Helpful Tips

The Dangers of Summer Driving

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Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. From now until after Labor Day, millions of Americans will hop in their cars and hit the road. They’ll be traveling to visit family, to attend holiday parties, to enjoy a day at the beach, or to go camping or hiking or boating. Thousands of these vacationers, however, will also end up in a vehicular accident this summer.

July and August are two of the deadliest months, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with more car crashes and vehicular-related deaths and injuries than any other months. But why is summer driving so dangerous?

There’s no easy answer to this question. For one, summertime roads are more congested. All those vacationers have to get to their destinations and most of them will drive. The nice weather also means more bicyclists and pedestrians will be sharing the roads with cars. More people on the roads equates to more chances for something to go wrong.

July and August are the deadliest months for young teenage drivers. More teenagers are behind the wheel during their summer breaks. Teenagers are, for the most part, far less experienced drivers than adult drivers. The youngest of them are also part of Generation Z — whose attachment to their smartphones. Adults are also just as guilty of checking Facebook messages in a moving vehicle, so that means there are a lot more distracted drivers on the road during the summer months… During the same months that there are more bicycles and pedestrians on the road. We all know that doesn’t end well.

In fact, the numbers of car crashes has been constantly increasing (2017 was the worst year for car crashes since the 1970s). The fact that the use of smartphones has also increased during the past decade is most likely connected to that. The slow rise car accidents is likely to be directly related to an increase in distracted driving. The Centers for Disease Control

(CDC) estimates that 8 people will be killed every day due to distracted driving; over 1000 more will be injured.

So is there anything we can do to lower the risk for ourselves? Yes and no. We can’t always protect ourselves from other drivers, but what we can do is try to make the roads a little safer by being more mindful drivers ourselves. Here are some tips from the Department of Transportation:

  • Do not text while driving. Many believe that with no snow or rain, they can drive safely while replying to a text.
  • Make sure to wear safety belts (a high number of car crash fatalities are still related to a lack of seat belt use).
  • Be more careful if you’re driving on weekends or in the early evening on most days. Data from NHSTA suggests that Saturdays are the deadliest day of the week and the hour between 6pm – 7pm has more crashes than any other time of day.
  • If it’s raining, slow down and watch out for hydroplaning. We’re all hyper vigilant in the winter months about snow and ice, but wet roads can be equally dangerous. Just because it’s warm out, doesn’t mean that the roads are always “safe.”
  • Get your car checked out before a big trip and check your tire pressure. Blowouts are more likely in hotter weather.
  • During the summer months, students are on summer vacation so there will be more young drivers on the road. Always remember, you may be a safe driver but that doesn’t mean other drivers are. Be sure to be alert for other drivers.

Have a happy and safe summer!

Keeping Your Dog Safe In The Car!

 

We understand, pets are part of the family! So here are our 5 Xpert Tips for keeping your dog safe in the car!

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  1. Make Sure Everyone (Human and K-9) is Buckled

The safest way to transport your dog is to secure them with their very own seat belts. Not only does a seatbelt confine your furry family member, but it keeps them safe in the event of an accident—which could severely injure or kill an unrestrained dog.

There are lots of options when it comes to restraining a dog in a vehicle, below is a link to many safe options for your pet.

https://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/care/top-ten-ways-to-restrain-and-travel-safely-with-pets

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  1. Keep a Crate in the Car

If your dog is overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of a car ride, having them ride in a crate is a great option. When crated in the car, your dog can snuggle up safely and ride in comfort. If your dog barks at other dogs, you can cover the crate up with a blanket to keep them calm and quiet. Your dog will be happy in their familiar place and will adjust to new surroundings faster. But if you do keep them in a crate with a blanket over top, be sure to check in and make sure they are staying cool, especially on a warm day.

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  1. Keep Your Dog off Your Lap

Dogs love riding shotgun. But if you’ve got an excited or anxious pup who wants to climb over onto you, a barrier will help. Depending on the type of car you have, your dog can be secured in the back of your car by a special fence, for example. There are several types of barriers that can be installed into the backs of SUVS, hatchbacks, and vans. See the link above for barrier and restraint options!

Although it is not illegal in most states (it is illegal in NJ and HI), it is very dangerous for your pet to ride in your lap. Having a dog in your lap can increase your response time, can be a distraction, and the dog can get very hurt (even killed) if they are on your lap during an accident. So to be safe, it is best if your pet does not drive on your lap while driving.

