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“How many coats of paint are you going to put on my Chevy?” With recent advancements of automotive refinish technology that old question has become obsolete… until now! 2015 Lexus RC coupe unveils new four-coat paint process.

The new finish, four stage bright red sparkles so brilliant that it is hard to look at in the sun without sun glasses. This new finish process is achieved through application of four coats which are baked twice in the booth. A base coat of silver is applied first, followed by a clear coat. It is then baked in the spray booth. After a short cooling out process translucent red coat is applied followed by another coat of clear.

Following the second bake, outside in the sun the paint reflects red as well as silver layer deep below, which adds more definition as well as metallic highlight. It is almost as if you are watching the paint in a 3D movie theater screen, except it is 4D. It is a multidimensional paint. In one word it is stunning.

If you are thinking that matching this color on a damaged RC coupe could be a challenge, you might be right.” Oh, it’s not that bad,” assured me DuPont paint technician Alberto Pineda;” You just have to add a few extra steps to the process.” Still if you own one of those beauties I would make sure your shop is equipped to handle the job right.

 

 

A look at self driving vehicles

Posted: November 25, 2015 in Automobile

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You can’t stop progress… I remember at least fifteen years ago making minor cosmetic repairs on a Dodge Colt that was converted into an electric vehicle. I remember thinking that there were no way big oil companies would allow Chrysler Motor Corporation or anyone else for that matter to mass produce electric vehicles.

I was wrong. Sleek luxurious Teslas are roaming around our streets and highways as if they were there from the beginning of times. Completely electric Nissan Leaf is a popular addition to our streets. Ugly BMW cousin, i3 model is everywhere on public roads. Every major parking lot in the city of Los Angeles has parking spots where you can recharge your electric vehicle.

“Big Oil” couldn’t stop it; no one could stop it. Electrical vehicles are here and they are here to stay. They are cheaper, as far as energy consumption. They are better for the environment. They are quiet and they are simply the way of the future.

 

But wait, there is more. Technology giant, Google has been testing and programming vehicles to drive themselves for the past five years. These vehicles have been spotted on the streets of Mountain View, California and Austin, Texas. These vehicles do not have a steering wheel or pedals for brake and acceleration. It is very exciting yet scary. Imagine not having any control over your vehicle. It’s an extremely radical idea, at least for me, but I better start getting used to it.

Tesla is taking it a step at a time. For now they installed an auto pilot with their latest update. Driver who still has control of the vehicle can switch it on auto pilot and observe it drive itself for a while. Tesla owners rave about its ability to learn and adapt to roads and highways.

Apple, who is a little more discreet about their research, is quietly working on their version of self driving automobile. Forget the i-phone; expect the i-mobile on the roads soon. How soon?

Japanese government has ordered Nissan Corporation to have a self driving vehicle ready for 2020 Summer Olympics to transport athletes from the Olympic Village to the events.

Imagine all the possibilities. Imagine self driving automobiles taking care of our senior citizens. Still, for me it is a scary thought to allow computer to operate my automobile. It is a revolutionary idea. However consider that 95% of all accidents on our roads are due to human error. If computer can reduce that number in half it will free up our roads and will take a lot less time for our commute. It will also free up some of our time since during our commute we will have the opportunity to catch up on our phone calls or reading the news.

Aside from revolutionizing Automobile industry self driving vehicles will completely change collision repair industry, Fifty percent less accidents means at least fifty percent less collision repair centers. And those collision repair centers that plan to survive better learn a great deal about information technology.

 It’s an exciting time to be alive. Brace yourselves; get ready for the ride of your life!

 

Blending adjacent panels

Blending adjacent panels

A long time patron of our establishment who is a professional photographer came by our shop last week to show me his new vehicle, 2015 sparkling silver, grey Honda Odyssey. A proud father of three lovely, young girls he really needed this sleek minivan for his soccer mom duties. He came by to share the joy of this acquisition with his favorite body shop guy, but as soon as he got here, he started to look at his new Honda in a funny, confused way.

“Is there anything wrong with this picture?” he inquired looking intently at the back bumper of his van. Paying attention to details for a living the man noticed that the bumper on his vehicle was a shade darker than the rest of it.” How could this be?” he continued with concern in his eyes:” Did the dealer sell me a new car with a repaired bumper? Did I just buy a lemon car?”

