Auto Body Repair Estimates Demystified – The 5 Most Common Items on a Repair Estimate

So you’ve decided to get an estimate from a local body shop. These days, most body shops will use a computerized estimating software to write your estimate. If the shop you have chosen does not use a computer to write your estimate that should be cause for concern. This is not meant as a jab at those long time owners and technicians and I am not implying they are “backward” or “luddites” or ignorant. Its more for accountability. Computerized software is now standard in our industry and insures a more uniform, unbiased and accurate appraisal for how long things take to repair. For instance, I was talking to a shop owner just a couple days ago who was remembering with fondness the good old days when he would routinely get 15+ labor hours to repair frames on cars that nowadays he only gets 4-5 hours on. The truth is however that 4-5 is the more accurate and fair rate (depending on the job of course it could be more or less). And since consumers and insurance companies are billed by the hours on an estimate the old days of falsely inflating hours are gone.

When it comes to auto body repair the vast majority of line items on an estimate will be one of 5 things:

1. R & I. This is shorthand for “remove and install” and means to take something off your car and then to re-install it later. Parts that are not damaged may need to be temporarily removed to access another part that was damaged or more often so the panel it is taken off of can painted properly. For instance, say your electric motor for your window stops working. The interior trim panel will need to be temporarily removed for to gain access to the motor to see if it can be repaired (not likely!) or replaced. Or perhaps a molding needs to be removed from your door before it is painted only to be put back on later when the paint dries. One caution here is that if panels are being painted and you’re not being charged for R & I the shop may be taping them up which can actually cause peeling or flaking months or years later. So don’t be surprised if for instance a headlight needs to be removed to properly paint a fender. You should actually be more concerned if its not. FYI: R & I times are typically set to industry standards by estimating software and are not discretionary.

2. Repair. Repair (aka ‘Rpr’) is the most discretionary item on an estimate and typically the amount of time it takes to repair something will be underlined or asterisk-ed (*) to indicate this. This is where an insurance adjuster might say a dent will take 3 hours to fix and a technician might say it will take 4. There’s no hard and fast rule here and this needs to be negotiated between insurance adjusters, shop estimators and possibly even the technicians doing the job. My dad who has been in the industry almost 40 years taught me a long time ago that a dent which is about the size of a man’s fist should take about 3 hours to repair. From there you can adjust up or done for various things like a body line that runs through the dent (add an hour) or the dent has no creases and is accessible from the inside and therefore can be mostly popped out (subtract time). The reason these times are so important is that insurance companies are paying shops based on the number of hours on the estimate.

3. Replace. Replacing parts, sometimes shorthanded to ‘repl,’ is not a discretionary item on an estimate and is governed by industry standards or what shop folks call “book time.” If the book/software says it takes 3.5 hours to replace that bumper then that is what the insurance company will pay. No more and no less. It is pretty well standardized with only slight variations depending on which software is used and then it only differs by very little.

4. Sublet. Sometimes there are things that an auto body shop will send to someone else (typically a mechanic who takes care of more under the hood items) to perform and this is categorized as sublet. Popular things for shops to sublet out are air conditioner recharging and 4 wheel alignments when the suspension is damaged. The reason this is sent out typically is that the equipment and space required for these operations are not cost effective for a body shop. And when it comes to deeper engine repair, oil and paint don’t mix! Oil and grease can quickly ruin a paint job. So, shops that say they can do “everything” typically can’t do everything well.

5. Miscellaneous. Under this category will go small charges like “hazardous waste removal” (about once a month we pay someone to pick up and dispose of our hazardous waste in the safest way possible) and “car cover for overspray” which pays for paper, tape and plastic to cover the vehicle during the painting process so paint over spray doesn’t go all over the windows or adjacent panels.

Fiberglass Filler – What is it and Why Use it on Auto Body Repairs?

What Is Fiberglass?

Raw fiberglass come in a soft fabric like material. When saturated with liquid resin and harder, it becomes hard and very strong. There are not too many fiberglass auto parts on modern day cars, as they have all started using other composites like SMC and Carbon Fiber. However, fiberglass was on early model corvettes, truck hoods, and many other parts. There are still aftermarket parts that are manufactured from fiberglass and it still used for boats and jet skis.

The Difference Between Fiberglass and Fiberglass Filler

Fiberglass filler comes in a can and is mixed with a cream hardener. It mixes a lot like regular body filler, but it is thicker and a little harder to mix. The filler actually has fiberglass mixed in it. It comes short hair and long hair. This is the length of the fiberglass that is mixed in the filler. Both provide excellent waterproof properties as they do not absorb water. Both fiberglass fillers are stronger than regular body filler. The long hair filler provides the most strength out of the two. However, these fillers are very difficult to sand. The filler is also thick, which makes it hard to level and smooth like regular body filler.

Why Use Fiberglass Filler If It’s So Difficult To Sand

The reason we use fiberglass filler in auto body repair is not really the added strength, but for the waterproof properties. It is recommended to apply a thin layer of fiberglass filler over any welding that is performed. Body filler absorbs moister, which will leads to corrosion and rust. By using the fiberglass, we eliminate the moister absorption problem. Since our main purpose is to seal the welded area, the short hair fiberglass is sufficient for the application.

