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Incoming hail storm in Alberta
June 3, 2021

Hail and The Damage It Can Do To Your Car

Hailstorms in Canada

Well, let’s just say car hail damage can get pretty bad in Alberta.

Extreme weather conditions in Canada have been giving “severe weather” warnings an entirely new meaning as the years go by. This is even more true in Alberta where hail can be as big as golf balls. Imagine how much damage that can cause to livelihood and property. Naturally, the cost of severe weather events is also rising across the country. 

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the Calgary hailstorm on June 13, 2020 resulted in approximately 70,000 claims and over $1.3 billion in insured damages. 

This hailstorm, driven by 70-kilometre winds, with icy missiles shattering windows, downing trees and battering 32,000 cars, made an awful entry as the 4th most costliest natural disaster and the top costliest hailstorm of all time in Canadian history. 

The majority of the insured damages were to personal property and vehicles, with a smaller percentage to commercial property. 

Environment Canada’s senior climatologist David Phillips also considered it the top weather story of the year in 2020. As if we weren’t already up to our neck in disasters due to the pandemic.

This particular and vicious hailstorm wrote off more cars than Albertans normally buy in an entire year. Imagine that!

Hail that can go from the size of ping pong balls up to the size of golf balls. Source: 

What is a hailstorm?

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If you’re new to Alberta or perhaps have never experienced hail before, here’s a brief explanation of it.

Any thunderstorm which produces hail that reaches the ground is known as a hailstorm. Hail has a diameter of 5 millimetres (0.20 in) or more. Hailstones can grow to 15 centimetres (6 in) and weigh more than 0.5 kilograms (1.1 lb). Say whaaaat?!

Unlike ice pellets, hailstones are layered and can be irregularly-shaped and clumped together. 

Hail is composed of transparent ice or alternating layers of transparent and translucent ice at least 1 millimetre (0.039 in) thick. Although the diameter of hail is varied, in Canada, the average observation of damaging hail is between 2.5 cm (1 in) and golf ball-sized (2 in).

Why does hail get particularly bad in Alberta?

Southern and Central Alberta are notoriously known for their hailstorms. The area in between Calgary and Red Deer is actually called Hail Alley for a reason. 

The shape of the land of Alberta has a lot to do with the hail notoriety of the province. The croplands of Alberta provide a lot of moisture to fuel a thunderstorm. When this moist air is directed towards the rocky mountains, this air is forcibly pushed up. 

The heights of the eastern side of this mountainous area render the freezing temperatures closer to the ground, making precipitation freeze, and immediately fall by virtue of gravity, NOT completely melting as it hits the ground. 

The bigger the hailstone, the faster its fall velocity. Scary, we know.

What size of hail can cause damage to my car?

While hail of any size can cause minor damage to your car, hail with a diameter of at least one inch is most likely to lead to severe damage. 

You should watch your local weather reports vigilantly when the weather looks grim to make sure hail isn’t on the forecast.

Size isn’t the only factor when it comes to hailstorm damage. The wind, as well as the duration of the storm, can also have an impact on your vehicle. 

Storms with higher wind speeds and longer durations are bound to cause more damage than short storms with low wind.

Types Of Hail-Caused Car Damage You Can Expect

Hail can damage your car’s body in different ways. 

To name a few: 

  • Paint damage
  • Dents
  • Cracked or shattered glass
  • Misaligned mirrors

Here are a few of the pains in the butt (or daggers to the heart) that you can expect after a horrible hailstorm.

Paint Damage

As hail is falling, it can scrape against the sides and front of your car, leading to chips or scratches in the paint on your vehicle. This can happen regardless of the size of the hail, so check your vehicle thoroughly after a hailstorm. 

If you notice strange marks left behind after a storm, it was likely caused by hail. Take photos, you will need these for documentation and filing of your insurance claim.

Dents

Dents are one of the most common forms of hail damage you can see after a hailstorm. They will be more common depending on the severity of the storm and can vary in size and depth, depending on the stones.

Hailstones will often leave dents that are conical in shape. They may appear on the hood, roof, and side panels of your vehicle. They can even appear on your door. 

