- Published: Sunday, 11 September 2016 00:01
Thankfully most accidents are minor, but if you have one, here's why you should send your car to a ‘doctor’ who knows it best
SINGAPORE — Cars are different from human beings in one important way: the stronger the body, the harder it is to heal. That might sound counterintuitive, but modern cars are built more robustly than ever, thanks to safety standards that have become increasingly stringent.
That strength means the safest way to repair a car after an accident is to have it done by experts you can trust completely.
To find out just what is involved in performing repairs that not only look perfect but preserve the safety and robustness of a car, we visited the Inchcape Body Centre, one of the newest and largest of its kind in Southeast Asia.
Naturally, it’s more than a big workshop, and more like a hospital for cars. Damaged cars are systematically assessed and sorted, and the place is laid out to facilitate a smooth flow between the areas where various stages of repair are carried out.
Only genuine parts and factory-trained processes are used, and outdated or unofficial repair techniques are avoided —heating metal to soften it for easier panel beating, for example, is something that weakens it, which results in a repair that looks fine but in fact compromises on safety.
Broadly, our visit to the Inchcape Body Centre opened our eyes to the need for three major things that ensure a proper repair:
Some small workshops simply lack the space or the resources to be fitted with the latest equipment, which is ultimately to the customer’s detriment. Some of the must-have equipment found at the Inchcape Body Centre includes:
- Car-o-liner — After an accident the surface damage is obvious, but smaller structural damage may be harder to spot. Car-o-liner systems provide precise measurement equipment that allow technicians to examine certain fixed points on the car’s chassis, and compare them against reference (i.e. factory-given) points. If something is off by even a few millimetres, the Car-o-liner will reveal it. And provide the means to repair it, with a hydraulic jack to straighten the metal with a cold pull method the preserves its strength. Some workshops can only eyeball the damage, and ballpark their repair effort too.
- Colour spectrometer — Mixing and blending colours is something of an art form that experienced specialists can sometimes pull off, but a colour spectrometer takes the guesswork out of it. It’s a tool that measures the colour of a car’s body panel precisely. The readings from the spectrometer are fed into a computer, which can then calculate the exact mix of pigments (down to the gramme) for a perfectly matching paint.
- Suction floors — These rare pieces of equipment suck dust down through grilles in the floor, and filter the air. That makes for a healthier work environment for technicians, particularly during the sanding process prior to spray painting, but it also enhances paintwork. Dust causes defects in paints, after all, so having suction floors is the best way to ensure paint job that looks like it came fresh from the factory.
Some tasks that outside workshops have to guess at are much more straightforward at the workshop of an authorised distributor. That’s because there are detailed repair manuals for technicians to follow, and a precise mapping of key body areas. For example, where are all the spot welds that join two pieces of body together? Where are the areas of high-strength or high-tensile steel? Like a top-notch surgeon, a technician from an authorised distributor never has to guess such important information.
The technicians at the Inchcape Body Centre are mainly Singaporeans who have had extensive experience in panel beating or spray painting, but they still undergo Toyota’s technical education program. That entails a ‘5S’ philosophy: ‘Seiri’ (sifting), ‘Seiton’ (sorting), ‘Seiso’ (sweeping and washing), ‘Seiketsu’ (spick and span) and ‘Shitsuke’ (self-discipline).
Technicians have to sit for a test and are graded by a test master who is certified by Toyota in Japan. The technicians also visit Japan annually to learn about product and repair method updates. After all, as cars evolve and progress, it’s important for the people who look after them to upgrade their skills as well.
Ultimately, it might be said that the last element listed there is the most important in the chain: workshops can be built, genuine parts can be purchased, but skilled hands and insider knowledge are what truly make the difference between a sound repair and an iffy one.
In that sense, think of an authorised distributor’s body and paint centre as an extension of the car factory. When you drive a car, you are experiencing the sum total of its makers abilities to design and build a product that can provide joy for years to come; if that car has been injured in an accident, who better than a factory-linked team to restore it to a condition that lets it continue to fill that role in your life?
The DriveHappy promise by Borneo Motors is all about delivering and sustaining the joyful experience of car ownership, after all, and that’s something that doesn’t come to an end because of an accident. With a properly repaired car, you can pick up that journey where it left off.
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