The change we speak of is the introduction of a less expensive method called "De-nib & Finesse”, which was recently added as an option to some estimating software applications. Since it was less expensive, many insurers made this process their new standard.
Both processes involve the same basic operations: Ultra-fine sanding of the clearcoat to remove dirt particulates, and polishing the sanded clearcoat back to a high gloss finish. Finish Sand & Polish, however, adds slightly more work: The ultrafine sanding also includes leveling of the clearcoat texture (aka “orange peel”) to a more even consistency by sanding the entire panel.
An important part of restoring a car to pre-accident condition is duplication of the OEM paint finish, and our paint manufacturers state that when used properly, their respective products will accomplish that goal. So why do we even need to Finish Sand & Polish? Because in our “real world”, there are extraneous conditions that need to be recognized and taken into account. PPG recently clarified this in their “Clearcoat Defect Removal” document #PD-0804, which states:
“Even with extreme care in cleanliness and preparation procedures, dirt and particulates can land in the clearcoat film during the application and drying process. The OEM environment can not be entirely duplicated in a collision repair facility for these and other reasons: • The vehicle is painted at the factory as a shell before any non-painted parts are attached.
• The vehicle can be cleaned thoroughly to eliminate dust and dirt, and has never been ‘on the road’.
• The vehicle is painted with computer controlled robotics for consistent texture”
You may have heard some insurers argue how they shouldn't have to pay for defects. They also argue they shouldn’t have to pay to make the car better than it was as far as a smoother paint texture (i.e. “orange peel”) is concerned.
CAA does not believe consumers or their insurers should have to pay for either inadequate paint prep or correcting a refinish tech’s mistakes. But we also realizes that in our “real world” environment, defects such as dirt in clearcoat and texture differences are an unavoidable result of even the most careful human workmanship. The PPG document confirms this fact.
The only way to make the surface texture consistent is to sand the entire panel-perhaps not removing all of the orange peel (unless necessary to match OEM texture), but so there is a gradual change from the flattened areas of the dirt removal areas to the rest of the panel. The PPG Document also confirms this:
“When removing multiple spots in any given panel it may be necessary to gradually sand or level the texture away from the area from some or no texture in appearance to texture matching the OEM appearance. This procedure may entail sanding to some degree the entire panel.”
So to answer the question as to which process, Finish Sand & Polish is the only one of the two that includes sanding and polishing the entire panel. Due to the involved labor being directly related to the area of the panel (like refinishing), the major estimating software companies provide for a charge of 30% of the basecoat refinish labor for the Finish Sand & Polish process, which does not include necessary materials.
Since Finish Sand & Polish requires both sanding and polishing the entire painted area of a panel, it is not reasonable to use a flat-rate method of compensation (i.e. 0.5 per panel). Doing so is as senseless as charging the same refinish labor for a suburban hood as for a civic fender.
Capping the Finish Sand & Polish labor is equally unreasonable. The results of several in-house studies have all demonstrated one simple fact: After the first 2.5 hours of Finish Sand & Polishing, the remainder of the newly painted surface will not sand and polish itself.
So if your business model provides for delivering a finished product that is the highest quality possible, there is little doubt that Finish Sand & Polish is part of it. Include it on your estimate, explain it to the consumer, do the work, and get paid for it.
And be mindful of California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) regulations which prohibit a shop from performing any work on a customer’s car without prior authorization for a specific dollar amount. Some insurers contradict this regulation when they say they will only pay for finish sand and polish on the customer’s car after it has been completed.
If this process is part of your shop’s quality standard, there should be no question as to whether the work will be performed, because if it’s on your estimate, BAR regulations require that the work either must be performed, or not charged out. And performing this “final touch” may assure that when your customer inspects their new paint job back home under their own garage lights, they won’t find one speck of reason to not use your shop the next time.