Depending on luck (or misfortune) you may have several highly visible dents, or may have just a few smaller ones.

The good news is that a good insurance policy will cover costs to repair dents and other damages caused by hail. 

Cracked or Shattered Glass, Mirrors, Lights

If the storm is severe enough, hail can cause cracks in your windshield, on your side mirrors, or even shatter the back and tail lights. 

If you notice any damage to the front or the back windshield of your vehicle, be extra cautious when entering, as there is most likely glass debris inside.

Missing or Misaligned Mirrors

Large hailstones can knock your mirrors out of place. In some instances, especially in a strong hailstorm, they can completely break the side mirrors off of your car. 

Pay close attention both to the glass on the mirror and the alignment; a simple misalignment can be fixed quickly, but a torn off mirror will make your vehicle unsafe to drive for a while.

Again, take photographs of all the hail-caused damages you can find to support your claim. 

However, don’t forget that your body shop (and by that, we mean us 😉) will also supplement your claim with our own assessment (you may have missed some dents and scrapes here and there) and estimate of damages.

What To Do If Your Car Is Damaged By Hail

Gather evidence and file an insurance claim within 24 hours

You should immediately file an insurance claim for the hail damage right after you assess your vehicle. Take photos of the damage and if you have one, try to include a photo of your car before it took a beating from the storm. 

If you’re also able to get a few shots or videos of the storm itself, or of the hail, including those can also be helpful with your claim. 

Bring your car to a car body repair specialist after the hailstorm

Once you’ve filed an insurance claim, it’s time to take your vehicle in for an estimate. This is an essential step to make sure all the damage is fixed and covered by your insurance. 

The adjuster’s initial estimate is usually lower than what’s needed to fix all the damage simply because hail dents are difficult to spot. 

When our body repair specialist examines your car, he will use specific tools to help see all the damage. At CSN JD Collision, we’ll identify each dent to prove dent count and take videos/pictures and receipts of parts that need to be replaced to justify the estimate we’ll provide.

What NOT To Do If Your Car Is Damaged By Hail

Car ancestors after a hailstorm. Source: NOAA Photo Library

Try to fix hail damage by yourself

This is not the time to be macho, macho man. If you’re tempted to fix the hail dents on your own, don’t. It’s best not to try to repair your car on your own; you may end up causing additional damage instead.

Underestimate or undermine the ‘light’ damage.

Yes, it may only be cosmetic, and maybe it doesn’t even faze you. But what many people fail to realize in time, is that even very light hail damage is still devastating to your vehicle’s value. 

Also, it’s not just about how your car looks. Your vehicle is still an asset that cost you a lot of money. Eventually, whether you sell it, trade it —or God forbid— get into an accident, that’s thousands of dollars in value gone just like that.

Letting the hail season ‘pass’ first before getting the damages fixed.

While it kind of makes sense to wait until hailstorm season is over before getting your vehicle fixed, it’s actually considered as insurance fraud. It’s illegal to file a single claim for damages caused by 2 different events. Some people may get away with this trick, but we highly advise against taking that risk.

Also, a second hailstorm hitting your vehicle brings a very strong chance that your vehicle goes from repairable to wrecked. Yes, totalled. 

Your car’s metal can only take so much damage before it’s impossible to get it back to its original shape, or if the ever-rising cost or repair ends up being more than what your car is worth. 

A vehicle getting written off solely due to car hail damage happens more often than you would think.

Keep in mind, every day that goes by that your car rolls around “unrepaired”, you are driving around with “pre-existing damage”.

Ask the insurance company what to do and wait for their estimate

Okay, we know, this can be controversial. Allow us to explain: this is what most people do, and it actually does seem to make sense. After all, you like your insurer, and you’ve entrusted your car with them for years

However, ask yourself a serious question: “Do I really believe my insurance company wants to pay me as much as I want them to and as quickly as I need them to be?”

Think about it: when you file a claim on your own, you will have done so along with thousands of others. This means if you wait for your insurance company to schedule your estimate, it’s going to take a while. 

Remember, each day that passes puts your car at risk for getting further damaged and closer to being declared as a write-off.

