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Toby Chess

Toby Chess is an I-CAR program instructor, training specialist, and former salvage yard operator. Toby is universally known in the collision industry for his work with first responders and advocacy for body shops and consumers. He can be reached at

Monday, 31 October 2005 17:00

Shops must request payment for bringing parts up to spec

Written by Toby Chess

Question: Which is cheaper - an airline ticket from Los Angeles to New York with a weekend stay at Five Star hotel including two front row seats to a Broadway Hit play or a gallon of epoxy primer and hardener? If you chose the first scenario you are correct, but if you look at the plane flight alone, it is cheaper than a gallon of epoxy primer.

"So, Toby," you say, "what's the point?" Well, it's the cost of the product that is necessary if repairs are part of the process of returning a damaged vehicle to its pre-loss condition pertaining to corrosion protection. Application of epoxy primer is a necessary aftermarket step to restore the factor applied electrodeposition (e-coat for short) primer that is removed in the repair of a damaged metal panel. But I am getting ahead of myself.

This is the second in a series of articles which deal with the prime, featheredge and fill process, including the process of masking the jambs. Let's look at the basis for the paint time allowances by the three information providers.

The paint sections of the procedure times of all three data base companies state that paint time is based on using a new and undamaged panel. Again - a new and undamaged panel. When working with a recycled part that has been damaged in an accident, just to reach the same level as the new and undamaged part upon which the paint times are based, that part needs to be repaired, with labor and materials applied to the estimate.

Recommendations from info providers

At this juncture, I want to look at what is included by all three information providers in the paint section for a new and undamaged part.

ADP states that its included items are as follows: "move the car, review the estimate, get the paint code, order the paint, get paint, gather materials, equipment, and tools, clean equipment and materials, degrease vehicle, prepare to sand (whatever that means), mix and apply sealer, guide coat application (for welded panel) (again whatever that means), block sand for welded panels, water wash and clean panel with solvent, blow dry clean panels, clean booth, protect exterior of vehicle from overspray, mix, apply and flash, tack wipe, mix color, spray test panel (compare to vehicle) initial tint, spray test panel and compare to vehicle, apply color, inspect repair, clean gun."

For two-stage paint, add the following: gather additional materials, tack wipe between the color and clear coat operation, mix, apply and flash clear, and clean clear coat gun." These steps were taken from ADP's "2000 Database Reference Manual."

Mitchell International states in the procedure pages that the following items are included when painting a new and undamaged two-stage part: solvent wash, scuff panel and clean, mask adjacent panels up to 36 inches or substitute with cover vehicle (bag) complete, prime or seal as required, final sanding and clean, mix materials, adjust spray equipment, apply color, clean equipment, mix clear, clean and tack surface, apply clear, clean clear equipment.

Lastly, let's look at what Pathways includes in their paint operations for a new and undamaged part. Pathway's basic color coat application includes back tape small openings, clean component, clean sprayer, color coat application, initial dry sand, light buff (if recommended by paint manufacturer), load sprayer, mask adjacent panels ( 3 foot perimeter), mask glass openings, mask/protect grille openings (overspray), mix paint, prime coat-sealer application, primer/sealer final clean, primer/sealer final sand, remove masking, retrieve accurate color information including paint chip.

What paint manufacturers recommend

Now that we have looked at what is included by the three information providers, let's look at what the paint manufacturers recommend as their procedures for refinishing a new and undamaged part.

After reviewing the procedures from the major paint companies, in general, their procedures are similar. Some paint companies want the new panel scuffed with a scotch brite pad (some recommend a cleanser with the pad), while others recommend 600 grit to 1000 grit wet or dry sandpaper. The next step is to apply some sort of primer/sealer - either wet on wet or allow an appropriate flash time. The final two steps are to apply the base coat followed with a clear coat application.

Requirements for repaired panel

A repaired panel for demonstration purposes is one that has been damaged, the paint has been removed to bare metal, the metal straightened and plastic filler applied, then sanded with 150 grit sandpaper. With the repairs completed, the vehicle is moved to the paint department. Let's look at the steps needed to get the repaired panel to the same level as a new and undamaged panel ready for paint prep.

Step 1: Sand the repaired panel with 220 grit DA followed by 320 grit DA. Step 2: Mask off vehicle for primer application.

Step 3: Apply 1 or 2 light coats of epoxy, 2K self-etch, or a wash primer to all bare metal. This primer will reproduce the OEM applied E-coat primer. Two technical notes - first, these primers do not have good build properties, therefore, a polyurethane primer is needed. Secondly, Toyota states in a service bulletin that the epoxy primer is applied first followed by the plastic filler.

Step 4: Apply polyurethane primer to total repaired area.

Step 5: Apply a guide coat (a contrasting color to the primer) to the primered area.

Step 6: Sand primered area with 600 to 800 grit sand paper using a "longboard." Note: any low areas will still show guide coat color.

Step 7: Reprime repaired area, if necessary, and resand.

Step 8: Repair any small imperfections with a recommended material.

Step 9: Sand with 1000 grit wet.

Step 10: Apply primer sealer.

Step 11: Apply Base Coat.

Step 12: Apply Clear Coat

No compensation for some steps

Steps 1 thru 12 all need labor and/or materials applied to them. Step 1 is accounted for when the repair option is selected in the estimating program as well steps 9 thru 12, but the big question is what about Steps 2 thru 8. These steps require both labor and materials, but the truth of the matter is that repair industry is not being compensated for these steps. The reasons are three-fold.

First, these steps are not outlined by the information providers and, for the life of me, I cannot understand why. Well I can understand why, but I do not agree with their explanation. I truly believe that if the information providers would state generic procedures for prime, featheredge and fill, there would be less confusion in the marketplace.

Secondly, many in the insurance industry think that Steps 2 thru 8 are included with Step 1. This premise is totally inaccurate and the industry needs to address this point. The estimating committee of the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) has been addressing this issue and expect to have a working definition shortly that the whole industry should embrace. With most insurance companies stressing repair over replace, the need to address the prime, featheredge and fill issue is paramount. There is no legitimate reason to ignore these procedures except for indifference to the matter.

Third, and finally, the repair industry needs to start asking for these steps on their estimates. They need to understand the procedures and should be able to explain these steps intelligently. Instead of staying that they need it, they must be able to explain in detail why the steps are necessary and that they (repair shops) need to be compensated for those steps.

Backside of repaired panel

Another item that needs to be addressed is the backside of the repaired panel. The copper studs that are attached to the damaged sheet metal with a stud gun produce a corrosion hot spot on the backside of the repaired panel. The E-coat is burned off and uncoated sheet metal is exposed to the atmosphere.

As an experiment, I took a fender, affixed a number of studs to it, and then photographed the backside of the fender. To my amazement, corrosion was visible within a couple of hours and tripled in size within 21 days. The minimum procedures needed to address this situation are to R&I any parts for access, sand, mask and apply either an epoxy primer, self-etch primer or a wash primer. The panel should be top coated, but this would probably be a luxury step in today's environment. I have found that the self-etch primer in a spray can works very well for this application.

Final thought

With the cost of materials skyrocketing, we need to address all the different areas in the repair process that are not included items, come to an agreement with all the different facets of our industry that are necessary for a proper repair, and create separate line items in the estimate with material and labor costs (if applicable) included.

Toby Chess has more than 30 years of industry experience. Chess is an ASE Master Certified Technician, an Accredited Automotive Manager, an I-CAR instructor, the Los Angeles I-CAR Chairman, and a technical presenter for CIC.


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