Three days of icy roads led to hundreds of car wrecks in North Texas, and now auto body shops are bracing for a wave of the banged up vehicles.
Customers should know that the repair work may take longer than normal.
Local auto body shops blame the lengthy wait times on a backlog of work because of a lack of manpower, supply chain issues for parts and the expected volume of new business. Shop owners are advising their customers to schedule their repairs in advance.
Medstar, which operates ambulance service in Fort Worth and Tarrant County, reported 281 crashes between Jan. 30 and Feb. 3.
Dallas had 170 wrecks from midnight to 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 3, when roads refroze after a brief thaw on Thursday, WFAA reports.
Tommy Francks, owner of Tommy’s Auto Repair on 5011 Parrish Road in Haltom City, said his calendar for February is already half full after being mostly closed for the week. His advice for getting a repair?
“As soon as you can, get on the calendar,” Francks said. “Get on the calendar so you can get it fixed.”
Eddie Stephens, the fourth-generation owner of Haws Paint and Body located at 1013 E. Belknap St., expects to start seeing wrecked cars and customers coming in for estimates as soon as the roads clear. The time of repairs will depend on how large the fix is and the parts available. There’s also a shortage in mechanics, he said, which affects business.
“Every shop in town is looking for more employees because you just don’t have a full shop anymore,” Stephens said. “Can’t really explain that. We don’t really understand what’s going on.”
While wrecks were up, the American Automobile Association of Texas saw a 15% decrease in requests for roadside service, AAA spokesman Daniel Armbruster said. The Dallas-Fort Worth area received about 1,000 calls a day during the onslaught of ice, mostly for dead batteries and flat tires. Lower calls are a sign drivers listened to warnings to stay off the icy roads, he said.
Mechanics are also expecting a surge in business.
The problem is twofold, Sergio Garza, general manager of Rick and Ray’s Auto Plaza said: a lack of employees and parts availability. The shop has to have employees that can make the drive to work, which doesn’t always happen when the roads are slick. Parts delivery businesses weren’t running either, which affects what repairs mechanics can make, he said.
“Let’s say tires are not in stock,” Garza said. “We won’t be able to do that until we’re able to accept deliveries.”
The pause in repairs paired with the winter weather means many shops see a boost in business after storms. After Auto Plaza shut down twice last February, revenue spiked. Garza is expecting the business will start getting busy. Some repairs he’s seen are fender benders, broken door handles and broken wipers.
“Anytime you stop working on cars, it doesn’t mean that they’re not going to break,” he said.
Advice for finding a repair shop
Steve Metcalf, the owner of Dealer Alternative, Lexutech and Pratt Automotive and a Automotive Service Excellence-certified master technician since 1979, said looking for a local mechanic should be similar to finding a good doctor: Word of mouth goes a long way, he said, along with knowing them by name.
“Every industry has good and bad. Our industry has a reputation of taking advantage of people,” Metcalf said. “And so I fought that my entire working life and tried to build relationships, and build trust so they knew I wouldn’t ever take advantage of them.”
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.
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