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  1. Take Breaks

On a long road trip, your dog needs car snacks, water, and bathroom breaks. To avoid dehydration, be sure to keep water available at all times. Meals, treats, and toys are great distractions for a busy dog in the car. Also, make sure that you’re stopping every couple of hours so your pet can use the bathroom and stretch their legs. Taking this time to run them around at a rest stop is a great way to burn some energy so they will nap for part of the trip.

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  1. Check the Temperature in the Car

If you have to leave your dog in the car, be sure to check the temperature outside before you leave your furry family member inside the car. What feels like a mild day outside won’t feel so mild inside the car. Surprisingly, the temperature inside the car on a 75 degree day can easily reach 100 degrees! Pets can die inside hot cars, even if the windows are cracked. So try to plan your trip so you do not need to leave your dog in the car.

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Driving in conditions that involve heavy wind and rain may not seem like the most pressing safety concern for many drivers but remember that severe weather demands your undivided attention. So be sure to reduce any possible distractions by turning the radio down and turning your phone on silent to keep your attention fully on the road.

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Driving in Heavy Winds

Wind may seem like a minor risk, but this weather condition deserves special consideration from drivers. Strong wind can occur just about anywhere, but it can be more common in wide open spaces. Areas for concern also include highway overpasses, tunnels and ‘road cuts’ through mountainous areas that can act as funnels for wind. The following tips can help keep you on the road and safe if you encounter heavy winds.

 

  1. Anticipate wind gusts: Be extra careful when driving through areas prone to strong winds (such as bridges) or when weather reports predict severe weather.
  1. Notice larger vehicles: Be aware of large vehicles on the road such as semis, buses, and vehicles pulling trailers. They are more susceptible to high winds and drivers may have difficulties staying in their lanes.
  1. Keep a firm grip on the wheel: Keep both hands on the wheel in case the wind begins to move your vehicle, especially if you are driving a large vehicle or towing a trailer.

 

Driving in Heavy Rain

In addition to the potentially poor visibility that accompanies most heavy rain, drivers should be ready to protect themselves against hydroplaning. Hydroplaning can occur when a vehicle is traveling too fast in heavy rain conditions, causing the vehicle’s tires to travel on a thin layer of water rather than grip the surface of the road. This has the potential to make steering and braking difficult and could even lead to losing control of your vehicle. Here are some tips to help you this rainy season!

 

  1. Take your time: Slowing down is the only way to keep your vehicle from hydroplaning. Also remember that one of the most dangerous times to drive is soon after it begins to rain, as oils on roadway make for slick conditions. Waiting a few minutes, rather than rushing to your destination, can be a safer plan when it is raining.
  1. Turn your lights on: Turn your headlights on to help other vehicles see you.
  1. Give other vehicles more space: Add 1-2 extra seconds of following time in the rain, which gives you and the cars behind you more time to react to traffic.
  1. Avoid driving in vehicle’s blind spots: During rain storms, it is harder to see and drivers need to remain very alert. By avoiding driving in other vehicle’s blind spot, you are giving them one less thing to worry about.
  1. Be aware of you speed: In poor driving conditions, such as bad weather, going the posted speed limit could be dangerous. For example, if you were going 55 in a 55mph zone during a rain storm, you could be charged with reckless driving or a similar charge.

 

Overall, our biggest tip is that when storms are going on, if you do not need to be driving on the road, then please stay at home for your own safety.

DRP – Getting you Back on the Road!

Auto Body Xperts is a DRP (Direct Repair Program) for over 20 different insurance companies. So what does that mean? That means that they trust us and our work to allow us to do the estimate for them.

At our Hudsonville location, a tow company rents and operates out of part of our building. So vehicles they tow in wait in our lot. This towing company brought in a vehicle that was in an accident on Friday. They owner of the vehicle contacted their insurance company and had to wait for the insurance company to come and do an estimate on the vehicle. It took one week until an adjuster for the insurance company was able to look at the vehicle.

As we all know, being without a vehicle is a major inconvenience. That is why it is important to take your vehicle to a Body Shop that is a DRP for your insurance company. In the story above, if that customer would have said they wanted Auto Body Xperts to look over their vehicle, they could have received an estimate the day of the accident from us rather than having to wait a week.

So if you are in an accident, let your insurance company know that you are taking your vehicle to Auto Body Xperts!

Going the Extra Mile – The Vehicle Repair Process

A very common thing we hear from customers is, “I went to Body Shop A and Body Shop B for an estimate on my vehicle and the estimated cost of repair was very different!” Which is true, some body shops do very dramatically in price. Which is something we want to warn people on, it is important to remember that when it comes to body work, cost does directly relate to the quality of work.

