A distinction should be made between the term “repair” and “replace.” These two terms involve separate processes. If a body component has been completely mangled, it will simply be “replaced.” This is the easiest type of body work since the process involved is simply purchasing the part, installation, and painting. “Repair” work may involve pounding out a dent if it is simple, or it may involve straightening the frame which is the most extensive and complex type of body work.
With the advent of unibody construction, the repair process has been made even more complex. In the older domestic vehicles, components were bolted to a frame which acted as the support for vehicle road shock. In unibody construction, the components act as the frame. If a unibody vehicle has been damaged, simply replacing the component may not be enough to restore the vehicle. Other components must be checked to determine if they have been shifted from the original positions.
Another change is the safety concept of “energy absorption.” Essentially, this allows the body to absorb a higher percentage of the impact from a high speed collision. This also means that the body collapses more easily. This makes the vehicle more susceptible to damage at lower speed impact as well. In the chapters to follow, the term “repair” refers to either the repair or replacement process unless another specific distinction is made.
Once the vehicle has been repaired it will be painted to match the original color as nearly as possible. If the vehicle has the factory original paint, the “formula” for that color may be available by the manufacturer. Paint mixing systems vary with each body shop. Some maintain the formulas on microfiche while others keep them in a computer database. Smaller body shops may depend on the paint stores to mix the needed paint. Before the paint is applied, the repaired part is sanded and sealed to remove scratches and prepare the surface. After it is painted, a clear coat is applied to give the paint a shiny or metallic look.
An examiner should be familiar with the estimating process since gross income is based on this Concept. An estimate is used to provide the customer with the final cost or as an agreement between the shop and the insurance company as to how much will be paid for the job.
The estimate may be prepared by the body shop, the insurance company, or an independent appraisal company. The major sources of information from which estimates are prepared are the Mitchell Collision Guides. These guides are available in book form or as computer software. They provide the auto body shops with the information required to estimate repair costs. The actual process of estimating is very easy for the replacement of a particular part as opposed to repairing it. This is due to industry standards provided by services such as the Mitchell Collision Guides. Insurance companies also have their own in-house standards and rates. Smaller insurance companies use independent appraisal companies that specialize in auto repair estimates
If an estimate has been prepared by the auto body shop, it must still be approved by the insurance company which is paying the claim. These estimates are subject to some negotiation between the body shop and the insurance company. Usually, the negotiated items will include the labor charges and the use of used or “after market” parts.