Tuesday, 31 January 2006 17:00

Necessary paint procedures that go uncompensated by insurance companies

Written by Toby Chess
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Before addressing the painting issues which are the topic of this article, I'd like to relate a few of my recent experiences which are relevant to the subject. 

Before addressing the painting issues which are the topic of this article, I'd like to relate a few of my recent experiences which are relevant to the subject.

To accommodate my travels as I conduct I-CAR steel and aluminum qualification tests in California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, I purchased a new Toyota Tacoma in May of last year. In that short time, I have logged over 20,000 miles as I travel from shop to shop to conduct welding tests. Last December, the maintenance light came on, so I responsibly took the truck in for an oil change.

Arriving at the dealership at 7:00 a.m., I explained to the service advisor that I needed to be on the road no later than 8:30 a.m. to which he replied, "No problem." I had barely grabbed a cup of coffee before the truck was finished in less than an hour. I paid my bill of $129.43 and said thank you very much.

Let's look at what I got for $129.43: 5 quarts of oil, a new oil filter, tire rotation and host of items that were checked, plus shop supplies. Oh! I forgot the most important item - they turned off the flashing maintenance light. Question -- how many insurance adjusters would pay the same bill and also say thank you? Virtually everyone who goes to the dealership for service pays the bill without negotiating the price, yet in the collision industry, every day insurance companies cut .2 of an hour off body shop estimates because they say operations are included.

The second incident happened at NACE. My good friend March Taylor from Hawaii was having foot problems and needed to find a new pair of shoes. While walking through the Mandalay Bay mall, we found the Nike golf shop, which had a pair of walking shoes without spikes that fit pretty well. Since March does not wear socks (it's a Hawaiian thing), he told the young man that he also wanted a pair of socks. The salesman gave him a pair of those cut off ones that look like you are not wearing any socks and said they were $6.00. I proceeded to tell the sales man that since we were spending $125 on a pair of shoes, the socks were included.

He looked at me curiously and said "What?" I said that the socks were included. He said they were not. I said "Hey, man, you need socks with the shoes and they should be included with the price." Again he said that the socks were six dollars. I came back with "Hey, man, it's only three bucks (with mark up 100 percent) and who would miss it?" By now the poor kid is so frustrated with me, he did not know what to do.

The manager came over and asked "What's the problem?" The young man explained that we wanted the socks included for free. The manager said the socks were six dollars - take it or leave it. I told both employees with a smile we would gladly pay the six bucks. I might add that March was on the floor laughing his head off over my little theatrics. What other industry besides the insurance companies takes money away from another party for work performed. What other industry allows it?

Are you seeing a pattern here?

My last anecdote deals with water borne paint. It seems that a shop stated to an insurance manager that with the new water borne paints, color matching and blending will not be needed because the paint uses water, which allows everything to flow better. He also stated that the retrofitting of the spray booth was less than $4,000. I'd like to know the shop owner's motives for spewing out this wrong information, but I guess we all do know why. On the retro-fitting of the booth, the man was way off. I can retrofit your booth for under $1,000.

This story points out the necessity for each person in our business to understand how to properly operate a modern day collision repair shop and not disseminate incorrect information that can only cause problems down the line, often giving misinformation to insurance companies that can later be used against the industry.

Other paint department issues

With more and more insurance companies pushing for repairs over replacement, the prime, featheredge and fill process is becoming more prevalent. (ABN, November 2005) Associated with this process is the masking for primer. This step shows up as a non-included process, but it needs to be a line item on the estimate. By repairing a panel instead of replacing it, the collision repair industry is saving money for the insurance carriers. I simply can't understand why they are so adamant about not wanting to pay for this step. Although it may be costly, it cannot be eliminated and, therefore, must be included in the estimate. And it is still less expensive than a replacement part.

Multiple colors on a vehicle

Have you noticed that many new vehicles have two or three colors and I am not talking about two-tone paint. More and more, the underside of the hood and engine compartment are a different color than the exterior color. The inside of the trunk compartment is different from the color on the outside. Interior jambs can have a dull finish and the list goes on.

For example, the left quarter on an Infiniti was being replaced with a new panel. The new quarter panel was supplied with a black factory E-coat on both sides of the part. The exterior of the vehicle was a green metallic, but the inner trunk panels were a light gray color. Our job as repairers is to restore the vehicle to its pre-accident condition. Since the vehicle did not have a black inner quarter panel on one side before the accident, it should not have one after the repairs have been completed. In other words, the inner quarter panel needs to be refinished. Moreover, the trunk area needs additional masking and let's not forget another color match.

What is your justification for this process? The procedure pages state that the premise for refinish times is based on the exterior surfaces only. In view of the fact that the part is painted on the outside, it only stands to reason that the refinishing of the back side is a non-included item.

A new apron and core support were installed on a Toyota Land Cruiser. Again, as with the Infiniti, the new parts were supplied with black factory E-coat. After installation, the parts needed to be refinished. The inner portion of the apron had a red base applied, but the clear had a flattening added to it to produce a dull finish. The outer portion of the apron was gray in color - a second color match needed. Note in the photo how much of the engine and suspension were masked off to prevent overspray. Again I ask the question -- are these operations included? Again the answer is no.

Masking the interior jambs

Masking of the jambs to prevent overspray on door seals, trunk seals, engine components and wheel wells is certainly a necessary step with today's discriminating customers. There's nothing worse than doing an excellent repair, then having the customer complain that there was paint on the door rubber due to the fact that it was not masked off prior to paint application. The masking of the interior jambs is spelled out by both Mitchell and Motors (CCC) as a non-included operation.

I ask again - if it is a necessary procedure, why won't the insurance companies pay for this operation? Perhaps they know that the good shops will perform it regardless of whether they are compensated and bad shops don't care about quality and will not do it. Albeit the insurance companies need to control their costs, but not by cutting the times of these non-included items at the expense of a quality repair.

New pastel colors

A friend of mine recently had a bright yellow 2005 Ford 250 arrive at his shop for a fender replacement. The insurance company wrote an estimate to replace the fender with a blend to the door. The shop and insurance adjuster did not know that was this particular yellow changes color with the number of coats of yellow and the number of coats of clear. The shop wound up painting the hood, opposite fender, blended door and rear cab to approximate the color. The shop's paint vendor was ineffective in providing a good solution for the color match, so I took on the challenge and made a let down panel for both the color and clears. I was able to find a match, but the question that needs to be answered is how are painters to know what colors take additional time for the color match. Further-more, will insurance adjusters know that a let down panel is not an included operation and needs to be compensated for?


Hopefully, after reading this series of articles, I have given you a better understanding of the non-included items that need to be addressed in constructing a paint department estimate. For more de-tailed information, check out my web site www.theppages.com after March 15, 2006.


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, the Los Angeles I-CAR chairman, and a technical presenter for CIC.


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