by Ray Birks
This winter, I’d heard about the chip seal fiasco on the road to Mission Ridge and the subsequent scraping of the road to remove the tar. At the time, it never registered to me that I should be concerned about its effect on me. Later a colleague texted needing a ride back home because he was dropping his car off at a body shop to get it detailed. When I asked why, he told me he was getting the tar removed from his car caused by frequent trips to Mission Ridge this winter. His insurance was covering everything except his comprehensive deductible, and that I should check my cars too for the chip seal.
According to Jill Fitzsimmons at Chelan County Public Works, the County is still not sure why the chip seal broke down even with additional investigation work taking place. Subsequently, the road was scraped removing the chip seal, then swept and sanded down. The road will be chip sealed again this summer, weather dependent, which will include updating the county’s quality control procedures and taking oil samples during the chip sealing process.
I checked our Volvo because it’s the car we drove the most to Mission Ridge and discovered it had a rough sandpaper feel to it from the wheels up the side of the doors to about 18-24”. It felt like the bedliner of a pickup truck that had been sprayed with LineX or 40 grit sandpaper. My friend told me he was warned not to wash his car with warm water or else the tar would warm up and become an even greater issue. Our other car had escaped the tar and even though we had driven our RV up a few times, there was probably enough snow on the road to keep it from being coated.
I called my insurance company and they pointed me to a local body shop to get an estimate. The guy at the shop said he had been seeing quite a few of these come in and one of his workers was becoming quite the expert in removing the black mess, but that it was a time consuming process. I dropped it off early one morning and it took a full day’s work and some chemicals to clean the car and remove the chip seal. I was warned that if it didn’t come off of our molded plastic bumpers that they would have to be replaced, costing the insurance company potentially thousands of dollars. Luckily, we escaped that fate.
I had received an estimate from another local body shop for $900 and a second one for $400. I went with the lesser one not because it was cheaper (my deductible was the same either way) but because my insurance company recommended the second shop over the first and they gave me a more detailed breakdown of the repair costs and timeline. If you decide to go this route, I suggest making sure your estimate is itemized or your insurance company may balk at paying for the repairs.
I also encourage you to check your vehicles and check to see if your insurance will cover it. If you find the sticky stuff not only on the body but on the undercarriage, wheel wells and wheels, don’t wash your car with warm water. Find out how much your deductible is and decide whether or not it’s worth getting professionally cleaned or research how to do it yourself. To do it properly involves the use of chemicals and more than a few hours. For me it was an easy decision to get someone to do it professionally. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about doing it incorrectly and making a sticky situation even worse.
Editors Note: If you would like to file a claim with the county for your vehicle due to the chip seal issue, please click here.