“Take it easy,” I said:” let me see if I can shed some light on your problem.” Actually I found that one of the leading automotive paint manufacturers, PPG addressed this problem in their press release. They cite four causes for color variations.

A color can vary depending on the surface on which it is painted. For example, the evaporation rate for solvent varies over metal or plastic. A longer rate gives a flake pigment additional time to” float” and can darken the face of the color.

The body was painted on the production line at the factory while other parts such as bumpers were painted at another location using a different application method.

Slight adjustments can be made during application creating a darker or a lighter color or causing metallics to lay down differently.

Light reflects differently on curved and flat surfaces causing the appearance of a color shift.

 

 

Modern collision repair shops have to be very mindful of this problem because there is nothing like an unhappy customer who thinks he got short changed. Complaints range from – they didn’t use factory paint to paint my bumper to – these guys just don’t know how to match the paint.

 

In real life it is a complicated process to create a perfect match. At times the same formula paint code could be several different shades depending on where the vehicle was originally painted. Paint manufacturers recommend that paint technicians spend additional time to match colors and to use spray out test panels before spraying a bumper as well as blending adjacent panels to create a perfect match. For example to paint a rear bumper on a candy apple red Toyota we had to spray adjacent quarter panels to get desired match. Please refer to the photo.

 

Of course, recommended procedures generate additional cost. Consumers and Insurance companies often cringe at additional costs. We hear vehicle owners saying things like I just want to paint my bumper, not the whole car. And we hear insurance adjustors simply telling us that their company policy is not to pay for that.

 

So what is the solution to this problem? It is to keep everyone involved educated and informed and to let sophisticated 21st Century consumers make an informed decision on how to paint their vehicle based on facts. This article is a first step.

 

 

 

 

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According to Wikipedia steering refers to the practice in which real estate brokers guide prospective home buyers towards or away from certain neighborhoods based on their race.

Fair Housing Act makes steering against the law. Just the word itself has negative connotation. In my mind it’s like forcing someone into a direction against their will. It’s a crime often committed and rarely prosecuted. According to WRA, a real estate magazine, there were more than 4 million breaches of Fair Housing Act last year, but only 31 of those cases prosecuted.

Considering this very interesting statistic, it almost makes this crime legal. As luck would have it it’s legal when it concerns collision repair industry. Steering, which allows Auto Insurance Companies to coerce their clients to have their vehicle repaired at the Shop of Insurance Companies’ choice, has passed a legislature several years ago and became a common practice in collision repair industry.

Even though steering has different meaning in real estate and collision repair industry, the gist is the same. Steering is guiding consumers in the direction against their will. Intellectually it is against the laws of our fair nation. So then why insurers are being allowed to practice steering?

It’s a good question. May be it is because steering is one of the most important systems of modern automobile, which allows it to move freely in any direction. Or maybe it is because Insurance Companies have unlimited resources to lobby and therefore legislate and number of collision repair shops cannot get together and unite to oppose financial giants.

In a perfect world it would be illegal, but in a real world Insurance Companies are getting more and more aggressive steering their customers to use body shops that they have discount contracts with. They use intimidation and a coercion to achieve their goals- financial gains.

They tell customers, yes you can go to the shop of your choice, but we won’t be able to approve repairs for a week and you cannot get a rental car until the repair is approved, but if you go to our shop, they will be able to start right away. And sometimes they outright lie – they tell consumers that if they take their vehicle to the shop of their choice, insurance company will not be able to guarantee repairs, when in reality Insurers never guarantee repairs, they just pay for them.

So, why is this happening to you, a sophisticated, 21st century consumer? And why are there so many homeless people in our rich and plentiful country?

Those are the questions that do not have a simple answer; still they should be asked.

Daewoo Leganza

Daewoo Leganza

They say in order to sell a product you have to put it into customer’s hands. Similarly in order to sell a car you have to put consumer behind its wheel. At least that was the idea when Korean automaker Daewoo Motors brought a line of reasonably priced vehicles to sell in United States. Three different models; Lanos, Nubira and Leganza were introduced to a saturated American auto market in 1997.

The marketing idea was simple and seemed brilliant on paper. Daewoo would give anybody a vehicle to test drive for 90 days for free. You could either buy the car or give it back at the end of 90 day test drive period. The idea was that once you are driving this car it becomes yours and you will find a way to keep it. It really sounded like a fantastic and innovative idea at a time. My nephew who was attending Moorpark City College bought his first new car, pewter Daewoo Leganza like that.

