Spotting Trouble: Arbitrary Changing of Paint Times - BodyShop Business

Spotting Trouble: Arbitrary Changing of Paint Times

Been asked by an adjuster to change the paint time on a panel? If insurers would pay for the prep and want a spot paint - and as long as the hours equal the full time - shops might embrace the procedure. Since that's not happening, shops need to learn how to justify their estimates.

Have you recently been asked by an adjuster to change the paint time on a panel to something other than the time listed by the information providers?

Most of you are probably answering “Yes.”

The arbitrary changing of paint times has been widely discussed this year throughout the industry. There exists today a segment of the industry that’s trying to contain their costs by altering paint times – but don’t understand the paint process. The other segment that changes paint times are doing so for their own reasons.

My intent here is to teach that first segment to fully understand the painting process by showing the correct steps that are taught by the major paint companies for the following five repairs: paint a new panel, paint a used panel, paint a repaired panel, “spot paint” or blend within a panel, and blend an adjacent panel.

But before we proceed any further, we must first understand the basis for paint times published by the information providers. The three major information providers state in their procedure pages that the times for refinishing are based on a new and undamaged part. I want to repeat again: Paint times are based on new and undamaged parts. Any operation performed to achieve that level of new and undamaged part is not included.

In other words, the process of applying an “E-coat” replacement primer followed by a polyurethane primer are two additional steps needed to get that part to the same level of new and undamaged.

Another term we need to define is blend. ADP defines a blend as the application of color to a portion of an undamaged adjacent panel for the sole purpose of facilitating the appearance of color match into the area.

Mitchell states in their P-pages that “blending times are for undamaged exterior surfaces.” They further state that “application of clearcoat is applied to the entire panel on which the color is blended.”

Regarding a blended repair panel, CCC Pathways says, “Partial panel refinish times are not covered in this guide. Partial panel refinish time may be different to refinish a new OEM component. Repaired surface preparation may require an additional process called ‘Featheredge & Fill’ – not required by new components.”

Motor recommends appropriate time be estimated after an on-the-spot evaluation. The definition found under the topic of color blending: “Blending may be necessary to adjacent body components to avoid noticeable color variations between newly applied paint and the existing paint of adjacent components or areas. The following formula may be considered in the event this type of procedure is required. Each blended adjacent panel or area – 50 percent of the blend panel’s base refinish time.”

The key word in all of the definitions is undamaged panels. There’s nothing mentioned that allows for using the blend formula on a repaired panel.

Now that we have a little better understanding of blending and how paint times were derived, let’s look at the paint procedures the paint companies employ.

I contacted DuPont, Sherwin-Williams, Spies Hecker, Standox, PPG and Akzo Nobel for technical information on paint procedures for the five previously mentioned scenarios. What I found is that all the paint companies specify nearly identical procedures. The major difference between them is their own unique products. In other words, the procedures for painting a new part, used part, repaired part and a panel blend are basically the same.

To illustrate all five of these procedures, I contacted Akzo Nobel (their training center was very convenient to me), and they set up a day with their two trainers for us to refinish all five of the fenders shown below.

I used five identical new fenders. First, I left one fender un-painted. Second, I painted three of the fenders with a red metallic basecoat/clearcoat system. Last, I painted the fifth fender white to simulate a used fender.

To keep everything uniform, the same trainer did all of the paint work. The new fender was used as the control, and all the timed units were measured against that control fender.

Let’s look at painting the new fender first. The new fender was sanded with a DA with 400-grit sandpaper.

It was then degreased, tacked, sealed and painted with two coats of base color and finished with two full coats of clear.

The second panel we sprayed was the used fender (white). We measured the paint thickness of the fender with an electronic thickness gauge and got a reading of 4.5 mils. Since it had only 4.5 mils thickness of paint, we need to prepare it with a DA with 400-grit sandpaper. If the paint thickness had been more than 16.0 mils, we would’ve needed to strip off the paint on the fender and apply a replacement e-coat followed by an application of polyurethane primer. This process must be well-documented in the estimate and the appropriate additional time applied.

The process for painting the used fender was as follows:

Sand with 400-grit sandpaper, degrease, tac, seal (bare spots resulting for sanding), apply two coats of base color followed by two full coats of clear.

The steps for the used fender paralleled the steps for the new fender. The only exception was that it took longer to sand the used fender with the 400-grit DA. (It should be noted that the used fender was ideal and not usually what we get in the real world.)

