According to recent figures from the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) a catastrophic hailstorm in Sydney, which occurred on the evening of December 20 2018, cost the state of NSW approximately $670 million in insurance claims. Of the more than 80,000 claims processed due to that storm, 70 percent were car related and 21 percent were related to residential homes.i
While these figures are astronomically high for an isolated incident, cars are frequently damaged by hail. To avoid paying a fortune in repairs, it is important to have comprehensive car insurance (the only level of cover that will protect you against storms) and – if you choose to repair the damage – know how to pick the right panel beater.
Common Types of Hail Damage
When a vehicle is left out in the open during a hailstorm it is at risk of damage. How serious the damage is depending on the intensity of the storm, how long the storm goes on for, and the size of hailstones. The severity of the damage will also determine the total cost of repairs.
If exposed to the elements, the most common car parts to be damaged by a hailstorm is the:
Most visual signs of hail damage are clear to see at first glance. However, it is easy to miss those few ‘bumps’ if you inspect the vehicle at night or in poor lighting conditions. So you should wait until daytime for proper lighting to assess the damage.
You will know your vehicle has hail damage when you see bumps, usually the size of a golf ball, on the surface. Sometimes hail is strong enough to damage the paint job as well. But this is not always the case. If you are lucky enough to avoid paint damage, the cost of repair will be cheaper.
When hail does hit a window, and the hailstones are either incredibly large or fall very quickly, there is a chance the impact will crack or split a glass panel. When this happens the chance of a successful repair is pretty low. Usually it is safer, quicker, and cheaper to replace the glass panel instead.
Is Hail Damage Covered By Insurance?
Comprehensive car insurance is the only type of insurance that will protect you against storms.
Keep in mind no two policies are ever the same. While most comp policies offer some level of coverage against storms, not all do. So it is always a good idea to refer to your policy, or contact your insurer directly, for clarification.
Even if you are covered in the event of a storm, not all policies give you the freedom to choose your panel beater. This can be a problem if the panel beater your insurer does choose is overwhelmed with repair jobs after a recent storm. There is a chance the job could be rushed or you will be left stranded without a vehicle.
Any reputable panel beater will service your vehicle to the highest quality standards. They will also offer a replacement hire car – which your insurer may cover depending on your policy – to keep you on the road in the meantime.
How Panel Beaters Repair Hail Damage
Whether your vehicle is repaired through an insurer or not, most panel beaters offer a free visual inspection and quote. They will have the skills, knowledge, and equipment to assess the damage in the correct lighting conditions, and determine the full extent of the hail damage.
Based on the results, your panel beater will recommend one or more of the following repair services:
Paintless Dent Repair (PDR)
This is an effective way to remove dents from a vehicle without the need to re-paint or use body fillers. It involves the use of special PDR techniques, such as high tensile levers and metal rods, in order to gently ‘push’ the dent from the inside back outward and then massage the surface back to its original form. When done correctly, the surface looks as good as new, and you preserve the resale value of your vehicle too.
PDR is a viable repair method as long as the panels are not cracked or scratched.
Keep in mind the cost of repair does go up as more dents are found. Especially if multiple panels are damaged. Sometimes the cost of fixing the tens if not hundreds of dents will exceed the cost of replacing the panel. When this happens, any reputable panel beater will advise you to replace the panel and save you a bit of money.
Body Filler and Re-Paint
Body filler is a substance used to fill dents or dings. It is a viable way to refinish a surface if PDR is unable to resolve the extent of hail damage.
There are many types of body fillers available on the market, which can repair varying degrees of damage for different panels. This includes lightweight body filler to heavy-duty filler for more serious damage. Your panel beater will know which type of filler to use based on your unique circumstances.
Once the body filler has been applied, the panel beater will sand down the surface to ensure a smooth finish. Finally, they will re-paint the surface with the same colour as the original finish so that it matches the rest of the vehicle.
Panel and Window Replacement
If the extent of hail damage is beyond the scope of repair, your panel beater will replace the panel. Any broken windscreens or other glass panels are typically replaced as well.
Cost of Panel Beating Repairs
PDR is the most cost-effective way to repair hail damage, as it does not require re-painting or replacing the panel. And the service only takes 1-2 hours depending on the extent of the damage. Better still, you preserve the look and resale value of your vehicle as well.
Most reputable panel beaters will give you a free quote online. All you have to do is upload a photo of the hail damage and fill out the online form. You will get a quick response and an honest price estimate to help you take the next step.