ChipsAway provides car bodywork and alloy wheel repairs at your home, but is the service any good? Ben Griffin gives them a call and hands over his car to find out.
Sizeable potholes, grit on the road, nasty kerbs – just about everything can and will ruin our four-wheeled pride and joy, no matter how careful you are. Luckily there are ways to repair the damage and some companies will come to you.
ChipsAway is one example of a mobile paint chip and alloy repair company in the UK that does its repairs on your doorstep. So how does it all work, how much does it cost, is it worth the money and what sort of repairs can be done? Here’s the Recombu Cars lowdown.
How does it work?
The short answer is you call up, at which point ChipsAway will find you the nearest repairer who is assigned to your area. You can then directly sort out what work needs doing, arrange a quote and, if happy, sort out a repair date.
Can ChipsAway do the work anywhere?
Because of safety, access to a garage or driveway is recommended (preferably yours, but a friend or relative’s could be used). In either case, access to a plug socket is essential so that the relevant tools can be plugged in. A quiet road may be acceptable but it would be best to check beforehand.
What sort of repairs can be done?
Most types of damage can be sorted out at the roadside. This includes kerbed wheels, paint chips, scratches and scuffs. “95 per cent we can do at a customer’s home, it’s about the convenience,” said Luke, the man who tended to my BMW Z4.
More extensive repairs, where large sections of a car would need to be resprayed (such as the doors) will require a garage, mainly because of the likelihood of dust ruining the end result. If this is deemed necessary, you will need to take your car to a ChipsAway CarCare Centre and have the work carried out there.
What if the weather is bad?
A gazebo is provided in the case it rains, snows or any other precipitation descends. In the winter, lights are used so the work can be done when the sun has buggered off for the day. If really bad, the work could be rebooked for another day.
What are the benefits of mobile repair?
You can save yourself the hassle of getting your car to a garage, for starters, and the associated fuel cost. In fact, it is entirely possible to have your car repaired while it is declared SORN and off the road, saving the need to tow a vehicle to a garage.
Another benefit of mobile repair is that your car is nearby and only out of action for a day and the work is done on the date you specify. Obviously any repair takes your car out of action while it is being done, though, just the same as if it was done at a local garage.
How long does the process take?
Depends on the job. A complete refurb of four 19-inch alloy wheels took the best part of a day, while a couple of scrapes on the front bumper needed a few hours. If time is of the essence, it would be a good idea to ask for an estimate before starting the work as it will also depend on the repairer’s ability.
Does ChipsAway guarantee its work?
Yes, for three years. This means you could have a go if the paint work you had done starts crumbling away, but forget trying to get money back if you re-kerb your alloys – that’s not covered.
Does the repair actually last?
Our refurbed alloys still look every bit as brand new as they did when the repair was done (especially as now having a shiny set of wheels will encourage you to park that little bit further away from those evil kerbs) and this is more than three months on.
Give the alloys and any bodywork at least two weeks before cleaning and they can survive the tougher cleaning chemicals out there, although if in doubt it is best to test a small area to be sure. As for bodywork, a few months on and the repair area still looks like it had never been damaged.
How accurate is the paint match?
Gone are the days of colour swatches and other arcane methods. Our ChipsAway man had a clever machine that scans the paint to find a perfect match and takes into account any fading or wear and tear that will have slightly changed the colour. A number from 1-18 is generated to help find the right choice. For my aging black BMW, the most accurate colour comes from an Audi.
How does the repair work?
ChipsAway first isolates and degreases the damaged area before sanding down using a hand tool to “balance and flatten” it. Then certain areas such as the lights and wheels are covered up to keep paint from going where it shouldn’t and the dust is blown off the damaged area. Then there’s more sanding and a touch of heat gun action to level out the primer followed by multiple layers of paint and lacquer. Once all shiny, cool water is used to cool the area down and then an electric polisher is used to really bring out the shine.
How well trained are the ChipsAway repairers?
Largely depends on the person but ChipsAway is a franchise and so tens of thousands have to be handed over for an operator to, well, operate under the ChipsAway banner. That is in addition to a monthly subscription cost as part of a five-year contract. In short, those who take it on really have to mean business. Then there is a month of “intense training,” according to Luke, followed by a number of advanced courses to expand that knowledge.
So how do I know if the ChipsAway repairer is any good?
ChipsAway has TrustPilot and Facebook pages where you can check out company reviews. Repairer-specific reviews can usually be found on a seperate Facebook page (go here for Luke’s before and after photos and time lapse repair videos). Be sure to ask for a look at previous work. If someone is unkeen to show how good they are, that speaks volumes. The quality is only as good as the repairer, after all.
How much does it cost?
As previously stated, this depends on the repairer as there is no specific price set by ChipsAway. Luke wanted £160 plus VAT for fixing a large graze on the front bumper. His average alloy wheel repair for all four wheels costs £360 but will increase for larger alloys. Your local ChipsAway repairer may be cheaper or more expensive so always get a quote before saying yes to avoid any nasty surprises. If you have a lot of work to do, you may be able to negotiate a small saving, but then it may be worth looking at a full respray or other more drastic repair work.
Would you recommend ChipsAway, then?
As we said, ChipsAway is a franchise so the quality of the work will depend on the person who comes to your house. In our case, Luke was extremely polite, quick to sort out the booking and arrived on time. In terms of the bodywork he repaired, the quality was excellent.
As for the alloys, a chap named Vasquez returned them to their former glory. So shiny and smooth was the end result we would have no issue eating off them – and he managed that with wheels that had taken a severe beating over a period of five years.
It may be possible to find a cheaper repair job elsewhere, but the quality we experienced was top-notch and the convenience hard to fault. The end result is by no means comparable to a full bodyshop repair so to expect as much may lead to disappointment, but it is hard to know where the original paintwork ends and the repairjob begins, which is surely the point anyway?