The Prior Damage Headache for Body Shops


Mechanical Issues Can be Tricky

Last month an Ottawa man was driving his car when a number of alarms were set off on his dash for no apparent reason. After an inspection, it was found that squirrels had been gnawing at the electrical wiring associated with the fuel injection system.

Although rodents nesting in vehicles is not new – we even discussed a similar story –  the use of eco-friendly and plant-based plastics including soy, rice husks, wood, peanut oil and corn in automotive wiring insulation/coating has made them irresistible to hungry critters. Plus, when warm, these coatings give off a faint vanilla smell which rodents love.  The issue is so common that Honda has developed a cayenne-pepper infused anti-rodent tape. Seriously


That’s a Fun Story, But What’s the Point?

If the vehicle in the story above had then got in an accident, the chewed wires would be considered prior damage, meaning it would be considered separate from the collision claim, an important cost consideration for both the insured and insurer.  Secondly, warning lights appeared on the driver’s car.  However, the “check engine” light is only designed to show if there are emission problems, not if there are safety issues. In other words, major mechanical issues can be present, but there may be no visual indication of a problem. Just read through our fixes of the week for proof of that.

For the insurer and body shop, this presents a huge headache. It is estimated that approximately 18% of all costs on a typical collision estimate are considered to be mechanical/electrical in nature. Appraisers and estimators are trained to see physical damage (a dent, broken tail-light etc.) but they can’t determine if a wiring harness is pinched, or if a control module is not functioning.


The Solution for Prior Damage Detection

To determine if there are issues, one needs to use a scanner. But the scanners used today can be bulky, complex and expensive for a body shop. Because of this, they are not always used at the shop for a pre-scan – and not necessarily at the critical repair planning stage. Why not all the time?  Convenience. The shop estimator may be at the front parking lot with a waiting customer, and may not have time to walk back to the shop floor to grab a bulky scanner. And scanners are never used by the appraiser in the field – simply because it’s too complex (and expensive) for their needs.

This is why we are developing Vehicle Health Check.  The scanner is a pocket-sized dongle that is portable, easy to use, and cost-effective. This allows it to be used for every pre-scan, ensuring that prior damage (and 18% of repair costs) is discovered in advance of the repair.  With Vehicle Health Check, body shops will be able to scan for prior damage and know when they need to consider or alert a customer to needed mechanical repairs.