Paint damage in a collision--why is such extensive work necessary?

We have a 1992 Ford Taurus GT which was involved in a very slight collision–more of a sideswipe–last week. We could see no damage to anything but the paint job, and black smears on the gray rubber “rub rail” along the left side of the car. But when we went for estimates, the people at two local body shops said things like “quarter panels” have to be replaced…Good God, why so much work (both estimates run to several hundred dollars) to repair what is essentially a damaged paint job? (The paint color is a slightly “metallic” dark blue.) :confused:

Two answers:

  1. Even the slightest imperfection in the surface will be visible once the car is repainted. If it’s dented at all, the best results will be obtained by replacing the panel. They can save money by Bondo-ing the dent, and the results will be o.k., but not perfect. Also, I don’t think you can just paint one spot. The color won’t match exactly, and you will see a line where the new paint is, so they have to “fade” it into the surrounding area. You can get a cut-rate body shop to do it for less, but the result won’t be perfect.

  2. If they know it will be covered by insurance, most body shops will jack up the price. I’m not saying they are overcharging, but they certainly are going to give as high an estimate as they can get away with if the insurance company is paying for it.

Actually, though - several hundred dollars doesn’t sound all that expensive to me.

Couple hundred dollars sounds reasonable. Its not like you can just tape off an area of the car and spray some store-bought spraypaint on it to cover it up. Car paint has many layers of paint, gloss, finish and what have you and if you dont do it right, it looks like shit.

I’ve done some ammetuerish attempts at bodywork before. It’s not as easy as it looks to make bodywork look good.

Outright replacing a slightly dented quarter panel is a bit extreme, at least to me. However, if you have small dents in it, they may have to pound it back into shape and apply a thin layer of body filler to cover up the dents. The paint damage may be covering up dents that’d be very visible with a glossy finish; try feeling the damaged site with your hand and the bumps will be a bit more apparent. So that’s a bit of work right there. And if there’s visible rust there too, they’re doing you a favor - that is the only way you can fix rust correctly.

Now for the paint. You can’t just spray over an existing spot of damaged paint, as the damage will show through. The first thing you’ll have to do is sand it smooth to get rid of scratches. Then they apply a primer coat, unless they were able to get away with so little sanding they didn’t sand it down to bare metal (which is definitely possible, although some body shops seem to do this due to force of habbit). After that, it will need at least one coat of metallic blue paint. Metallic paint is one of the hardest ones to match colors. They may need to blend the edges of that in if the color doesn’t match perfectly, or simply spray to the edges of the pannel. Once that is done, the next step is to spray the blue paint with clear paint. Some cheapskates will leave this step out, but the factory did this with most of their colors, so you’ll need it to duplicate the original finish.

If you only had liability insurance on it, you could try to get a spray can and hope for the best.

There is a lot of work involved in repainting a panel of a car. Usually, a decent job will require a few hundred dollars per panel. You normally have to repaint the entire panel (or a large section) which requires a fair amount of very expensive paint, and a lot of labor to prepare the panel for painting.

If there is a dent, it has to be (should be) flattened manually with a hammer and dolly (mini, handheld anvil) and then smoothed with Bondo. Sometimes, if it’s a large dent, the metal gets stretched out, and has to be “shrunk” with an acetylene torch and hammered out again. There is a lot of work then needed to ensure that the repair is invisible when the glossy paint is applied, this is no small task. Automotive paint is horribly unforgiving for the smallest ridge or scratch in the metal. A good repair is invisible do not let anyone tell you different. A good auto body man has to be half mechanic, half artist to get these repairs done correctly.

If they are replacing the quarterpanel, then I would assume there is a large, shallow dent that would require a great deal of manual effort to repair. The quarterpanel is the panel just over your rear wheel.

Wouldn’t the new quaterpanel likely be a different color and have to be painted? Even if it was technically the “same color” wouldn’t differences in manufacturing date, sun exposure, etc. mean that it wouldn’t match anyway?

I think these shops are just jacking up the estimate to make more profit.

To clarify: The estimates were more than “a few hundred dollars”; both were well over the $500 deductible on the policy. The only immediate impact on us–other than the time the car will be unavailable (a few days, in my experience–when I took a VW Squareback to a [dealer for body repairs)–is that if the insurance company fins out we were at fault we must pay the deductible; otherwise we pay nothing. I would imagine, though, that the insurance companies handling automobile collision claims know all the tricks that body shops may use to try to gouge them for repairing a policyholder’s car.

I would wash the area with lots of soap & water & clean it, then you can see just how much there is to do. Lots of time the soap & water take off a lot of the marks. You can get rubbing compound at the auto store & use that.

Auto guys like to charge a lot. I never figured out why, but their labor rate is very high. Could they do it without putting in a new panel? Pprobably, I can’t tell from here.

Quarter panels normally don’t just unbolt. They have to be cut off and welded on, and then you need to grind the weld smooth. You’re either talking something that was sawed off a junkyard car, or one that was stockpiled for body shops and probably in primer. So it’s going to have to be painted, any way.

I like to think about car repair costs as a percentage of what my car cost me. I had a fender bender early in the summer and cracked my front bumper and dented my hood (I also damaged the clasp that holds the hood down). Total repair cost: 1,800. Amount I paid for car: 6,500. This was almost a purely cosmetic repair and it cost about 1/3-1/4 of what I paid for the car! I refuse to believe that a vehicle which was worth $6500 could ever require $1800 dollars worth of repair work on something that wasn’t major. Pretty frustrating if you ask me.

Tell me about it.

I had a little run in with the lift gate of a Ryder truck that was partially blocking my driveway yesterday. I got a 3’ dent/scratch down the right rear door and QP, and a 2"x.5" hole punched in teh QP.

I ran over to the local automart and saw that a filling kit and touchup paint would probably run me 35 bucks.

I took it to a couple of body shops today, and the lowest estimate was $800, and he’s throwing a new door in for free. One of the shops wanted $950: 25 bucks for parts, a hundred for paint, and $725 for labor. Ouch.

This sucks.

Could be worse. My dad was in a fenderbender in our '89 Taurus. The impact (with an uninsured Mercedes) cracked the long piece across the front that the headlights attached to. Since the repair estimate was over a certain percentage of the blue book value of the car, the insurance company declared the car “totalled”.

So we ended up getting a replacement part from a junkyard for $200, spending an afternoon replacing it, then going through the wads of paperwork to get a salvage title. I ended up taking the driving test in a car with no license plates.

For a 92 Ford, I wouldn’t do the investment.

There is a nice 94’ Ford like it down the street here for $1500.