Are Low Quality Parts Threaten Drivers’ Safety
News 13 uncovered some auto body shops and insurance company have relationships you likely never knew about. Those relationships could mean collision repair shops in North Carolina are using untested parts to fix your vehicle. Industry insiders say unregulated repair shops are cutting corners, using parts not held to the same standard as the ones on your car when you drove it off the lot and you may be shocked who’s recommending these repairs.
I think a lot of people have said enough is enough and they’re not going to compromise people’s safety any longer, Michael Bradshaw of KM Collision Auto Body Repair Shop
I think a lot of people have said enough is enough and they’re not going to compromise people’s safety any longer, Michael Bradshaw of KM Collision Auto Body Repair Shop said.
News 13 is exposing a dirty repair shop secret. When you’re most vulnerable and need repairs. Your insurer may be paying closer attention to the bottom line than your safety. “If an insurance company recommends a company you can pretty much bet its a DRP shop.” A DRP is a direct repair program. “I will send you work, you do this for me. Its kind of like, you scratch my back, I will scratch yours,” Bradshaw said. “You give me a lower repair rate to keep costs down.”
Repairs are made using less expensive copies or after-market parts. But is it safe? In my opinion, I don’t believe they are, Bradshaw said. Insurers see it differently. Those cosmetic repair parts have been proven and certified to be safe, Russ Dubisky of the Insurance Federation of North Carolina said. Dubisky says there are instances where the parts can be used and could save drivers costly repairs. We’re putting our insured back in that vehicle our number one priority is to make sure that it’s safe to drive, Dubisky said. That said, when the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety investigated the collision market, they found a hodgepodge of suppliers building structural parts to their own internal guidelines, with no guarantee of quality or safety and their tests had mixed results. Bill Walkowiak, of Collision Safety Consultants, inspects work done by mechanics. He helped News 13 test the difference between an aftermarket rear bumper for a Ford Mustang, and the original equipment manufacturer or OEM part.
First a drill test on the aftermarket part. And you see it will go right through it, Brian Allen of Pack Brothers Collision Center of Belmont, NC. Next we tested the OEM. And my bits ruined, said Allen. Slicing through the parts, the spot welded aftermarket part gives way in a minute. Several minutes of cutting into the solid molded OEM support doesn’t get us far. And I’m worn out, but you see how it’s not cutting through it, Allen said.
News 13 took the issue straight to Raleigh to the North Carolina Insurance Commissioner. When you’re talking about 2,000 to 10,000 pound bullets traveling across our highways you want to make sure our vehicles are safe and proper and repaired appropriately, Goodwin said. But can you demand OEM parts be used to fix your vehicle? If the damages are estimated to be a certain amount and a collision repair shop is outside of that range then a person’s policy may dictate they can’t go outside that range, Goodwin said. This means you may have to pay the difference. It comes down to being your own advocate. According to mechanics, you should ask the following questions. What parts are being used on my car? Are these original equipment manufacturer parts or are they made by an aftermarket company, Bradshaw said are all questions you should ask.
There’s also a few terms to search for on your estimate:
- After Market or A/M
- Like Kind/Quality or LKQ
On your estimate you will see AM, for after-market, Walkowiak said. “Then you’ve got LKQ, like, kind and quality, which is the same thing as junk yard, recycled refurbished, you don’t know what kind of accident that car has been in, Walkowiak said. “Another buzz word that they like to use is industry standard,” he said with a laugh. “What is the industry standard? And they use that to the consumer to confuse them. There is no such thing as ‘industry standard’ because there are no regulations and there are no standards.” Mechanics say ultimately it’s your safety on the line. The parts on these vehicle are made to destruct in a certain manner when you have an impact, Bradshaw said. And parts that aren’t OEM may respond differently. The car then deconstructs differently when there’s an impact, Bradshaw said. Mechanics say when structural after-market parts don’t fit correctly and in some instances they’ve caused the airbags not to deploy in a crash. They’ve taken issues to manufacturers to force insurers to make repairs with OEM parts. KM is currently in a class action lawsuit against several insurers over the issue now.
In North Carolina you have to be licensed to cut hair, but there’s no regulation over repair shops.