs in Chicago at (773) 463-1622.

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Tips for Choosing an Auto Collision Repair Shop

Your car was just damaged in an accident, and now you’re scrambling to find an auto collision repair shop in Chicago to perform the repair. Here are the top ways to choose a reputable, convenient place to have your car fixed.

  • Read customer reviews: Search for “auto collision repair shop” online and read the reviews for the companies that come up. Learning about other people’s experiences and how a company resolves issues tells you a lot about how things might go for you.
  • Call friends and family: If you have a hard time trusting strangers on the internet, call around to friends and family who live nearby and have experience working with auto collision repair shops in Chicago. Find out whom they recommend (and whom to avoid) for the repair work you need.
  • Consider the location: For convenience, hone in on shops near your home or work. This way, you don’t have to travel far to drop off and pick up your car.
  • Compare estimates: This involves driving (or towing) your car from shop to shop, but the effort could be worth it to save some money. While you want to avoid being overcharged, the lowest estimate isn’t necessarily the best choice. You want to balance repair quality and price to obtain the best
  • Ask about licenses and certifications: Strict standards regulate the auto body repair industry, so ask any shop you’re considering to prove their credentials. This ensures the best practices and up-to-date equipment are being used to repair your vehicle.
  • Find out what kinds of body parts the shop uses: The options include new, used and aftermarket. New parts generally have the highest quality, but used parts may result in savings. Depending on what part of the car needs to be fixed, aftermarket parts could provide the best value. They’re usually far less costly than new parts from the original manufacturer, and they often perform the same.
  • Ask about paint match technology: If you’re having part of your car repainted, find out how the job is done. Sophisticated spectrophotometer technology and computer software are the most effective tools to get an accurate color match. Then, applying multiple coats and finishing the job with a clear topcoat provide the most professional results.
  • Follow your instincts: When you walk in the front door of an auto collision repair shop, pay attention to the atmosphere. If the office is cluttered or staff members don’t treat you respectfully, this might reflect the level of work and type of experience you can expect to receive. If your instincts tell you something is shady, take your business elsewhere.

For reliable, affordable auto collision repair in Chicago, turn to B&L Automotive Repairs. We are fully certified and licensed, with good customer reviews and competitive rates. We use high-quality parts and painting techniques to ensure the best outcome from our work. To learn more about us, or to request an estimate, please contact us at (773) 463-1622.

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How to Document Car Accident Damage

The aftermath of a car accident can be overwhelming. After you’ve checked yourself for injuries, you need to call the police, your insurance company, a tow truck and your loved ones to tell them you’re all right. Then, you’ll need to exchange contact and insurance information with any other drivers involved in the accident. Among all the chaos, it’s vital that you don’t forget to document the collision for insurance purposes. Here’s what to do.

Speak with the Police

Write down the name and badge number of all officers who report to the scene. Ask where you can obtain a copy of the accident report at a later time. Your insurance company may ask to see the report when you file your claim.

Talk to Witnesses and the People Involved

In addition to exchanging information with the other driver, write down the names, phone numbers and addresses of all other parties involved, including the passengers of the other vehicle and any witnesses present.

Take Pictures

Photos from the scene of the accident can make it easier for your insurance company to see what happened. Photos also serve as evidence in court. They may help determine fault and show the extent of the property damage and any injuries that occurred. Here’s what to take pictures of after a car accident:

  • Property damage: Photograph any damage that your car, other cars and surrounding objects sustained in the crash, as well as any skid marks, debris or other evidence that demonstrates the severity of the impact.
  • Injuries: Take pictures of bumps, cuts, scrapes and other visible injuries while still at the scene. Some injuries, such as bruises and swelling, may not show up immediately, so remember to photograph them later.
  • Details about the other car and driver: Document the make, model and license plate number of all vehicles involved. Also take pictures of the driver’s license, insurance and registration information of the other driver.
  • The surrounding scene: Not only does this prove where the accident took place, but it can also show why the accident occurred. For instance, overgrown shrubs may obstruct a stop sign, or a curve in the road could make it difficult to see oncoming traffic. Pictures of nearby businesses also remind you whom to contact if you choose to request security footage that may have filmed the accident.

