Car mechanics vs. panel beaters
The difference and why it matters
The process of having your car fixed is rarely (or should we say ‘never’) an enjoyable experience, even if you have car insurance to cover all the costs. At most, it can be satisfying to know your car’s getting some TLC and will be returned in tip-top shape. But that’s not quite the same as ‘enjoyable’. So long as it gets done, that’s about all we really care about (that, and when the car will be returned).
In fact, our concern doesn’t even extend so far as to know who’s dealing with the repairs. It could be a mechanic, a magician, or a panel beater. All we know is that the car’s in ‘for repairs’. To shed light on the subject, we’ve nailed down the differences between the 2 main car repair services and who you should see for what.
The deal with car mechanics
Many South Africans first think of visiting a mechanic if something goes wrong with their cars, especially after an accident. And they may be right. You see, car mechanics deal with the inner workings of your car, like not starting or making funny noises. These experts evaluate all your car’s mechanical systems and repair them using various tools and equipment.
Issues mechanics resolve:
- Engine noises and other strange sounds.
- The replacement of parts, such as the clutch or gearbox.
- Malfunctioning air systems.
- Misfiring spark plugs.
The list is seemingly endless, but only relevant to a car mechanic if the car has internal issues. If the car has body damage, then a panel beater is what you’ll need.
The deal with panel beaters
Panel beaters have nothing to do with the fixing of the inner workings of your car. These chaps are all about your car’s exterior and will take on the responsibility of repairing and realigning damaged and dented panels of your car’s bodywork. Much like mechanics, panel beaters have special equipment and processes, and rely on tools like files and grinding equipment, dollies, gouges, keys, chisels and clamps, and electrical equipment among others.
Issues panel beaters resolve:
- Removing or smoothing out bumps, dents, and general crinkles.
- Replacing damaged body parts and welding replacements in their place.
- Straightening bent frames.
- Aligning damaged frames, body sections, and unit bodies.
Panel beaters are also responsible for the final assembly and inspection for true fit, and will test your car to ensure proper connection and working components in electrical fittings, door handles, locks and lights. That’s as close as they get to being mechanics. If there are issues with these components that aren’t related to panel beating, they’ll refer you to a mechanic.
So, which service do you need?
There’s nothing worse for your car than getting the wrong repair service to take responsibility for the repairs. A panel beater shouldn’t fix your fan belt and a mechanic shouldn’t realign your bumper. It’s absolutely not a case of letting just anyone screw and bolt together parts with any old tool. Not only can it lead to more issues down the road (literally), but it could endanger your life.
The best way to think of it is this way:
- Internal problems = car mechanic.
- External problems = panel beater.
Each is equipped with the right knowledge and expertise to restore your car to its perfect self. A commonality that these 2 services share, however, is the fact that they can present you with unexpected costs that might not be affordable. No matter how reasonable the cost may be, car repairs of any sort are unlikely to be the same as the price of a bottle of milk. And you don’t want to skimp on these kinds of repairs.
But if you have car insurance from an insurer with a reliable reputation for putting their clients’ wellbeing at the front and centre of all that they do, then everything becomes that much easier to budget for. Take King Price, for example. The royal insurer treats all their clients like kings and queens, only uses royally approved service providers, and offers logical car insurance that decreases every month. Which is the best way to prepare for unexpected situations, like needing to have your door panel replaced after a minor argument with a parking lot pole.