Summer time is the season for storms, and many times this means hail. While the average hail storm lasts about six minutes, the National Weather Service estimates that hail causes roughly $1 billion in damages each year. Many people know that hail can severely damage the roof and siding of homes and businesses, but not everyone considers their vehicles to be at risk. Hailstones can shatter windshields, side view mirrors and headlights and leave noticeable damage to the body of a vehicle.
To safeguard your car during hail season, the Better Business Bureau suggests the following:
Before the hail storm:
- Learn to recognize the weather conditions that spark hailstorms.
- As a precaution, if weather forecasters are predicting a hailstorm, pull cars, boats, and RVs into a garage, covered parking lot or other substantial covering.
- If your only choice is to leave your parked car exposed to the elements, you may want to cover the hood, roof and trunk with thick blankets as protection against possible hail.
During a hail storm:
- Once hail has begun to fall, do not go out into the storm to protect your vehicle or other property! You could be injured.
- If you are driving, and a safe place (like inside a garage, under an overpass or a service station awning) is in view, drive there as soon as possible.
- If you cannot find a sheltered area, carefully pull completely off the highway to the side of the road. Keep head and face away from windows.
- Do not leave the vehicle until after it stops hailing to avoid personal injury.
After the hail storm:
- Assess the damage. Check your car for dents and broken or cracked glass and headlights.
- If there is broken glass in your car, take action to prevent rain damage to the interior. Remove the glass to prevent cuts to you or your passengers.
If your car sustained hail damage:
- Your car insurance policy will cover hail damage if you have comprehensive coverage. Call your insurance agent or company immediately to report the damage and discuss how to proceed with repairs.
- After an insurance adjuster has surveyed your vehicle’s hail damage, you will need to find a reputable auto body shop to make repairs. Ask your insurance company if it has a preferred auto body shop.
- If you choose a repair shop on your own, contact the Better Business Bureau or get referrals from friends.
- Talk to experts at the body shop. Hail damage to sheet metal may need to be hammered and painted. Or technicians may recommend paintless dent removal (PDR), which involves using specially-molded metal tools on the underside of a damaged part that will not disturb the factory finish.
- Your insurance company will be able to determine the severity of your damage and consult with you and the body shop on which repair method makes the most sense for your vehicle.
- Find out how long the repair will take. If many cars were damaged in your area, it may take awhile to schedule the repair.
- Make sure your vehicle is repaired to your satisfaction. Check for any remaining dents before driving your vehicle home.
- Get guarantee and contact information from the shop in writing. If you notice a flaw in your vehicle's repair, you should be able to have it fixed at no additional charge.