If you are unable to document the scene because of severe injuries, have another person take pictures for you. If you can’t reach a nearby friend or family member to help, plan to photograph the damages later. Of course, pictures taken at the time of the accident are always preferable.

Once everyone has all the information they need from the scene of the accident, the next step is to start the process of repairing your car. B&L Automotive Repairs offers free estimates for collision repair in Chicago, no appointment required. Stop by after your accident or call us at (773) 463-1622 for more information.

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Dealing with Your Car Insurance Company After a Collision

As if getting into an accident isn’t bad enough, now you have to deal with your car insurance company to agree upon a fair payment that will cover the cost of repairing the vehicle. Your insurer deals with this every day, but this is likely only the first or second time you’ve had to wrestle with such negotiations. Follow this advice to empower yourself when speaking with your insurance company after a collision.

Research Repair Costs

When you file a claim, an adjuster is assigned to your case. This person’s job is to determine how much it will cost to fix your car, and then make you a payment offer. To help you assess whether you’re being offered enough to cover the costs, you may want to get a repair estimate from a trusted body shop in Chicago.

Negotiate Fairly

If the offer you’re given is below the repair estimates you received, you don’t have to accept it. You can negotiate to seek a better settlement. Have a figure in mind, as well as the lowest amount you would accept, with the goal of engaging constructively with your insurance company and avoiding legal action.

Beware of “Betterment”

Your adjuster might argue that installing new parts on your older vehicle increases its value. As a result, you may receive a lower payment offer that reflects the perceived increase in value. To counter betterment claims, you need to prove the parts don’t increase the car’s worth with testimony from your mechanic or an expert witness.

Working with a Total Loss

Moderate to severe damage may total your car, meaning the cost to repair it exceeds its market value. To argue this claim, you need to prove the car is worth more than the adjuster determined, such as by showing evidence that the aftermarket modifications you’ve made raise the car’s worth.

If the assessment that your car is totaled seems fair, you can take what your insurance company is offering and either pay for the remaining repair costs out of pocket or hand over the car to your insurer. You might also have the option of accepting a lower settlement and keeping the car, allowing you to repair it as a hobby or sell it for scrap.

Confirm the Offer in Writing

Once negotiations are complete, request written confirmation from your insurance company of the offer you accepted. This document should succinctly outline the settlement amount and what funds are being used to repair the vehicle, if applicable.

Gear up for Higher Premiums

If you don’t have accident forgiveness, or you receive citations for multiple offenses, your premiums might go up by 50 to 80 percent. You can change insurers at any time, but don’t expect to find a lower rate if you were in an at-fault accident.

To request a collision repair estimate, please contact B&L Automotive Repairs at (773) 463-1622. We’ll work with your insurance company to facilitate the claims process and relieve some of the pressure during this stressful time.

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Tips for Driving Safely in the Spring

The worst of winter weather driving may be behind us, but spring has its own unique set of hazards to watch out for, from rain to wildlife to construction work. Follow these tips to help you drive safely this spring.

  • Watch for pedestrians: The warming weather means more people are out and about. Be watchful at intersections, especially near residential, shopping and recreational areas where more people are likely to travel on foot.
  • Share the road: Two-wheeled vehicles, including motorcycles and bikes, make a comeback in the spring. They offer a fun, open-air way to get around, but their smaller size makes them more difficult for drivers to see. Be extra vigilant about checking your blind spot for cyclists when turning, merging or changing lanes.
  • Be patient in work zones: Construction and road repair begin in earnest every spring, creating frustrating work zones. The key is to slow down, stay calm and avoid distractions. It’s also wise to leave your house a few minutes early if you know you’ll be driving through construction.
  • Know how to handle severe weather: April showers might bring May flowers, but they also bring hazardous driving conditions. If hail or torrential rain hits while you’re on the road, pull over and seek shelter under a covered area, if possible. Also, be prepared to resume winter driving techniques – such as slowing down and increasing your following distance – if freezing temperatures return temporarily.
  • Stay alert for wildlife on the road: Bears, deer and other animals are more active in the spring, so be watchful, especially when driving through rural or mountainous areas.
  • Dodge potholes: The freeze/thaw cycle may have caused large potholes to form in some places over the winter. Avoid driving through these whenever possible to prevent throwing your wheels out of alignment.
  • Don’t drive through water: Go around large puddles to avoid impairing your brakes, splashing your windshield and hydroplaning. If the road appears flooded, never attempt to drive through it. According to The Weather Network, just six inches of water is enough to stall an engine. A foot of fast-moving water can carry a small car away, and two feet is enough to make SUVs and trucks float off.
  • Keep your tires inflated: Full tires have better traction in wet conditions and withstand the impact of driving through potholes more effectively. Check the driver’s side door jamb to see the recommended pounds per square inch of air pressure your tires need.