In fact a great number of students signed up for test drive. Unfortunately not all good ideas work in real life. Technically not being responsible for their vehicles for the first 90 days kids thrashed their vehicle within first thirty days. Many first time drivers who were able to get the car that way got in accidents and a great number of youngsters just thrashed their vehicles and then returned them. In short this brilliant market plan was a complete disaster.

Five years later Daewoo Motors disappeared from American auto market. This morning I saw beige, 2000 Daewoo Leganza with fading paint job at my mechanic’s shop in Pasadena. I haven’t seen on the road in years. “It’s a piece of crap,” complained Mike:” You can’t get any original parts for it.” That’s a fact unless you have connections in Korea.

Not all Korean automobiles are crap. Two other major automakers from Korea, Hyundai and Kia have been enjoying ascending popularity in the American Auto market as of late. But Daewoo was just one of those ideas that never materialized in United States.

tesla

Twenty first century Tesla drivers are a new breed of luxury vehicle owners. They are just as obsessed with their automobiles as Porsche or corvette owners. Only you will not hear them talk about the size of the engine or how fast it will rip from zero to sixty seconds. Usually you will be taken aside to learn in confidence about one of the many wonderful features prized Tesla offers.

For example, on a hot Southern California summer day one can turn on air conditioning inside a Tesla remotely to cool off the vehicle prior to driver’s arrival. “It’s gotta be the door handles,” exclaimed John Fender from Agoura Hills:” How can you not love the car that greets you when you come near and says_ can we go for a ride- like an excited puppy.

How about regenerative braking? The vehicle brakes automatically as soon as you remove your foot off the gas. Oh wait! It cannot be called a gas pedal since there is no gas in this car. Let’s call it an acceleration pedal. Excited! You have seen nothing yet. The latest generation of Tesla informs the driver of speed zone changes as the vehicle travels on the road in real time.

Did you know that one must have a smart phone in order to own a Tesla? A friend from Huntington Beach said:” I love the Tesla apps. The iPhone app that lets me see how fast the car is going, the temperature inside the car and its charge status. My wife loves the apps too. Also the home link button knows to pop up when it’s time to open a garage door.”

Also Auntie Tesla took a page out of Uncle Sam’s book of keeping track of their citizens. You can track the whereabouts of the vehicle through you smart phone app.

And of course Tesla owners are very proud of the fact that they spend their hard earned money to protect the environment. As one gentleman eloquently stated:” reducing our foreign energy dependence and hopefully the need to send future generations to war to protect oil interests.”

Finally, most Tesla owners would have you believe that even though they spent a very substantial amount of money purchasing the luxury automobile that it is a sound financial decision due to future savings on gas. What they forget to mention that because of the weight Tesla uses performance tires that have to be replaced every ten thousand miles. Compare your yearly gas savings to replacing a set of performance tires which for 21 inch wheels are about $1800.00.

It’s a wonderful automobile; a marvel of modern engineering and a future of auto technology, but please do not be confused the words Tesla and frugal are not in the same continent. Anotherwords you do not buy a Tesla to save money, you buy it to enjoy a luxury car. So enjoy it!

Our expert detailer George taking care of the last steps of the refinishing process

Our expert detailer George is polishing Lexus

We take care of our bodies by taking a shower every day. We take care of our teeth by brushing them every day and have deep cleaning a few times a year. We take care of our health by exercising and going to a doctor for regular check-ups. Similarly we take care of our automobiles by filling it up with gas weekly and taking it to our mechanic for service every 3 to 5 thousand miles

So why don’t we take care of the outside of our cars? Isn’t your automobile the second biggest investment you made after your home? Wouldn’t it make sense to keep outside looking shiny and as good as or better than inside?

Have you ever seen a car so dusty that it is difficult to see through a glass window which carries a message from a concerned citizen -”wash me”?  My personal favorite example of untidiness took place a few years ago when our good customer brought his Toyota Camry for collision repair and requested that we do not wash his car after repairs are completed and specifically not throw away any newspapers from the inside. You might want to know how many newspapers were in the back of the car. Well, they packed the back seat to the point of where you could not see through the back window.

Let’s make a New Year resolution to keep our vehicle clean in 2015. It even rhymes so it must be necessary. All it takes is to wash it once a week and to detail or polish the outside paint of your car may be once every three months. You will be surprised how much better you will feel about yourself driving a clean, shiny vehicle. The feeling is similar to one you experience to when you get out of the shower and put a new set of clothes on.

