3 min read

How are you calculating repair time?

Written by
Kirk Carlisle
Published on
July 1, 2022

If you are doing it like most auto body shops, you will appraise the damage based on your experience and assign a repair time to it. That experience taught you to know the right time by looking at the damage. And yet, time and again, we cannot get the hours that we know we need. We have to be able to explain what we know. We have to document and teach.

What are good factors to use to determine collision repair times?

Of course, the first thing we look at is the size of the damaged area. Size is the most apparent attribute of auto body damage. A big dent gets big hours, right? So if we give the big dent the big hours, do we have to provide the little dent fewer hours? Unfortunately, if you are operating as if  ‘big is big, little is little”, then odds are you are losing money.  

Two similar-sized areas can have vastly different repair times. How severe is the dent? Is the panel stretched? More repair time is necessary for any area with aggressive direct damage than an area with smooth secondary damage.  

We should also consider features that are supposed to be in the panel. For example, consider body lines; if we fail to restore that body line on the fender properly, we will not have a happy customer! But repairing that line takes time.

If the aluminum boom has taught us anything, a three-hour repair on mild steel is NOT a three-hour aluminum repair. But are you billing it that way? If you have a special aluminum rate or are adding additional time for high-strength steel panels, you are in the minority. There are alloys commonly in use today that didn’t exist even five years ago. They require special handling, additional work, and attention; we can not afford to bill them like mild steel.

How do we determine panel replacement?

Damaged left front fender on a white car.

Should we even attempt repair? Some panels will make the answer obvious, but repairability can quickly become questionable as our repair time factors add up.

Sometimes just the damage location or panel substrate should prompt us not to repair. Is the damage location critical to fit and finish? Once stretched, high-strength steel is difficult to restore and may not retain the crash properties the manufacturer intended. In addition, many manufacturers do not allow repair on certain materials. Ask yourself if you can restore the fit, finish, and function to pre-loss condition. If the answer is no, document that fact and replace the panel.  

Cost is another significant factor. Is it worth repairing? With parts shortages and rising component costs, the answer is often a surprising yes. However, converting a quick replacement to a repair can be quite profitable if you do the math on the front end. As a bonus, it saves you the trouble of parts handling and extending your warranty to blended panels.

How do we do the right thing on the repair every time?

Remember those math teachers that always fussed at you to show your work? They work in insurance claims now, and we still have to show our work!

In today's environment, if it’s not documented, it did not happen.

We have to document our panel repairs the same way we document a frame alignment or any other technical operation we complete on a customer's vehicle. This documentation is where the damage measurement app can help. Consider it your frame machine for panel repair.  The app is a tool that documents all the attributes of panel repair in a single, concise report. The damage is digitally marked, leaving no questions about the scope of the repair. Your knowledge and experience supported by proper documentation that gets you paid fairly and accurately for the job.

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