Collision Repair Estimating: Understanding Information System Guide Changes

Estimators need to know how to keep up with updates to Audatex, CCC and Mitchell's reference manuals.


One of the most important skills for successful collision repair estimators is a good working knowledge of the “p-pages,” or estimating reference manual, for the estimating system they are using, whether it is made by Audatex, CCC or Mitchell. These guides help an estimator understand what is included -- and just as importantly, what isn’t included -- in the labor times provided within the systems. The guides differ from one another and continue to evolve, so staying abreast of changes is important.

Danny Gredinberg of the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG) said while the guide is generally accessible within the system itself, estimators reviewing an estimate prepared in one of the other systems may need to review that system’s guide as well. All three guides are available on the DEG's website.

Gredinberg highlighted some of the recent changes in the guides in a presentation at an industry event earlier this year.

Audatex Solera Qapter Database Reference Manual

The latest version of the Audatex Solera Qapter Database Reference Manual, for example, spells out that “any fees related to OEM data subscriptions or information access are not included in part prices or labor values within Audatex estimating.” The same is true for any labor related to access or research of OEM service information or electronic parts catalogues.

Another new labor exclusion in section 4-2 of the document reads that “additional repair operations that are taught in an OEM training environment but aren’t included in the current OEM reference material” are not included in the system’s labor times.

“You may have to go to an OEM technical school to learn a specific repair procedure, for example,” Gredinberg said. “A lot of manufacturers may have specific information they don’t define in the actual OEM repair procedure. So it’s very important to attend the [OEM] training if it’s available because there are going to be a lot of takeaways from those for specific repairs.”

Also newly excluded from Audatex labor times is the labor to apply seam sealer on new parts that require it.

“This is an update because previously they did include seam sealer application on bolt-on parts,” Gredinberg said.

Also excluded is assembly of new parts that come in multiple unassembled parts from the manufacturer.

“If you order a grille assembly, you may receive a box of four or five or seven different parts,” Gredinberg said. “You have to build that component to be installed. That is a not-included operation.”

Set-up of riveting equipment and materials, as well as test riveting, is also another new labor exclusion in Audatex.

Within the refinish guidelines in section 4-4, Gredinberg said, the blend formula wording -- previously defined as 50% of the full panel refinish time -- has been deleted, with Audatex stating that it “does not provide a standard labor allowance for blending panels as this requires the estimate preparer’s judgment [and] expertise, [along with] consideration of the unique requirements for each repair.”

“It allows the end-user to put whatever percentage they feel is necessary for performing the blend,” Gredinberg said.

CCC Motor Guide to Estimating

A similar change related to the blend formula has been made in the Motor Guide to Estimating, the basis for the CCC Intelligent Solutions estimating system. Motor has eliminated blend formula, Gredinberg said, and instead states “estimated refinish times for color blending should defer to the judgment of an estimator or appraiser following an on-the-spot evaluation of the specific vehicle and refinishing requirements in question.”

Also in the refinish section, Gredinberg said, Motor has added that assembling or setting up a unique fixture or stand to hold parts for refinishing is a not-included operation.

“Many times when we’re painting parts off of the vehicle, we may have to put a part on a stand to refinish it in a certain way,” he said. “Sometimes you have to get creative in order to get the coatings to all the nooks and crannies, the backsides and undersides. If you have to set a stand up in a unique way, that’s a not-included operation.”

The guide now indicates repair times in the system include “one test fit of a component.” In response to a inquiry, Gredinberg said, Motor clarified its labor times do not “include a second (or more) fitment of a component to the vehicle, for any reason (including verification of dimensional accuracy or adjacent part alignment),” and “if more than one component installation is required for a specific repair plan, an on-the-spot evaluation should be used for the number of fitments beyond the first one required to perform the repair.”

In the wheel section of the guide, Gredinberg said, “torque wheel to OE specifications” is now included in labor times.

“But if you look at a lot of these repair operations or repair manuals, it may tell you to retorque the wheel after so many miles of road testing the vehicle,” he said. “If you have to retorque, perform duplicate effort, it’s a not-included operation. So again, this identifies that one ‘torque wheel to specifications’ is included.”

Mitchell P-pages

Mitchell also has made recent changes to its Collision Estimating Guide P-pages. Under the labor general information section, for example, a new section on caulking indicates that “labor times…for bolt-on panels includes the application of caulking/seam sealer.” If Mitchell determines an OEM replacement part is not serviced consistently by a vehicle manufacturer, it will add a footnote -- “does not include application of caulking” -- to the specific panels, and “a headnote will be included in that section with a labor allowance for the performance of the task if necessary."

Gredinberg said another update notes the labor times shown for air conditioning evacuation and recharge represent “utilizing A/C servicing equipment in a collision repair environment that evacuates the system by applying vacuum that must be held by the system for a certain period of time (leak check) confirmed with an electronic leak detection equipment post refill.”

“So essentially take an electronic sniffer monitor like an A/C leak detection tool and check just the service ports, that’s included,” Gredinberg said. “But if you have to diagnose a leak within the entire system, that time is not factored into evacuate and recharge. Some vehicle manufacturers may have different routing of those lines and refrigerant type. So always follow manufacturer guidelines but, again, to leak check just at the ports is an included operation.”

In any case, diagnosing a failed leak check test is not included, the guide states.

In terms of adhesive emblems, Gredinberg said, Mitchell says the times shown “represent installing the emblem in the correct location by performing some combination of measuring, marking and aligning to ensure proper positioning,” but “time for the fabrication of a template for emblem installation per a specific OEM procedure is not included.” Gredinberg said it’s important to check the OEM procedures for the emblems you are installing, and noted that according to the Mitchell guide, “research, retrieval, review or usage cost of OEM or other service procedural information” is a not-included operation -- something all three information providers have updated to define as not-included steps.

Lastly, Gredinberg said, Mitchell has updated the guide to indicate the time to "perform weld testing or matching [including] destructive weld testing” is not included in the labor times in the estimating system.

John Yoswick

John Yoswick is a freelance writer and Autobody News columnist who has been covering the collision industry since 1988, and the editor of the CRASH Network... Read More

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