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Show Me the Savings!

Insurers are writing for partial paint times on repaired panels, claiming it doesn’t take as long to apply color to part of a panel as it does to the whole panel. We all know this is bogus.

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I’ve noticed a trend over the past few months that bothers me: partial paint times on repaired panels. I’ve asked the field adjusters how they determine the paint time and am usually told they’re given guidelines. They insist that up to a 50% reduction is reasonable, although most of them say they don’t want to go below this time.

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So far, no one has been able to explain to me where a time savings of up to 50% comes from. Upon further questioning about where the time reduction is, I’m usually told it’s in the actual spray time of the panel itself. I’m told it obviously doesn’t take as long to apply color to part of a panel as it does to the whole panel.

This answer shows a complete lack of understanding on the insurance industry’s part when it comes to the process of painting a panel. But all of them are careful to point out that they pay the entire clearcoat time.

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All of the estimating systems time allowances are for painting new, undamaged panels. And if we analyze the procedures of painting a new, undamaged panel, we’ll find that most of the steps are similar to painting a repaired panel.

4 First we need to sand or prep both panels. On a repaired panel, we’ll blend within. We actually need to use an extremely fine sandpaper, Scotch-Bright or an abrasive etching chemical to prep the panel for paint, which can take substantially longer than a new, undamaged part does to scuff for sealer.

Verdict: It appears there’s no time savings here.

The next step would be masking. With a new panel, we need to mask it to spray our etch-primer over any bare metal spots and apply a coat of non-sanding sealer, followed directly by color. We can get by with a single masking job. But for a panel we’re repairing and blending within, we’ll need to mask for primer of the repaired area first and again for the sealer and painting process.

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Verdict: No time savings here either.

What about the sealer? Some may think we’ll save time during the sealer process since we don’t have to seal the entire panel. This would be a bad assumption.

Most paint systems require an adhesion promoter or sealer to be applied to the entire panel prior to paint and or clear. I’ll concede the adhesion promoter does spray a little faster than a full body’s non-sanding sealer.

Verdict: The mixing time and paint gun cleanup are about the same. Chalk up a minute of savings.

The next step is mixing the paint and checking for color match.

Verdict: This seems pretty obvious that there’s no difference in time here.

Next, there’s the actual application of the color. While it may seem that there should be a time savings here, since we’re applying color within the panel boundaries, we actually need to increase our flash time so we can tack the blend area. If we don’t do this, we’ll likely have little fuzzy paint balls showing through our clearcoat.

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Verdict: So is there any actual savings in the color application process? The spray time, possibly; the overall application time, no.

Since it appears there’s no real time savings here, let’s analyze the additional steps.

Is there a reason to paint an undamaged panel? Of course not. This would indicate there’s been some kind of repair involved.

Be it a small chip or a major dent, either will require the application of primer. But before you can apply the primer, the damage will need to be featheredged. And this operation is specifically excluded by all of the database suppliers.

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After the featheredge, you need to apply an etch or epoxy primer. Again this is excluded from the times in the estimating systems.

After you’ve applied this primer, you need to apply a two-part fill primer, which is — you guessed it — not included in the published times.

The primer then needs to be guide coated and blocked. And sometimes an additional coat of primer may be necessary to cover any bare metal, which was exposed in the blocking process.
Of course before applying primer, you need to mask the area to be primed. How many times did the database supplier allow us to mask the panel? I believe the answer is once.

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How about covering the car for primer? That’s right. They don’t even include this the first time. So, I guess we need to throw it in again?

My question is simple: Where are the time savings? Can anyone show me the savings? If not, why are you taking paint time away?

It seems certain insurance companies feel that they’re entitled to a discount regardless of the facts and that we should give them — once again — more than we’re being compensated for.
And then certain insurance companies wonder why many collision repairers resist repairing panels. Could it possibly be because we have to do more work for less money? Since I know I’ll get the shaft if I repair a panel, I’ll certainly lean toward replacing anything but the most minor damage.

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Several insurers are pushing this concept simultaneously. This leads me to another question: How is it that several insurance companies come up with the same cost shifting idea all at the same time? Are they discussing these ideas among themselves? It seems pretty obvious to me that they are.

I’ve been told by more than one supervisor that I’m the only one to complain about this practice. I find this incredibly hard to believe.

Am I the only one who’s bothered by this practice? Perhaps more of you need to make your views known.

It appears the insurance industry doesn’t want to listen to logic; instead, they want their phones to ring. Perhaps you should consider calling a supervisor when you think you’re being taken advantage of. I’ve been told they want to hear from you.

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Writer Todd Miller is the owner of Eastside Auto Rebuild in Bellevue, Wash.

Comments? E-mail them to [email protected]

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