Repairing your Tesla Bodywork

In late December I went to Crown Center to see my daughter perform at a choir recital just before Christmas.  When I arrived at the Crown Center parking garage I parked with a concrete pole to my left and a minivan to my right.  My thought process was that no one could ding my doors on the left due to the pole and the minivan has sliding doors so that shouldn’t be a problem either assuming the driver was careful.   I was inside Crown Center for about 90 minutes and when I came out I was carrying some holiday packages so I went around to the passenger side of my car to put them into my car.  (the van was gone)  That’s when I noticed a large streak down the side of my car.  Upon closer inspection it looked as if someone had side swiped my car starting at the rear of the front door, continuing down the rear door and into the fender.  A friend of mine that was with me and who is a shop owner at Crown Center told me that security has cameras in the garage and sure enough they do.   However, upon consulting security we discovered that the camera closest to my car was pointed 180 degrees away from my car and didn’t capture anything.  I don’t know if it was the van owner pulling out or maybe they left and someone pulled in and did it and hurriedly left but whomever did it didn’t leave a note.

The number decal on my front door probably saved it from any significant damage, just some paint that needed buffed out, but the rear door and fender took the brunt of the impact:

I guess I was somewhat lucky in that they did not also hit the rear bumper so damage was limited primarily to rear door and fender.  The door is aluminum the fender is steel.

After this exciting Christmas present happened I picked up my phone and used my State Farm application to enter the information about the claim.   I was concerned that my accident free discount would go away or that my rates my get increased because of the incident so I also spoke to my State Farm agent.  He assured me that while the accident falls under the collision category (and thus my $1k deductible applied) that since I was not driving the car, it was simply parked, that I would keep my accident free discount and my rates would not change.  That was some good news at least from that aspect of the incident.  The State Farm app was easy to use and you could even submit your location via GPS and photos of what happened through the app to start the claim process rolling which was nice.   The next step was to take the car to the State Farm claim inspection location that is shared with Baron BMW’s repair facility on Shawnee Mission Parkway.   Once there I met an adjuster who reviewed the damage to the car and wrote up an estimate for repairs that was nearly $3k.   He did caution me though that if I took my car to Eveland Brothers, the Tesla Certified Repair Facility in Kansas City that their estimate would likely be higher and any differences would have to be resolved between State Farm and Eveland Brothers through supplements.   More on this in a bit….

My next stop was to Eveland Brothers who were able to look at my car and come up with a repair estimate even though I showed up without an appointment.  (Does no one do walk-in business anymore?)  For those who don’t know, Eveland Brothers ponied up a large sum of money to Tesla and sent individuals to Tesla for training on the repair of Tesla vehicles and as such are the only “certified” Tesla repair facility in Kansas City.  (The next closest are Omaha and Saint Louis).  I should also point out that Tesla restricts some parts to “certified” shops only, so there may be instances were a repair absolutely requires that you work with a certified shop.  You would have to check to see if any parts required for the repair were restricted or not.   After looking over my car Eveland Brothers came back with an estimate of almost $6k or about double what State Farm has estimated.  According to the person from Eveland Brothers, he thought he could probably get another $800 out of State Farm in supplements but that the rest would fall on me, so if I wanted to go about $3k out of pocket they’d be happy to fix my car, although they could not get it in for repair for at least a month due to their backlog.

Say What?  How does this happen?  Don’t I have insurance for such things?

Well here is what is happening.   State Farm pays a market rate for repairs based on their researched cost of repairs in a local market and based on the type of work being done.  For example, frame straightening might be at $75/hr and welding might be at $90/hr and sanding and painting might be at $55/hour, etc.  Eveland Brothers doesn’t break out their labor rate by activity in the same way, so if they weld on your car it would be their standard rate of $110/hr, if they vacuum out your car or plug in a wire, $110/hr, in essence flat fee.   On one hand I understand that Eveland Brothers has ponied up a lot of money to become certified and they have to pay for that certification somehow, but on the other hand I understand State Farm wanting to keep their insurance rates competitive so they pay market rates adjusted for the type of work being performed.  My insurance rates at State Farm have been lower to other insurance companies I have compared to for insuring a Tesla, if State Farm suddenly had to start paying 2x for repairs you can guess who that cost is going to get passed on to, all Tesla owners in the area in terms of a rate increase during the next cycle.   According to Eveland Brothers all the other insurance companies just pay Eveland’s rates without question, that might account for why other companies have higher premiums on Teslas, at least to some degree.

I had a decision to make, do I go the Eveland Brothers route or do I seek another repair facility.  Here were my decision points:

  1. Was there anything unique about the damage to my car that would require special tools or special training that Eveland Brothers might have? – The answer here was No, other than the ability to work with both Aluminum and Steel, I did not have any damage to my car that involved any uniquely Tesla system or design.   Had I had a Model X with damage to Falcon Wing doors then I might consider it, the same for if drive line or electronic components were damaged, but I didn’t have any uniquely Tesla related damage.
  2. Were there any parts required that could only be obtained by a Tesla certified shop? – Again the answer was No, my damage was mostly body work with potentially a couple of trim pieces required which were available from Tesla
  3. Did I want to get involved with a lot of back and forth between State Farm and Eveland Brothers? – No, I could not foresee any positives to having adjusters visiting my car AFTER it went into the shop and having to “work out” what may or may not be paid for.  I envisioned a nightmare scenario where my car was hostage in the shop and my insurance company wouldn’t pay for something or pay Eveland’s rate and I would be left holding the bag and having to pay out of pocket.
  4. Did I want to wait for a month for Eveland to start on my car? – Not really, while I could have, I was wanting to put the whole thing behind me sooner as opposed to later if possible.
  5. Did I want to potentially have to pay my deductible plus out of pocket money? – No, seems contrary to the reasons I have insurance.