What Can Fiberglass Filler Be Used On

This filler can be used over bare metal or fiberglass.

Finishing The Repair

As I mentioned, fiberglass does not sand well. That is why I recommend only applying a small amount to the welded areas and rough sanding it. After this is done, you can apply body filler on the top of the fiberglass filler and finish the repair as you normally would using body filler.

Warning

You should always wear proper protective equipment when sanding any filler. However, extreme caution should be taken when sanding fiberglass products. It not only itches and irritate your skin, but it is extremely unhealthy to breathed the fiberglass. Be certain to wear an approved dust respiration, gloves, eye protection, and you may even want to wear a disposable paint suit. If some of the fiberglass does get on your skin, take a cold shower. This will help keep your pores small and allow the fiberglass to wash off.

Auto Body Dent Repair – Developing A Repair Plan

Developing A Repair Plan

In this article we are going to review how to remove a dent from an automotive part. We’ve determined that the panel is mild steel and repairing the damage would be a better choice than to replace the panel. Now we need to develop a repair plan and decide which repair method to use on the damage.

First In Last Out

The first thing that you want to determine is the direction of damage. This is important so you can reverse the damage during repairs. In collision repair we have a general rule “the first in last out rule.” This means that the direct damage or point on impact is the area first hit in an accident, which makes it the first in. Therefore, this should be that last area to repair. Direct damage is the most obvious damage as it is easy to visually see. If you try to pull the direct damage first, you will stretch the metal, pull highs in the metal, and still have lows. You are basically going to chase your damage around while work hardening the metal until the metal become to work hardened, brittle and cracks.

Direct and Indirect Damage

Indirect damage is the damage that is caused by the direct damage. For example, as the point of impact is pushed in, it causes the surrounding metal to slightly move as well. If pushed far enough, the indirect damage can cause misaligned body gaps, cracked seam sealer, and/or popped spot welds. The indirect damage is less noticeable as it may not be visually noticeably without close observation. The indirect damage is the damage the happened last during the accident, therefore, this damage should be repair first. Always remember the “first in last out “rule when developing a repair plan. This will save you hours of time and frustration when it is all done.

Choosing a Repair Method

Once the damage is analyzed and you have determined the direction of damage, and the direct and indirect damage. Now it is time to decide which repair method is the best choice for the repair. If you can get to both sides of the panel a hammer and dolly method may be the easiest repair method. If you can not gain access to both sides of the panel a stud-nail gun may be a better choice. Other considerations, such as corrosion protection and noise preventions should be considered as well. This will be covered at a later time.

Don’t Force The Metal, But Rather Roll The Metal Back To Its Shape

Regardless of the repair method, the same principle apply. Start with the indirect damage and pull out on the lows and push in on the highs. You should roll the metal back into shape, rather than try to force it back into shape. Forcing the metal back into its shape may result in highs and stretched metal. condition. Pulling on the lows while rolling the highs out of the metal is the key to metal straightening, regardless of repair method used.

Auto Body Work Done the Right Way

Auto Body Work Done the Right Way

Cars are everywhere. This means that thousands of accidents happen around the world daily. When you have an accident, of course the first priority is to ensure that everyone is OK. Eventually you will need to take care of the damage done to you car. Heading to an auto body repair shop can be an unpleasant experience with the industry constantly fighting speculation of poor quality work, overcharging for work done and dishonesty. Knowing when your car has had auto body work done the right way is crucial. Here is what you need to look for.

Research Online

The internet is a great place to get information on anything and everything. A quick browse of car related forums can enable you to find out what you should expect. Posting a photo to a forum of the damage that needs to be repaired will see you receiving estimates from people who love anything and everything to do with auto-body work repairs.

Word of Mouth

It is old school, but people still do talk to their friends (or post on social media sites). Asking your local friends both online and offline, which auto body repair shops they recommend is a great way to started. At worst you will find out the body shops you want to avoid, you may get an earful about good and bad experiences they have had.

Consider the State of the Business

Price is always a consideration when getting auto body work completed. It is not something that you shop for regularly, so knowing what to expect price wise is tough to gauge. Two key influencers on price are shop format and location. In prime locations, prices are higher as a result of rental costs. In terms of shop format, if there is no admin staff or large overhead the costs will be lower.

Shop Around

There is no shortage of auto body repair shops in your area. There is no harm in getting quotes from at least three locations; most body shops provide you a quote for free. When shops realize that you are willing to shop around, you may be surprised how competitive they can get. Remember, the highest bidder may not be the best to go with simply because of pricing, and the lowest bidder may not have the man power to get the job done on your schedule.

Ask Questions

Going in with your wallet open ready to fork out whatever is required is a bad idea. Asking questions is good. You’re the buyer, putting them under pressure will quickly let you know whether you can trust them or not. Top three questions to ask:

– Does you service have a warranty?

– Are you able to provide references I can call?

– How long will my car be in service for?

Dealing with auto body repair shops can be frustrating. However taking your time and really considering the above points can save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Ultimately, you can do all the research you want (a good idea), however your intuition should never be doubted. If someone has a great price but something smells fishy, move onto the next shop. On the other hand, if someone has a price you feel is high but insists you will not find cheaper, ignore him and find out for yourself. Good luck shopping for the auto-body repair shop that fits your expectations.