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Panel Bonding One (Uh)Oh One

If the vehicle manufacturer doesn’t endorse a procedure,
who the heck are you to override their decision?

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Author Patrick Yurek is the owner and president of Collision Consulting LLC (focusing primarily on DV appraisals – www.CollisionConsulting.com) and also owner of Arizona Collision Center in Tempe, Ariz. He has 35 years of industry experience and has held every position from sweeper to owner. Among his credits are several PPG certifications and GM technical certificates. He’s past president of the GM Service and Parts Managers Organization of Western New York and a court-certified expert witness. He can be reached at [email protected]sulting.com or (480) 984-0800.

I can hear an insurance appraiser now: “I’m going to write this for bonding the quarter panel, and if you weld it, call me back and we’ll do a supplement for the difference” (since appraisers need to “lessen the severity of” – read: pay less for – their claims).

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Say what? Write the estimate based on bonding?

That’s right. If the insurance company uses Mitchell, the shop may see something they haven’t seen before – repairs based on replacement panel “bonding.” Panel bonding is a process recently adopted within Mitchell’s Ultramate database, one of the “big three” estimating systems.

My guess is that a 14-hour panel replacement will drop dramatically, leaving the shop once again in a position of having to “prove” they did the work differently than the insurer wrote. (Actually, the shop shouldn’t be following the insurer’s sheet anyway, but since so many do, having to “prove” they did things different is a reality.)

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For shops that don’t write their own sheet and stick to it, this means even more administrative work, delays and, in many cases, almost assuredly, underpayments.

But don’t worry. According to Mitchell, the bonding times won’t come up unless you tell the system that you want to use the bonding procedures. In other words, bonding won’t be the default method. Yet.

And even if it’s not set as the default, how long do you think it will be before an appraiser “slips” and writes to bond a panel “accidentally”?

Why I’m Worried
I-CAR has included adhesive bonding since somewhere around 1999, and understandably, Mitchell wants to stay abreast of the times.

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From some shops’ view, bonding is a time-efficient method of attaching a replacement panel, and I’d bet the insurance companies would agree – they know that bonding a panel is much less time-consuming than welding it on.

But now, since it’s in the system, insurers will almost certainly cram it down the repairer’s throat. And once enough of them swallow, it will become a “prevailing practice.”

Problem is, most auto manufacturers haven’t embraced bonding. In fact, according to my limited research, Toyota, Honda and Ford do not endorse nor condone panel bonding at all. Chrysler and General Motors approve of bonding in only limited situations.

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Sure, I-CAR has published guidelines for bonding, but there are three problems with this as far as I see. First, I-CAR has this disclaimer on almost every page: Refer to the manufacturer’s published guidelines. Second, I-CAR does not manufacture motor vehicles. Third, and most importantly, I-CAR will not pay for a shop’s legal representation (lawyer) when something goes wrong.

Now, you can regurgitate all the technical jargon you want about tensile strength, adhesion and whatever else, but the fact of the matter is that the adhesive manufacturers don’t make cars either.

There is only ONE goal when it comes to repairing automobiles – and that objective is ABSOLUTE. The goal is “pre-loss condition.” As a post-repair inspector – and knowing that true pre-loss condition isn’t attainable – I look for “to the best of human ability” and “performed in accordance with manufacturer’s published guidelines.”

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It really is that simple – “in accordance with manufacturer’s published guidelines.”

If the manufacturer doesn’t endorse a procedure, who in the heck do you think you are overriding their decision?

Last I checked, Mitchell doesn’t manufacture automobiles either.

Do you have $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 to throw away simply because someone else wrote a (non-binding, irrelevant) estimate that said to bond a panel instead of allowing time to weld it?

Who do you think owns the liability associated with the repair? (If you’re on DRPs and you said “the insurer,” you’d better re-read your agreement – especially the part about indemnification and the standard you’re supposed to repair vehicles to).

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Before I go any further, let me just say that the following isn’t intended to be, nor should it be, construed as legal advice or an interpretation of the law. Persons with questions of a legal nature should consult a practicing attorney.

Most states have laws that govern the repair industry. And some have laws that proclaim it illegal to repair a vehicle in such a way as it does not comply with the manufacturer’s recommended repair procedures. For example:

Chapter 20. Motor Vehicles. Article 15B.North Carolina Motor Vehicle Repair Act.

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