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Monday, 31 December 2007 17:00

Hey Toby 1: Orange Peel, Headlamps, and Boron Steels

Written by Toby Chess

Jeremy and Barbara asked me to respond to an e-mail about a repair process and I said “sure.” After all, I already receive an average of five e-mails or phone calls a week about some sort of question pertaining to the collision repair process. They thought that it would be a great monthly column and, wanting to see my picture in print, I agreed.

So here’s how it will work. Send me an e-mail to the address above with the subject title Hey Toby and I will respond to it. Yeah, I know I can answer many of your questions, but if your question is beyond my knowledge, I have a network of highly intelligent friends across the country who would be more than glad to help. Here are some questions and answers that I have responded to during the last few months.

Hey Toby— We seem to be seeing a lot more orange peel in our paint jobs lately. Got any suggestions?
    —Mike from Oceanside, California

Mike—Orange peel can be caused by a number of problems. Painter techniques are one source. Gun movement and gun distance will cause more or less orange peel, but the biggest problem and the easiest to cure is to replace your spray booth hose. Understand that HVLP stands for High Volume Low Pressure and here is where the problem lies. Most of the time we order a standard air hose from our jobber. These hoses are relatively cheap.

Most of the people at the PBE don’t have a clue why there are special hoses for spray booths. As the letters state in the spray gun type: High Volume, and that means a hose with an inside diameter of 3/8 of an inch. Most the air hoses have an ID of one-quarter of an inch and to get the gun to work, the painter cranks up the pressure which leads to more and heavier orange peel (remember low pressure—about 10 lbs at the air gap). Sharpe makes an excellent spray booth hose. Try that and let me know if you see an improvement.

Hey Toby—My receptionist wears miniskirts to work and I want to know if you think that is appropriate attire for my shop.
    —Pat from Tucson, Arizona

Pat—My answer is yes, if she has nice legs.

Hey Toby—I think that the time allocated for replacing the headlamp on a 2005 Toyota Prius is low. The replacement headlamp does not come with bulbs or anything in it. Moreover, you have to disassemble the computer module to get the socket out of the old unit and into the new one. I believe there should either be more time allotted for this procedure or time to R&I the components. There should also be a note about the computer module and what you have to do to transfer it. —E-mail forwarded to me by the Late March Taylor, April 07.

I know a lot of you out there in collision repair land think that the times are too low and probably they are, but there is help. SCRS, AASP and ASA formed a vehicle to act as a liaison between the data base providers and collision repair shops called the Database Enhancement Gateway or DEG. Go to and click on the DEG logo. Once you are in, go to the tab “submit a database inquiry” and follow the steps. One rule to follow: Make sure you detail why a time is wrong (look at the example of the Toyota Prius headlamp) and not just that you think it is wrong.

Now to the answer to the above inquiry. Both Mitchell and Motors adjusted their times for this procedure. A final thought, the more we use the DEG, the more we will all benefit from it.


Hey Toby—We have an ‘06 Volvo XC90 in the shop and we have used over 20 drill bits trying to get the rear bumper reinforcement off. What’s going on?     —Mark in San Jose.

Mark—Guess what? You had your first close encounter with advanced steel alloyed with boron. This stuff is extremely hard and you need special tools or equipment to remove it. You can use a cut off wheel to grind the spot welds, but it will take some time. Volvo recommends using a plasma cutter (I use the Miller 375 Extreme—it can be adjusted so that you will only cut the outer panel and not the inner panel) or special 3 fluted drill bit at very low speeds (high speeds kill regular drill bits on this metal).

Kent Automotive is one distributor of these special drill bits. I would also recommend that you take the I-CAR classes VLV 05 (XC90 vehicle specific repair) and the new SPS 07 (Advanced Metals) to learn more about these new metals that are being used quite extensively.


Hey Toby—Does Volvo have a sectioning procedure for rear surround panel on the Volvo XC 90 and where can I get this information?
—Tim in Reno, Nevada

Great question Tim. If you were to replace the entire rear opening panel on the XC90, you will probably have to remove the roof.  You can get the information need on line by going to that will show you the factory recommended repair procedures.   I will send you a picture of the cut lines, but if you need more info, check out the web site.  I would also recommend that you and your techs take the  I-CAR VLV 05 class, which is XC 90 specific.  Good luck.  

Hey Toby—We’re replacing a quarter panel on an 06 Camry where it joins at the upper B pillar. We came across what looks like brass at the joint. Question: is this brazing and can you replace it with an oxy- acetylene torch? —Matt in Santa Cruz, California

Matt it is brazing, but not what you might think. The process is called MIG weld brazing and it is not done with an oxy-acetylene torch, flux and brass rod, but with a  MIG welder, argon gas and copper-silicon wire.  First, using a MIG welder for this application reduces the amount of zinc being “burned off”. The zinc in the galvanization process burns at about 980 degrees Fahrenheit, but the temp with the bronze-silicon wire is about 910 degrees.  Second and most important is the heat affect zone. With the oxy-acetylene torch is about one inch, whereas with a MIG welder, it is about ¼ of an inch. Tests have shown that the larger the heat affect zone, the weaker the surrounding metal is.  Last, with more and more of the advanced metals being used, heat becomes a real concern. Ford is using dual phase steel on some of their quarter panels and they are recommending that the panel needs to be attached with MIG weld brazing. If you would like some more info on MIG weld brazing, go to, click on technical information, then Advantage Articles, 2004 date and scroll to the August issue.

This is it for my first column, but please send me your questions and I will be more than happy to send you a response. Until next month’s Hey Toby!

Questions for Hey Toby! can be sent to Toby at


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