Auto Body Xperts is a big believer that customers can receive high quality work for a reasonable cost. That is why Auto Body Xperts is a DRP (Direct Repair Program) for over 20 different insurance companies. So what does that mean? That means that those insurance companies trust us and our work, they know we will take good care of their customers so they allow us to do the estimate on the vehicle. Normally the insurance company will send a adjuster to come look at the vehicle in addition to the body shop looking it over. With the DRP, they trust us to look it over for them. We record the damage and send our estimate along with pictures of the damage to them so they don’t have to come look at the vehicle, which then saves time for the customer and then their vehicle can be repaired sooner.

We take pride in the extra steps we take to help our customers. We understand that although some of these steps may seem minor but in the end, they really do help provide the highest quality work for our customers. So here is a walk through of our vehicle repair process to give you a quick view of what is being done on your vehicle when it is in our care.

 

The Vehicle Repair Process:

1. Estimate: Before the repair process can start, the vehicle will need to be brought in to receive an estimate. This is an important step because it allows us to provide estimate of cost to repair the vehicle. 

2. Schedule: After the customer receives the free estimate, they can schedule the vehicle to come in for the repair!

3. Order parts: Once the vehicle is scheduled for repair, our estimators and production manager work together to make sure all parts that are needed for the repair are here when the vehicle is dropped of to be repaired so they customer isn’t waiting on parts, causing them to have to wait longer for their vehicle to be repaired

4. Drop off vehicle: At the scheduled vehicle drop off, customers can then pick up their free rental car!

5. Washing the Vehicle:

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Once the customer drops off the vehicle, it is washed before our estimators look over the vehicle. This is an important extra step we do. By hand washing the vehicle, it allows us to see the full extent of the damage before the vehicle is repaired. 

 

 

 

6. Mark and Record Vehicle Details:

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At this time, our estimates go over the vehicle completely. They will record the vehicle’s details (such as how many miles it has, confirming the VIN number, etc) and mark the damage on the car. A paint marker is used to mark the damage on the car being repaired. At the time, the whole vehicle is inspected for unrelated damages (such as dents, scratches, etc), then the customer is contacted with an estimate for the unrelated damage to see if they would like that repaired as well while the vehicle is in the shop.

 

 

7. Pulling Parts:

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While the estimator is looking over the vehicle, our Production Manager pulls the parts for the repair from our part room and brings them over to the Body Tech who will be working on the vehicle.

 

 

 

8. Repair Process:

Then the repair process starts where the Body Techs and Painters work on the vehicle.

IMG_20171219_164612462A) Body Work: During this step, our body techs repair what they can on the vehicle and replace any parts that are beyond the point of being repaired.

 

 

 

IMG_20171220_095604471B) Painting: After the vehicle is worked on, the painters will paint the vehicle and any parts that go on the vehicle. As you can see in the pictures, the front bumper had to be replaced on the vehicle, so that was painted as well as the vehicle so the colors are a perfect match for the vehicle. Painting is great step that shows the extra steps Auto Body Xperts takes when repairing vehicles. Many body shops will blend the paint in rather than repainting the whole panel. Although that may save a tiny bit of money on labor and paint, over time, that short cut will show on the vehicle. As you can also see from the picture, the door handle has been removed. This is another way some body shops cut corners to save time, they will leave the handle on and tape it off. Because of the location of the handle, it is hard to get good paint job with it still on there so Auto Body Xperts removes the handle before painting so we can provide the highest quality work for our customers.

C) Reassemble: After everything is painted, it is brought back to the Body Tech who will reassemble the vehicle.

9. Detailed: After the vehicle is done being repaired, the outside and inside of the vehicle is detailed for the customer. We understand that being without your vehicle is a inconvenience, that is why we provide free loaner cars while your vehicle is being repaired and clean the entire vehicle before it is returned. After it is cleaned, our Production Manager looks over the vehicle to make sure the vehicle meets our expectations to provide the highest quality of work.

10. Delivery:

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Then the vehicle is done! Throughout all of the different steps, the customer is kept in the loop on the progress of the vehicle through phone calls, text alerts, or email notification (whichever one the customer prefers). Once the vehicle is repaired, customers are set up in the reward program with us. Many customers right away have earned enough points for free hand car washes and a vehicle detail!

 

 

We hope this provides some incite into the vehicle repair process at Auto Body Xperts. If you ever have any questions about the work being done, the process, etc, please ask!