And it’s not just your vanity or a pride of ownership that is at stake here, keeping your automobile’s paint at maximum shine brings its value up. You might still object to this by saying – I am a very busy individual and simply do not have any extra time required for weekly car washes and especially quarterly details which would most likely leave me without my car for a full day. To which I say – make time, just like you make time for personal grooming, make some time for grooming of your vehicle.

If you simply do not wish to do it yourself, there plenty of carwashes and detail shops all over town who are willing especial accommodations for you. Or you can call me directly at Hilton Auto Collision Center and we will pick up your vehicle detail it and deliver it back to you for no extra charge and provide you a daily car rental if needed. So what are you waiting for? Put this on top of your New Year’s resolutions for 2015, to keep your vehicle clean.

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Twenty first century brought us the invention of a smart phone, social media and much increased expectations of superior customer service. The big round world called earth has gotten much smaller. For example I can communicate with my cousin in Germany over Skype as if he was next door.

More and more I get requests from our customers for repair estimates for their vehicles to be made just from photographs that are sent via email or text from their phones. A trip to the local body shop to get an estimate on minor repair to the vehicle takes time. Time is money. Why not get an idea of what it would cost from the photos? Isn’t that one of the reasons they invented a smart phone?

It seems like a great idea. So why do I discourage customers from doing that? Because unless you are a professional photographer and know a lot about shades and lighting and right angles, pictures might be misleading.  Bringing up that point I usually get a response:” I just need to get an idea of what it would cost. I want hold you to it.”

This puts me in a conundrum.  On one hand I would like to make you happy and accommodate your request and save your valuable time, on the other hand I am concerned that the idea you would get from photos could be far from reality and thus create a conflict.

Imagine getting an email from me that based on your photos the repair should cost you about $500.00. You are happy. It is less than you expected. You schedule a repair and drop off the car at the body shop. Next day you get a call or email stating that the part actually needed to be replaced not repaired and the cost of repairs is $1500.00 and not $500.00. Your first is – this guy is a crook!

Now through no fault of my own, instead of gaining a loyal customer because of a special service I was willing to provide, I lose a client, but more than that I get an unhappy motorist who most likely will bad mouth my establishment.

“But I explained to you how inaccurate virtual estimate could be based on a photo and you told me you will not hold me to it!” explanations become meaningless when a consumer feels that he has been wronged by a body shop. One negative comment is worth ten positive ones.

What is the solution? After careful consideration I decided to offer mobile estimates. If you are really strapped for time and are willing to pay a little for the service, we will be offering mobile estimates beginning in January, 2015. We will come to your home or office and prepare a professional estimate using a tablet technology. The estimate will be promptly emailed to you. Of course an estimate is still only an estimate, because you never know what you will find once the vehicle is taken apart, but this will ensure maximum possible accuracy. The fee charged will be refunded when you bring your vehicle for repairs.

I need your feedback. Would this be of benefit to you? Please let me know.

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Monday morning GM trainer, Ruben Maldonado dropped by my shop driving bright yellow, 2015 Corvette, Stingray. It was sparkling in the Southern California sunlight. “It’s a chick magnet,” chuckled Ruben as I was admiring sleek lines of the redesigned beast.

“May be I could borrow it for a week or so just to confirm your claim,” said I smiling.

” But it’s a squeeze to get out of it, especially for an old fart like you,” replied Ruben:” So it might be counterproductive to your goal.”

As a kid I remember dreaming about 1967 Stingray 427 convertible. The iconic muscle car held a mystique of a fairy tale for me. As a young adult I was less than impressed with 1980 Stingray, specifically its steering and suspension. But today’s all new Stingray hugs the road as if it was made to do just that and the control you feel making sharp mountainous turns is very impressive.

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The new Stingray is absolutely amazing. It is built on aluminum frame which makes the vehicle lighter and stiffer and features carbon fiber hood and roof panels as well as lightweight compounds for the fenders and doors.

Considering there are different options, I am going to leave engine description to the experts, but if looks were important, the new generation Stingray is for me. With the rear end reminiscent of Ferrari it is designed with the front that seems to be more integrated or wrapped around the frame than the last one. It looks like a rocket ready to be launched.

 Not yet convinced, stop by your local Chevrolet dealer and take it for a test drive. It is much more than a nostalgia thirst quencher.