Despite your best efforts to drive carefully, you may still get in an accident this spring. If you do, bring your car to B&L Automotive Repairs in Chicago. We have nearly 30 years of experience providing fast, reliable service to our customers. Our team has access to the latest diagnostic and repair technologies, making us confident that we can meet your needs no matter the make and model of your car. For more information, or to schedule collision repair, please contact us at (773) 463-1622.

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Understanding Your Car’s Wheel Alignment

When you bring your vehicle to a body shop after a car collision, one of the issues the technician will check is your wheel alignment. It’s very common for an accident to throw off the wheel alignment. Even driving over a pothole or hitting a curb can adversely affect it. It’s important to maintain the proper wheel alignment for safety’s sake. A misaligned car can develop vibrations that you’ll notice in the steering wheel. Plus, wheel alignments can lead to uneven wear and tear, and poor vehicle performance. Here’s a look at some of the many factors that determine wheel alignment.

Caster

When you’re looking at your car from the side, the caster is the degree of tilt of the upper point of the steering axis. The tilt can be either positive (backward tilt) or negative (forward tilt). The vehicle height will affect the caster. For example, if there’s a great deal of weight in the trunk, the front suspension will have a positive caster.

Camber

Imagine yourself standing in front of your vehicle. Camber is the degree to which the wheels would tilt to either side. If the top of the wheel is tilting toward the outside of the vehicle, it has a positive camber. If the top of the wheel tilts to the inside, the camber is negative. If the camber is either too positive or too negative, the tires will wear out unevenly and prematurely.

Toe

Stand up and look down at your feet. Rotate your feet inward slightly so that the toes are leaning towards each other. If your feet were your tires, this inward tilt would be referred to as a positive toe. Rotate your feet so that the toes on each foot are pointing away from your body. On a car, this would be a negative toe. The toe of the wheels must be correct in order to prevent premature tire wear and steering instability.

Bring your car to B&L Automotive Repairs, Inc. for a total, post-accident evaluation. We are a certified collision center serving Chicago since 1978. Give us a call today at (773) 463-1622, and find out for yourself why so many Chicagoans choose us for their car repairs.

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How Driving in Salt Damages your Car

When ice and snow cover the roads, most of us are delighted to see crews out clearing them and making them safe to travel. Salt and sand are particularly helpful on wintry roads because these elements combined help to melt the frozen surfaces and give vehicles extra traction. Road salt lowers water’s freezing point, chemically turning ice back into water to allow tires to reach the pavement that had been covered in ice. Sand added to the salt helps it to stick to the ice, and also lends traction to passing vehicles. This makes the roads much safer to drive and reduces your risk of an accident. If you’re out driving in wintry conditions, though, it’s important to make sure you wash all of that salty sand off of your car when you get off the road. Failing to do so can lead to serious damage to your vehicle.

Just as salt chemically changes ice into water, it creates chemical reactions on your vehicle. Rust is the biggest problem with salt on a car, and that can really take a toll on your paint job. Even worse, the impact of rust on a vehicle is far deeper than merely cosmetic. In fact, rust can create a wide range of problems for a car, including hydraulic brake system leaks and damage to the exhaust system, subframe, coil springs, and muffler.

