Car Pro Guide to Handling Vehicle Hail Damage, Plus Severe Weather Driving Tips


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Credit:Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock
Spring brings storms and, with them, many places get hail. We had this happen this past Sunday evening in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. In parts of the Metroplex, baseball-sized hail ruined thousands of cars, some so bad the windshields and rear windows were knocked out.
When driving in the rain, you need to exercise greater caution than usual because your reaction time and sight will be decreased.

Here are some tips to help you weather the storms and how to handle hail claims and repairs:

HOW TO DEAL WITH HAIL DAMAGE:

  • Call your insurance company.
    • You should call your insurance company immediately to report the damage.
  • Discuss your repair.
    • Discuss the repair with the insurance company and your body shop. Hail damage to sheet metal may need to be replaced and painted. However, trained technicians may recommend paintless dent removal (PDR), which involves using specially molded metal tools on the underside of a damaged part that won’t disturb the factory finish. This method is often utilized by manufacturers and dealers to repair new vehicles and will not invalidate paint warranties.
    • Note: PDR cannot be performed if the dents are too large or if there are too many dents or if the paint finish is damaged. Prior body damage that required plastic fillers or bonding may also make PDR difficult. Your insurance company will be able to determine the severity of your damage and consult with you and the body shop on which repair method makes the most sense for your vehicle.
  • Find a reputable facility.
    • The preferred method is to pull the dents from the outside rather than drilling holes to access the dent from beneath the panel. Never trust paintless dent repairs from out of town repair people, they’ll be long gone should you have a problem.
  • Find out how long the repair will take.
    • Paintless dent repair is an efficient and effective technique for repairing damage to your vehicle and may be completed within a day. However, if lots of cars were damaged, the work may take a little longer due to the volume of vehicles that need to be repaired.
  • Make sure your vehicle is repaired to your satisfaction.
    • Before accepting your vehicle, look at the surface in fluorescent lighting and from several angles so that you can see all the details. Check for any remaining dents before you take your vehicle home.
  • Ask if the shop guarantees its work.
    • If you notice a flaw in your vehicle’s repair, you should be able to have it fixed at no additional charge. Know how your body shop will handle any problems you might have with your vehicle after the repair. Get guarantee and contact information in writing. Ask your insurance company if they also guarantee the work for their preferred body shops.

By the way, many of our dealers have body shops if the repairs cannot be made paintless. What you want to avoid is fly by night paintless dent repair companies. Usually, they will contact you, or set up in vacant lots and closed service stations. They will hit areas where hail has been heavily reported.

Take a look at the damage done to a Sewell dealership in McKinney, TX in a report from CBS 11 in Dallas:

RAINY DAY DRIVING TIPS

Hail isn’t the only issue during severe weather. So, too, are torrential downpours. Here are some safety tips to follow if you’re caught out and about in strong thunderstorms:
  • Be cautious of “hydroplaning”
    • During heavy rainfall, your tires might ride on water atop the pavement. This is known as hydroplaning, and the loss of traction it creates will decrease your steering control. Hydroplaning is more likely to occur if you drive at high speeds during a storm or if your tires aren’t inflated properly. The New York DMV Driver’s Manual recommends buying tires with deep tread to prevent hydroplaning.
  • Avoid deep water
    • You should not drive through moving water, especially if you cannot see the ground beneath. You could drift away with no control. Look for alternative paths. Driving through truly deep water can either severely damage your car or pose a serious threat to your well-being.
  • Check Brakes
    • If you pass through a deep puddle of water, pump your brakes. The water can saturate the brakes, decreasing their ability to function. Brake lightly to dry them out.
  • Slow down
    • You need to slow down because it will take longer to do anything in the rain. You won’t be able to stop or turn as quickly. You also won’t have the same level of control. The other vehicles on the road won’t either. This becomes especially important during curves or expressway ramps.
  • Increase following distance
    • When driving in calm, pleasant weather, you should maintain an appropriate following distance that will allow you to respond in time if the car ahead brakes unexpectedly. The following distance needs to be increased in the rain for two reasons: (1) your reaction time will be worse, owing to your hindered vision and the car’s decreased efficiency and (2) the likelihood that the automobile ahead will do something unexpected will increase drastically.
  • Turn on low beam headlights
    • Since rain makes it more challenging to see through your windshield, you should turn your headlights on. Some states require headlights for any weather condition that requires windshield wipers. Daytime running lights are not strong enough. It is important to keep in mind that high headlight beams can cause a glare from the rain. This actually decreases visibility. So keep them on the low beam setting.
  • Signal your turns well in advance
    • You need to be courteous to other drivers. There are many reasons a car behind you might not react to your direction in time if you signal with standard timing. They might have fewer chances to see it through the rain, or their car might not respond fast enough. Give them plenty of time.
  • Pull over if necessary
    • Sometimes the rain can be so heavy that you simply cannot see outside, or cannot see well enough to operate a motor vehicle. Under these circumstances, pull to the side of the road as far from the traffic as possible. Keep headlights and emergency flashers on to alert other drivers of your presence.

Bruce D.
Concerning driving with daytime running lights. While driving with these options the rear tail lamps are not displayed. I see quite a few vehicles on the road during rain and night driving with just driving lights on and no tail lamps displayed!