In scenarios three and four (repaired panel and spot painted panel), the two fenders were damaged. Fender three had damage in the middle of the fender, and fender four had damage on the front portion of the fender.

We removed the paint, repaired the fenders, applied body filler to the repaired areas and sanded with 150-grit DA sandpaper. We sanded the repaired areas on both fenders with 220-grit DA followed by 400-grit DA.


Both fenders were then sprayed with a wash primer (an e-coat substitute primer) followed by two coats of primer-surfacer.

After the appropriate dry time, we block-sanded both fenders with 220-grit sandpaper followed by 400-grit.

We prepared the painted portions on both fenders with a Scotch Brite pad and paste.

Both fenders were then degreased and tacked.

At this point, the paint application differed. The fender that had the repairs performed in the center received two full coats of color followed by two coats of clear. The fender that had the repairs to the front part of the fender received color to the front third of the fender followed by one coat of clear to the front portion of the spot painted panel, followed by one more complete coat.

The fifth fender was a blend. In other words, let’s assume that the door was replaced and that the fender needed to be blended. The procedures to blend the fender were as follows:

We sanded the rear portion of the fender with 400-grit sandpaper on a DA and the front section with a Scotch Brite pad and a blending paste.

We then degreased and tacked, applied two coats of base to the rear third of the fender and finished with two coats of clear on the color coat and one coat of clear on the non-blended section.

Time Comparison for the 5 Repair Scenarios

What We Learned
I put together a spreadsheet showing the time units for each of the five different scenarios. As you can see, the least amount of time was for the new fender, followed by the blend and then the used fender. The repaired fenders took the most time.

I should mention that I didn’t validate the times published by the information providers, and the time units don’t represent any specific time.

Another point I want to stress is that the time to apply the basecoat is less than 20 percent of the time published by the information providers. There are a number of other operations that I didn’t show in this article that are included in the published paint times (see the P-pages for the included operations).

With the application of the color coat being less than 20 percent of the total time, one can conclude that most of the time is spent on preparation to apply the color coat.

The “spot paint” or “blend within a panel” operation took about the same time compared with the repaired panel. Although certain entities say blend time should be considered, the blend operation for this type of repair shouldn’t be considered at all. Granted, the entire fender didn’t receive basecoat and maybe there should be a reduction in the materials, but a spot blend shouldn’t be used. Also, even though the fender didn’t get color on the entire panel, the entire fender had to be prepped – and that’s a labor operation.

One more item to look at is restoration of the factory e-coat and the prime and featheredge operation. Since the labor times are for new, undamaged parts, additional steps are needed on a repaired panel to get it to the same level (paint steps needed to paint the part) as a new, undamaged part.

We as an industry are taught by the OE manufacturers, paint manufacturers and I-CAR that we must restore the factory e-coat when it’s removed for repair purposes. Is this an included operation? NO. So there’s a labor factor plus a material factor that needs to be addressed in the estimate.

Moreover, we’re taught that you need to apply a polyurethane primer for adhesion purposes over the repaired area. Is this an included item? NO.

Both of these operations need to have line items in the estimate to reflect the proper repair.

Get Your Facts Straight
Hawaii shop owner March Taylor and I have been on a crusade to teach the industry all of the true steps to perform certain operations – operations that the insurance side wants to arbitrarily change to suit their wishes.

Body shops need to understand these processes and explain why they need to get paid for the operations. And the spot painting issue is one that needs to be understood and addressed.

If the insurance industry would pay for the preparation (in body labor) and wants a spot paint, and as long as the hours equal the full time, many shops would probably embrace the procedure. But, as it stands, the insurance industry only wants what’s good for them.

I recently took apart an estimator who stated that his company only pays for spot paint when it comes to a repaired panel. I asked him and his supervisor to show me how they would calculate the time.

Being an adjusted claim, they had nothing to stand on and when I threatened to contact the state department of insurance, they relented.

But why should repairs be subjected to this BS?

Body shops have to understand that any repaired panel has two operations to get to the level of new and undamaged parts, as stated by all three information providers.

Shops need to have their information in order to justify what they’re asking for on their estimates. A blend to me is to partially paint an adjacent panel with color, followed by a clearcoat, in order to produce an acceptable repair. And the prep time for a blend is just about the same as the time required for application of paint to the entire panel.

Writer 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, a stud, the Los Angeles I-CAR Chairman, a stud, a technical presenter for CIC and let’s not forget, a stud. You can e-mail him at [email protected].

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