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Salvage yard misconceptions addressed

Insurance companies have begun asking shops to use more salvage parts, which has led to even more interaction between the collision and salvage industries.

“So the shops need to adjust to that, and they have been,” said Shawn Collins of AAA Auto Salvage in Twin Cities, Minn. “I see that they are starting to use more and accept that, but at the same time they are also starting to expect higher quality parts.”

But many collision shops don’t have a full understanding of how modern salvage yards work, which sometimes leads to conflicts and misunderstandings. In their two-part Wednesday afternoon session, “Getting the Most out of Recycled Parts,” Collins and Eric Shulz of AAA Auto Salvage provided a virtual tour of how a salvage yard operates and provided tips on how to make the best use of recycled parts in a repair facility.

In the first part of the presentation, Collins and Shulz explained how salvage operations have changed over the years.

“It used to be the sales people at the counter would see the parts, and they were kind of doing everything,” Collins said. “Now we have an inventory process, so before the car is dismantled everything is gone over and any issues with rust or damage are addressed at that point and entered into the computer. The salespeople don’t see the part before it leaves. They rely on the inventory process to address any issues with the parts.”

The salvage industry is governed by standards established primarily by the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA). ARA has instituted two programs, Certified Automotive Recycler (CAR) and Gold Seal, which measure business practices, yard performance, customer service and other parameters.

There also are industry standards related to such things as what’s included on an assembly. “You can tell, for example, if a trim panel is included with a door,” Collins said. “There are certain rules that everybody should be following. A lot of shops just don’t realize that.”

ARA also has established inspection criteria. “You can communicate damage codes to the shop based on those guidelines,” Collins said. “If the shop is sourcing parts online, they can see that code and know how much damage to expect on the part.”

Collins and Shulz also explained the dismantling process, and what items are included in various assemblies.

“When you compare a used part to an OEM part, economically, the used part has an advantage,” Collins said. “If you need the complete door and you have to buy that in a million pieces, it’s going to cost a fortune. When you buy a used assembly it’s got everything with it.”

For shops to work effectively with salvage yards, they shouldn’t order parts until they’re sure those parts are needed, and make returns in a timely manner.

“Shops don’t realize that there’s a lot of labor involved in dismantling these cars,” Collins said. “If a body shop orders a section, they don’t take into consideration that we have to send a technician out there to cut off that section. If they want to return it, we’ve already invested a lot of labor in that section.”

The second half of the presentation focused on helping shops make the best use of used parts.

“Sometimes you have vehicles where there are so many overlapping panels that it would be very difficult to utilize a used section,” Collins said. “We’re also running into issues with the new higher strength steels that have more heat sensitivity and can’t be sectioned in certain areas.”

Collins and Shulz also discussed other OEM techniques that are impacting salvage parts, like new adhesives and laser welds.

They also walked attendees through a sectioning procedure and talked about things that should be included in an estimate that many body shops miss, such as manufacturing inserts or sleeves, trim time, dealing with new foams, and repairing damage caused by removing newer adhesives.

By Brian Albright,