MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Icy roads and this winter’s dangerous driving conditions are creating a new problem.

With the huge number of crashes this winter, auto repair shops are swamped.

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Many repair shops are now telling customers they will have to wait four to six weeks before they can even start working on their car or truck.

Vehicles line the parking lots like patients waiting to get into urgent care.

Marwan Kawas is a manager at Heppner’s Auto Body, which has six locations in the east metro.

“This is my 15th year doing this and this is the worst winter I’ve seen,” Kawas said.

He says business is up about 30 percent.

“A lot of people don’t pay attention I don’t think,” he said. “I don’t think they keep their proper distances when they’re on the roads. Sometimes it’s just inevitable, you know, especially with black ice.”

Driving on bridges and underneath bridge decks led to many of the crashes this winter because they are areas that tend to get icy first and thaw out last.

Kawas says people are often stunned by the cost of repairs.

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“Sometimes they think it’s just a bumper,” he said. “But when you factor in the price of the part, the paint, the labor Involved, sometimes the little hidden damage, the broken clips … it adds up. You know, even just a bumper can be a $1,000-$1,500.”

And in some cases, it costs even more.

“This one actually, because it buckled on the hood, and there’s probably some inner damage as well, that’s probably a good $3,000 –$ 4,000 repair,” Kawas said.

He says if your vehicle is severely damaged, you will likely be able to get help sooner than later. But if you can still drive your car, expect a long wait;
Heppner’s first available appointments are in the last week of April or the first week of May.

“Weeks out, definitely,” he said. “And you’ll find across the metro area … we all have the same problem.”

Kawas says to be sure to check your tire pressure. If it’s too low, you won’t have full control of your vehicle as you drive on those icy roads.

Also, keep an eye on tire tread, which can play a role in how your vehicle handles.

Kawas says he’s hearing a lot of stories about losing control on black ice, driving on dry pavement and then suddenly hitting a patch of ice that sends them out of control.

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He emphasizes the need to increase the distance between you and the car in front of you, in addition to driving slower.