Why does this happen? The way cars and trucks are constructed leaves the underbody open and exposed. When they pass over ice that’s been salted, those open, vulnerable areas can be damaged by the salt. You may not even notice the damage if you’re not paying attention, because it’s under the car and can be difficult to see. Many times, vehicles that have been out on salt-treated roads are left in a garage, with ice, snow, and salt from the roadways stuck to their underneath side, rotting away the components of the car that are exposed there.

How can you prevent this damage? After driving, head for a car wash to rinse off the damaging salt, sand, and water. Note: It’s not enough to simply drive through the car wash. You have to make sure the car wash has an under-spray, or a handheld spray that you can use to rinse the bottom of your car. In addition, there are some steps you can take before the icy season arrives, to protect your car before it comes into contact with damaging salt.

  • Apply some wax. It’s true that most of the damage occurs underneath the vehicle, but it doesn’t hurt to protect the rest of your vehicle, too. Giving it a good coat of wax before wintry weather hits can help protect your paint job from corrosion.
  • Head to a collision shop for some expert protection. The professionals at a collision shop can provide protection using an oil solution pre-treatment. Spraying it on your vehicle’s exposed undercarriage provides a coating that prevents salt, sand, and water from sticking to the metal parts of your car.
  • Steer clear of danger zones. If you can avoid puddles and snow plow trucks, you’ll be ahead of the game. Puddles are often full of salt, and if you’re the closest vehicle to the snow plow, you’ll be the first to hit that fresh, new layer of salt.
  • Have your car inspected before the winter arrives. Having a pre-winter inspection is important for many different reasons, including protection from salt. Your mechanic can give your car a once-over and make sure you head into winter with a vehicle that’s fully functional and safe to drive. Assessing wear and tear before heading into wintry weather gives you a good starting point, and having all your systems examined and maintained before the cold strikes is a good way to make sure you don’t get stuck in a bad situation.

Before the next winter storm hits, talk to us at B&L Automotive Repairs, so that we can help you protect your vehicle from the damaging effects of salt on the roads. If winter weather and salted roads have already taken a toll on your vehicle, B&L Automotive Repairs can help fix your paint job and repair the damage. At B&L Automotive Repairs, we have 29 years of experience handling every kind of body and mechanical repair. Our expert staff is continually trained and updated, and our state-of-the-art equipment affords them the opportunity to serve you with the highest level of expertise. No matter what make and model you drive, or which insurance company you use, we will provide fast and reliable service to make sure your needs are met. Call us today at (773) 463-1622, or contact us through our website for more information.

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When the Car Seems Fine: Should you Keep Driving after an Accident?

Especially in winter, when the roads are slick and treacherous, it’s easy to get involved in a minor fender bender. Once you’ve exchanged information with the other driver, established that your vehicle looks ok, and checked yourself for signs of injury, it can be tempting just to drive away and try to forget it ever happened. The question is: should you?

The law on this can be confusing. If there’s no personal injury or fatality, and the damage to the cars is minimal, it’s probably fine to just talk to the other driver without informing the police, as long as both drivers are insured. If one of you isn’t insured, you’ll need to report the accident. Similarly, if someone is injured, the police need to know.

Perhaps a bigger question is whether your car is in good enough shape to continue driving. Before you even think about getting back on the road, you’ll need to give your car a thorough once-over. Make sure the headlights, turn signals, and brake lights are functioning properly, and that your license plates are securely attached. Check to see if your vehicle is leaking fluids, and make sure you have full control over your power steering. As long as you can still safely operate your vehicle, and there seem to be no major issues, it’s probably fine to get back on the road, from a legal standpoint.

