4 min read

Why We Replace When We Should Repair

Written by
Kirk Carlisle
Published on
January 18, 2023

If you are in collision repair for any amount of time, it is likely you have replaced a panel that could have been safely repaired.

There are many reasons why you would have been justified in doing so; there may have been enough damage to be a borderline replacement, or maybe you could not get the repair time needed for the job to be profitable.  Whatever the reasons, replace is overtaking repair across the industry and likely in your own shop.  So what are some of the factors driving the increased replacement frequency?

New Substrates

High-strength steels and many new aluminum alloys do not repair as well as their mild steel counterparts.  When combined with newer safety designs that incorporate additional crush zones that, once damaged, render the panel unrepairable, fewer panels survive damage that would have been easily repairable just five years ago.  Even those panels that are repairable are often not worth the repair time and are quickly assigned as replace.  What would be a five-hour dent on mild steel takes considerably more time and effort if the same damage is on high-strength steel or aluminum.  Combine these new alloys stamped into sleeker designs with more prominent body lines and design features, and you can easily see why replacement numbers have been trending upward.

So is the increase in panel replacement frequency a good or bad thing?

If a new OEM part is readily available, a replacement panel can be an efficient repair option for the customer.  Unfortunately, that is not the typical scenario that plays out.  Here are just a few of the potential speedbumps:

  • Aftermarket fitment issues
  • Additional parts orders due to R&I breakage when prepping for a blend
  • Parts shortages and backorders

Also, you tip your KPIs in the wrong direction every time you replace a panel.  Severity, cycle time, and customer service scores all fare better when repair is utilized over replace.

A Repair-Mindedness Approach

Collision repairers are between a rock and a hard place.  The legitimate number of safe repair opportunities has decreased, getting paid fairly for repair opportunities has become more difficult, and replacing a part has a minefield of issues that can plague the repair.  There is no easy answer, but what we can do is practice a repair-mindedness approach to each estimate.  Being repair-minded is simply looking for the panel repair opportunity on every panel.

Allow each panel to be considered repairable until it proves it is not.  Certainly, some will prove they are not instantly on inspection, but this simple shift in mindset will capture more repair panels.  Even a marginal shift in the repair vs. replace ratio shows a positive effect throughout the shop.  Repairs go to paint faster, require fewer (sometimes zero) parts, and go home with the customer much sooner.  Repair jobs retain the original factory part, which helps with retaining the exact look the customer is used to and expecting.  It is also the least intrusive option, which shrinks your warranty footprint.  Every successful repair adds additional breathing room for all of your panel replacement jobs.

Taking Action

So how do you incorporate a repair-mindedness approach in your shop?  After all, simply wanting to repair more does not equate to repairing more panels.  It starts in the office.  Estimators are the people who initially decide to try the repair, and more importantly, assign the initial value to the repair.  If the insurer, customer, or technician disagrees with this value, the odds of replacement go up quickly.

This is where the Damage Appraisal App can help with becoming a repair-minded estimator.

Using LiDAR technology, the Damage Appraisal App builds a 3D depth map of the damage area, calculates a reasonable repair time, and builds a report that substantiates the repair time needed to do the repair safely and correctly.  The repair time is determined by the Second Opinion Algorithm which considers the measured area, substrate, body lines, and several other user input factors.  With this data, having others accept your repair estimate becomes a lot easier.  Reversing the damage the replacement first trend does is not easy, but the benefits of repair-mindedness go far beyond a single job.

Let help you get there.  You can try our app free for your first 10 days at .

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