The best thing to do in situations like this is to be proactive. Find a reputable auto body shop that will give you a free and fair estimate. If the shop is affiliated with your insurance company, all the better! 

Once you have an official estimate from the shop, gather all the other required documentation and proceed to submitting a claim. 

Presume that the insurance company is going to raise your premium when you file a claim

Hail damage is a “no fault” claim. Or an “Act of God”, if you will. It’s not your fault, and you can’t be singled out among thousands of policy holders for a rate increase simply because you want to get the hail dents on your car repaired.

Again, a hailstorm is not your fault. Your car didn’t hit the hail, it hit your car! This qualifies under your comprehensive coverage. 

The money is available to fully and properly fund repairs to your vehicle, whether you choose to take advantage of it or simply let the insurance company keep more cash (they don’t need it, trust us).

Assume that all paintless dent removal and hail dent repair shops are the same

NOPE. Not all automotive body repair shops are created equal. At CSN JD Collision, we are confident that our family-owned and tight-knit company has established years of excellence in body repairs, especially for Albertans who are used to seeing hailstorms. 

You will want to work with an auto body repair shop that has established itself as an expert in hail damage repair, and has the capacity to accommodate you in a moment of stress, listen to your concerns, and address all your questions, while guiding you through the process of supporting your claim and getting your car repaired ASAP.

It is generally best to address your hail-ridden car with our extensive automotive body repair services.

How To Prevent Hail From Damaging Your Car

We know you love your car more than your kids, (hey, we are kidding! *wink*), so if you want to keep your car protected in the future, there are a few ways that you can reduce the risk of getting hail damage.

Keep your weather updates and regional/city weather alerts on

The Meteorological Service of Canada issues severe thunderstorm warnings when hailstones of 2 cm (0.80 in) or above (usually considered large enough to cause damage) are expected. 

Hailstones can be very large or very small, depending on how strong the updraft is: weaker hailstorms often produce smaller hailstones than stronger hailstorms.

Avoid driving in a storm

Don’t do it, Mary. Driving in a hailstorm does not only expose your car to damage, it can also be dangerous. Golf ball-sized hail shooting against your windshield can cause fatal accidents. 

If hail is also pelting your rear windshield, it feels like you might as well be in a road shoot-out with the mafia. All that glass shattering towards the interior of your car is going to be a nightmare.

Put your garage to good use. Park your car in there for protection.

Park your car inside the garage or under an awning to protect it from direct damage.

If you have a garage, clear it, and use it for what it serves: your car. Nothing beats having your car TOTALLY protected from the storm, whether that’s hail or flood. If you have an awning in place or put aside for these occasions, set it up, and secure its installation as soon as you hear about storm warnings.

If you don’t have access to these, you can also resort to trying to park under the shelter of trees.

Car covers and blankets can help

It’s okay if you don’t have a garage. Just be strategic about where you park your car. Know the direction of the storm’s wind and try to park in a way that will shield your car from the brunt of that storm. 

Add a car cover or strap thick blankets to your vehicle for more protection, especially from minor scrapes in mild storms and they can hopefully help lessen the damage caused by severe storms. 

Remember that even car covers designed for hailstorms can’t guarantee your vehicle will stay dent-free. It depends on the size of the hail, the wind speed, and other factors.

Restore your car’s beauty with a reputable body repair shop

Paintless Dent Repair is a process of using specialized tools to manually massage the metal from the underside, restoring it to factory perfection, and without disturbing the original factory paint. 

Paintless Dent Repair is an art form. A poor PDR job, unfortunately, happens all too frequently, and we have seen cars come to us for rework, looking like orange peels. This does not fully restore your vehicle’s value. 

PDR is a skill and craft that requires years to perfect (THAT we have)… and it pays off for you in the end.

Has your vehicle been affected by a hailstorm?

Do you need help getting it back to its former beauty and glory? 

The CSN JD Collision family is here to help! Contact us with information about your vehicle’s damage and bring it in for an estimate today. 

We’ll be more than happy to welcome you and assist you through the process of having it repaired. 

Stress less, and entrust your hailstorm car problems with us.