7 On Your Side explains how to get free car inspections

This is a great service, one that every driver in California should know about. When you get body repairs to your car, it may look good on the outside, but can you really tell what it's like under the surface? It's hard to know if the body shop really fixed the parts you can't see. And if not, is your car now too dangerous to drive?

Now, there is a way you can get your car inspected by the experts for free.

"I was rear ended back in November on 101 south," Palo Alto resident Connor Ellman said.

It happened when Ellman was stuck in stop and go traffic on Highway 101.

"I was just sort of sitting there and a big truck came up behind me," Ellman said.

And boom. It hit the rear end of his BMW.

"So there was a massive dent in my back bumper," Ellman said.

The trucker's insurance paid the $1,900 bill for repairs and Ellman wasn't hurt, but he says his car hasn't been the same since.

"The trunk wasn't closing as smoothly as it used to," Ellman said.

However, that isn't the biggest problem.

"One day my speakers went out," he said.

A BMW mechanic pulled out the amplifier. He said it had been soaked by water and that Ellman's trunk must have a leak.

Ellman had to pay $1800 for a new amp. He now avoids driving in the rain and suspects the leak was caused by a poor repair job on that rear end damage.

"Generally we're looking to see that the vehicle was repaired as invoiced," California Bureau of Automotive Repair inspector Marty Sexton said.

Sexton was at Ellman's home examining the bumper to see if the auto body shop actually did the repairs it claimed on the invoice.

"It's free and we'll come to their home, residence, work," Bureau of Automotive Repair spokesperson Jaime Ramos said.

The bureau offers free inspections to anyone in California who had auto body repairs done after an accident. All you do is ask and inspectors will come to you.

"Sometimes we do uncover fraud, sometimes we do uncover safety aspects," Ramos said.

The bureau began the inspections 13 years ago to uncover body shops that were committing fraud, covering up damage instead of making repairs.

"Because it can cosmetically look very nice on the outside , but there could be a lot of hidden damage," Ramos said.

And hidden damage can be dangerous on the roadways, especially if the car gets hit again.

"It could be a suspension part that was not replaced as charged and the consumer could be driving down the road and have a wheel fall off," Ramos said.

So what about Ellman's BMW? The inspector removes an interior panel and checks under the car.

"Generally, I would say it appears this vehicle was repaired as invoiced," Sexton said.

It looks as if the shop did replace the bumper cover and trailer hook as charged.

However, Sexton says it's not clear if there is still a dent behind the bumper cover that should have been straightened out. The bureau may take it to a body shop to check further. That inspection would be free of charge, too. Ellman says he's grateful for the help.

"Yeah I think it's awesome, it's great. I mean I would have no idea what to do if these guys didn't come look at my car," Ellman said.

If you have auto body repairs done after an accident, you can get a free inspection right at home. To schedule a free auto body inspection call 866-799-3811.

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