There are other issues you may encounter after an accident. Your engine may seem to be smoking, which could have you, understandably, concerned. It might be smoke, or it might be steam, but if your engine is releasing either of these it’s not a good idea to drive. Even if your car can start on its own and the gauges on your dash board don’t indicate an issue like overheating, it’s best to wait for a tow. Unless you’re a mechanic, you probably will not know which engine system is producing the steam or smoke, and if you try to drive home it could impede your vision. What’s more, you may be causing further damage by driving the car when there’s an issue. Go ahead and call for help, and wait for assistance. You should also all for assistance if the accident causes a flat tire. It’s important not to drive on a flat, even if you’re only going a short distance. Driving on a flat tire can damage the tire beyond repair, but it can also bend the rim or even damage your vehicle. Components like brake lines, rotors, fenders, and suspension parts are likely to become seriously damaged and that can get expensive. Driving on a flat tire can also cause you to lose control of your vehicle, which can be dangerous for you and others on the road.

Sometimes, there may be serious damage that is not visible to your eye. A small chip on the windshield may not be visible except in certain lights, or you might find it difficult to shut the door properly because of slight buckling in the bodywork. If you don’t discover damage that’s been done to the car, it can cause more extensive damage that can become costly. Further, if you don’t find the damage before filing your insurance claim, you won’t get the money you need to cover repairs. You should have a professional inspect your vehicle thoroughly after an accident, but first, there are some easy ways to check for damage.

  • Check the frame and suspension.
  • Eyeball the undercarriage.
  • Check out the trunk.
  • Examine the fender bolts.

Whether or not you notice damage to your vehicle, it’s smart to bring it to someone who knows how to repair a car after a collision.

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A Brief Look at Computerized Paint Matching

The final step in the collision repair process is painting. If your car has had a door panel or another visible component replaced, the technician will match the color of the paint to the color of the rest of your car. In past years, body shop technicians had to make an educated guess when mixing paint to match the color of a vehicle. But these days, body repair shops have computerized paint matching technology.

The technician will scan the car with a spectrophotometer. It works by measuring the wavelength of light reflected off of the car. This information is then sent to a computer. Sophisticated software calculates the exact formula of pigments required to produce that color of paint. To double-check the accuracy of the paint matching, the technician will spray a small amount of the new paint on a card. Once the paint dries, he or she will compare it to the paint on the car, and make final adjustments as needed.

B&L Automotive Repairs, Inc. invests in all the latest collision repair technologies, including computerized paint matching, to ensure that you are completely satisfied with your vehicle. For precision auto body repairs in Chicago, call our team at (773) 463-1622.

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What Happens if You Ignore Your Car’s Dents?

It’s difficult to completely avoid dents in a car. If you drive your vehicle long enough, chances are good that you’ll notice a dent or two. If your car gets dented because of a car collision, you can have it repaired at the body shop, along with the rest of the collision damage. But it doesn’t take an accident to dent a car. A hailstorm, stray shopping cart, or close encounter with a parking lot lighting pole can all inflict damage on your vehicle. Don’t give in to the temptation to simply ignore those dents.

Unrepaired dents can encourage rust to develop.

Perhaps the most important reason why you should bring your car into the shop for dent repair is that unrepaired dents will encourage rust to form. Just one little dent can penetrate the paint sealant, and just one or two snowstorms in wintry Chicago can trigger rust to take hold. Once rust starts forming on your vehicle, it can spread throughout the frame and paneling. Rust is far worse than a mere cosmetic inconvenience. It can damage important components throughout your car and compromise the integrity of the frame.

Unrepaired dents will lower the resale value of your car.

Cars aren’t built to last forever, and sooner or later, you’ll want to find a new ride. If you have unrepaired dents in your door panels or bumpers, you can expect the resale value of your car to drop. Buyers prefer to purchase vehicles in good condition. If your car has dents, the buyer might start to wonder if the car has hidden damage that may become costly.

Unrepaired dents may affect your reputation.

The car you drive says a lot about you. Driving a car with dents might adversely affect your reputation. If your job requires you to impress your clients, it could be hard to accomplish this if you pull up in the parking lot with a dented car.

At B&L Automotive Repairs, Inc., rapid car dent removal is one of our specialties. Our highly trained technicians are skilled in all sorts of collision repairs, including dent repair. Call us at (773) 463-1622 to request an appointment at our auto body shop in Chicago.

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