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'Car Cosmetics' - a new buzzword.

DannyDanny Argent 19/04/11

Out there in the rest of world, 'cosmetic repair' seems to becoming another name for smart repair, but we have been using the word 'cosmetics' for a number of years and we have slightly different definitions.

Definition: 'Car cosmetics' - by our definition, this refers to the trim and the 'bling'. These days we expect cars to be mechanically reliable and generally they are. You also expect a car to come with power steering, ABS, air conditioning and most certainly a radio. They have pretty much done it all with the extras -- alloy wheels, low profile tyres and leather upholstery are not considered particularly special, so now they are pushing things like 'panoramic view'.
While they are distracting you and tempting you with all this gadgetry and luxury, the car manufacturers have been making other more subtle and cosmetic changes in an effort to make cars look more modern. These days all the door handles, rumble strips, wing mirrors and bumpers are colour coded with the bodywork of the car -- just a few years ago they would have been bare black plastic. You may also find that you car has other little cosmetic improvements, long gone are the thick black window rubbers, instead replaced with frameless windows or shiny metal frames.
Unfortunately, all this detail is delicate! Painted bumpers get bumped, rumble strips get rumbled, and metal trim can become stained or tarnished.
As we said above, you expect a car to be mechanically reliable, and your expect most of the extras to come as standard, which means that much of the value of a used car is judged on it's cosmetic appearance. Therefore it is important to get any minor damage to these areas fixed before selling your car or returning it to a lease company.

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A Smart Repair

Definition: 'Cosmetic Repair' - by our definition, cosmetic repair refers to any repair which is cosmetic in nature, i.e. it is a cover-up and not a proper permanent repair. Most dictionaries will say that cosmetic is 'superficial', 'not substantive', and 'for the sake of appearance only'. That's not to say that other companies that use the term 'cosmetic repair' don't do a proper job, they probably just have a different definition than we do.

We think of repairs as coming in four levels, at the bottom are Cosmetic Repairs and Touch-ins, in the middle are Small Area Resprays/Smart Repairs and Midi-Repairs, and the top level are full body shops. Cosmetic repairs are generally a compromise but they do have their uses, for example:

Cigarette burn repairs on fabric. The normal method of repair is to glue fibres into the burn hole. Once done this cosmetic repair can be visually very good, however it is delicate. On high-wear areas such as seats the fibres will soon be rubbed away and the only proper repair is to have a trimmer replace the damaged panel or adjust it in some way to hide the burn within a seam. But a cigarette burn in headlinings and some areas of the carpet are a different matter! To replace a carpet or headlinging in a car can cost many hundreds of pounds and is not an economical repair on most cars. And because a headlining and most of the carpet receive little or no wear, even a cosmetic repair can last many years.

Car Cosmetics

The damage shown left is a prime candidate for cosmetic repair. It can't be done with Small Area Respray because there isn't space to get a spray gun under the area without taking the bumper off which will push the cost up significantly. When standing next to the car you can't see this because it is pretty much underneath the bumper. When you stand back enough so that you can see it, you are far enough away that a touch-in is virtually invisible. You sometimes find that the manufacturers don't finish these areas to the same standard as the rest of the car because they are hardly seen and won't rust (they are plastic).

This customer decided to have a full body shop repair instead of a cosmetic repair because the model is one sought after by enthusiasts.

Another use for cosmetic repair is on key scratches. If somebody keys the side of your car the only way to deal with this properly is to repaint the whole side of the car, unfortunately this can cost £550-£1200. It's well worth spending the money to do it properly if you have a car worth thousands of pounds. But there are plenty of cars on the road that look quite respectable and have many years left in them that are only worth £1500. In this case they don't warrant spending this kind of money and so to stop the scratch from rusting and make the car look a bit better, a cosmetic repair is perfectly acceptable. This would involve buffing out the lighter scratches and touching in the deeper damage. This could make a significant improvement for as little as £25 per panel. The actual improvement will depend on the the extent of the damage, the position and the colour of the car -- we have been able to make huge improvements on some cars such as this one done for AutoCar Magazine. This is one of the few times we will carry out a cosmetic repair above knee height on the car.
Although this kind of cosmetic repair is still very visible when you get close up, this is partly due to the position, key scratches tend to be high on the bodywork. But in other cases where you may have run over a brick or scuffed the sill on a high kerb, the closer you get to the car, the less visible these areas are (unless you are on your hands and knees), and so a cosmetic repair is probably the best option on the majority of cars.

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This page was last updated on Tue, 24 September, 2013
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