Given my answers to these points it was pretty obvious that I needed to seek out another repair facility, get another estimate and make a decision.   I asked around among a couple of friends in the Tesla Owners Club (yet another perk of the club if you aren’t a member – sign up!) and discovered that a fellow member Bruce Whitney owned Whitney Collision in Kansas City, Missouri.  https://www.whitneycollision.com/ (816-333-5124) Bruce owns a Model S and has been working on Teslas for a few years and has been in the collision repair business for more than 30 years.   I took the car to Bruce and he looked it over and said that he could fix the car for the initial State Farm estimate and that he works with State Farm all the time.   Bruce could also start on my car the following week.   We discussed the issues of working with aluminum vs. working with steel  (something I am intimately familiar with given my restoration of a 1956 Jaguar XK140 that is both steel and aluminum).  It turns out that Bruce visits SEMA every year and acquires new body work equipment, mostly from Europe, because they are ahead of the US in terms of automating and improving body repair equipment and techniques.

At this point, I spoke with State Farm and updated them that I wanted to use Bruce’s shop instead and they made the change in their system.  I also noted that my clear paint protection film would have to come off my rocker panel and lower portion of the door when those parts were repainted and State Farm said that was not an issue that I would simply file a supplement through the app and receive a check in the mail or direct deposit to cover the supplemental charges.  The same was true for my damaged number logo so I ordered a new door decal when I took my car into the shop.   State Farm also provided a rental (Nissan Versa – awful car but adequate transportation I suppose) since I have rental coverage on my policy.

Here are a couple of pictures of early work on the car while at Whitney Collision:

Note that the door handle isn’t seen in the image above.  The door when impacted had popped in and back out and had separated from the inner door liner and no longer lined up with the door handle.  This required that the door be taken apart and accessed from the inside so that items could be reconnected and some of the dings in the aluminum taken out in the process.   Here is a quick shot I took of the inside of the door panel:

Bruce told me that most of the body work in the fender they were able to pull back out using some of their special tools, it just takes a little longer.  I think the original estimate from State Farm was that it should take 5-7 days to repair and Bruce ended up having my car for 8 days so that was certainly reasonable and in line with the estimate.   Speaking of the estimate, I think the only part that was not on the State Farm estimate but that needed to be replaced was the rear fender side reflector and rather than file a supplement for that part Bruce just included that as the part wasn’t that expensive and readily in stock at the service center.  There is something to be said for customer service and making the process as smooth and painless for the customer as possible.   Here are some shots of the car after the work was finished:

You can see the handle lines up again and the finish on the black car is a high quality mirror finish.

The fender came out great, door seal is where it should be and everything lines up, if I didn’t tell someone that I had work done in this area they would never know.

Last, but not least, when I came back a few days after picking up my car so that the rear fender reflector piece could be installed, I brought with me my new door decals.   The weather was bitterly cold that day but that wasn’t a problem, Bruce rolled out the infrared heaters and proceeded to heat up the side of the car and the decal making it a snap to remove and replace.

At this point the only items left for me to do are to get the clear paint protection film re-applied and get the door and fender ceramic coated.  Typically the advice from Xpel is to wait 30 days after painting a car to make sure everything has set up well, so I will be doing that shortly.   In the mean time I’ve already received my first supplement check from State Farm for the door decals, so I know that process works.

Final Thoughts:   I’m certainly pleased with the results.  Insurance paid its part, Bruce’s shop did top quality body and paint work, and everything was taken care of in a timely fashion, and I’m not out of pocket a bunch of $ because someone side swiped me.   I should also point out that Bruce warranties his work for life so if I were ever to have an issue I could take it back and he would resolve it.   I know that in the body work and paint world that if the job is done right the first time then typically there are no recurring problems or reasons to bring a car back, but it is still nice to have the piece of mind of a Lifetime warranty vs. a 90 day or 1 year warranty that many other shops provide.   If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them via the form below and I will do my best to answer.   I hope this article helps kick off 2019 on a positive note, and provide you with information that you might need when considering the repair of your Tesla (or any car for that matter).

3 Comments

  • Great write up Ken! I remember you mentioning the damage you took at Crown Center. For all Tesla owners, I recommend always parking in the EV parking there, even if you don’t need to charge. It’s just safer, and the spots are never full! I usually run in for food and then run out, as our warehouse is located close by, so I don’t use up the spots for more than about 10 minutes. Glad you got it fixed. I also got a quote from Eveland for some Tesla work and got it repaired for about 1/2 elsewhere and didn’t have to wait 2 months to get it into them! Thanks for the thorough review of the shop you used. I’m going to call them tomorrow about a limo I need worked on.

  • Teslaken

    Glad the article helped and please tell Bruce you saw this article and referral. Sadly the new Sentry mode hasn’t come out yet or I could have nabbed the person who did it!

  • Leanne Wiedemann

    I read this a while ago, but decided to come back in and give my endorsement to Bruce Whitney’s services on our Model S — He had his paintless dent repair guy take dents out of my hood (black walnut bounce?) and our driver’s door (random dent from something bounced up on I-35) and can’t tell! Thanks Bruce!

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