The Art Of Grading Parts: More Than A Matter Of Opinion
Not all recycled parts are created equal. Some have more “dings” and dents than others, which has led to an interesting history of how damage has been communicated between auto recyclers and body shops. It went something like this:
Recycler (eyeballing a quarter-size dent): “Looks like about an hour’s worth of work to me.”
Body Shop (after receiving the part): “An hour? Are they kidding? I’m going to get paid for an hour, and it’s going to take me four.”
“The conversation between buyer and seller was very subjective,” acknowledged Sue Schauls, executive director of Iowa Automotive Recyclers (IAR, www.iowaautorecyclers.com). “The damage could be the size of a quarter, but the area to be fixed could be as large as a dinner plate. Recyclers aren’t in the business of body work, so they’re talking a different language than the body shops. It’s like one is speaking English and the other is speaking Spanish. Both languages perfectly express their needs but they’re not truly communicating with each other.”
That was the impetus behind the parts grading guidelines in the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA, www.a-r-a.org) Recycled Parts Standards & Codes. The guidelines improve communication between auto recyclers and their customers: body shops, mechanical repairers and insurance companies.
“The ARA guidelines make grading a standard language,” explained Schauls. “No longer is anyone saying how long a part will take to fix. They simply report the facts.”
Mechanical parts, like engines, are graded by mileage and the age of the vehicle. Body parts are given an A, B or C grade.
Units Of Measure
The operative word is unit, according to Mel Hunke, trainer at the Parts Grading Workshop at an IAR event in Tama, Iowa.
“If you can lay a credit card over the damage, and it completely covers it, that’s one unit of damage,” he illustrated. “A Grade A part has no blemishes and no more than one unit of damage. A Grade B part has a couple of units of damage. A Grade C part is usually considered NIQ, not insurance quality. There’s too much damage.”
An example of a Grade A part is a front door assembly with a parking lot “ding” in the center of the door, according to the ARA codes. A Grade B part would be a roof with hail damage. A Grade C part is a bent tailgate.
Below Grade A
Grade C parts are fine for do-it-yourself repair work when you just need a functional door, Hunke acknowledged. “But in most cases, a good repair shop won’t want to go too far from a Grade A part,” he added. “That way, it doesn’t have to justify to the customer why it is putting in a damaged part.”
Hunke noted that parts grading applies to factory original parts or OEM.
“If it’s a damaged aftermarket part, it usually goes right into the NIQ pile,” he said.
The credit card is a very practical unit of measure, added Schauls. “You always have a credit card with you, or if not, a driver’s license or business card,” she said. “Grading for body parts becomes a standard language.”
Mechanical parts, however, either work or they don’t, she noted. While it’s difficult to determine how long it might take to fix them, the ARA grading system is still able to standardize the evaluation. Hunke explained, “A Grade A engine has less than 60,000 miles on it or less than 15,000 accumulated miles per year for the age of the vehicle. A Grade B engine has mileage in the range of 60,000 to 200,000. A Grade C part has over 200,000 miles.”
“The effectiveness of these codes still depends on the quality of communication, and the trust and honesty in the relationship, between buyer and seller,” said Hunke.
He added that many auto manufacturers are pushing to eliminate recycled parts altogether. “Recyclers and body shops need to work together to show the grading system ensures these parts are top quality.”