Shawn Collins and John Spoto with 3M presented a class at the 2012 SEMA Show called, Importance of Repair Standards in Completing a Safe and Seamless Repair. The emphasis of following recommended procedures was the theme throughout all of the auto body training classes I attended this year. I will write more about other classes I attended while at SEMA in another articles. However, this article is going to focus on a few key points from the class presented by Shawn and John.
Blueprinting The Repairs
Shawn and John gave the analogy of building a repair plan is like a recipe maker. If one ingredient is left off the recipe, such as chocolate chips for chocolate chip cookies, then when a baker uses the recipe to make the cookies, he is not going to have chocolate chip cookies. Even if Jamie Oliver, aka The Naked Chef followed the recipe and baked the cookies, he is still going to have sugar cookies, not chocolate chip cookies. The point is that a damaged car needs to be blueprinted before beginning repairs in the same manner. If something is missed when developing the repair plan, the car may not be the same car after the repairs are made. How is the technician going to know exactly what to do, if he or she does not have the proper instructions? A cookie may not taste good, but a car not repaired back to its pre-accident condition can lead to unnecessary injuries or even death. Therefore, it is crucial to start spending more time upfront blueprinting the car so the technician knows exactly what needs to be repaired on the car and has all of the recommended procedures (ingredients) to perform the repairs correctly.
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Standard Operating Procedures
Another point they hit on was at this SEMA class was using uniform procedures for all repairs. Things such as, how to apply auto body filler and what grit of sandpaper used to finish the body filler out with. Shawn mentioned that many of the shops he has audited do not have any (SOP) standard operating procedures in place or if they do, they‘re not enforcing them. For example, he said if a auto body shop has 5 body technicians, the painter will have 5 different types of bodywork to deal with. For instance, the body filler may be finished in 80 grit with one technician and 320 with another technician. Some repairs will require the painter to prime and block the body work several times and others only require one primer and block. This leaves too many variables, which leads to re-do’s or other type of repair failures.
If the body shop owner has an SOP’s for each procedure and will perform an inspection throughout the repair process, this would eliminate many of the problems that occur in an auto body shop.
The Pride of a Technician
There is a lot of pride that comes from being a body or paint technician. You know the saying; there are not many second best painters or body men! Everyone thinks they’re the best and strives to be the best. This does help us all excel and is a great thing we have in our industry. However, along with pride come complications. For example, when a boss, manager, or another technician tries to tell another technician how to do something, it like playing “King of the Hill,” it’s probably not going to transfer well. As Shawn described in the class, documentation such as technical data sheets, recommended procedure, SOP’s, etc, will eliminate this from happening. This clarifies how the shop should properly make the repairs without having to determine who is right or getting into a pride war or head bunting contest. The documentation is right there, which clarifies the recommendations without the manager having to prove his or her credentials to convince the technician to do something different. However, this does not mean that the manager should not inspect the work to assure the repairs are being repaired according to the documentation.
Problems Seen In Shops
While in the class at SEMA, they had some photos of things that went wrong in shops and different repair methods seen. I’ll list a few of them below..
Body Filler Over Paint
One problem mentioned was body filler over paint. This was ironic, as I recently posted a video about this before I took the class. However, it did help clarify that body filler should not be applied over paint. Shawn did extensive research and testing of this problem and found there to be a common problem when applying body filler over paint. I cannot remember the name of the chemical used to make body filler, but this chemical can react with the layers of paint. This will create repair mapping causing problems after the car has been painted. Therefore, for best results, I don’t recommend applying body filler over sanded paint.
Solvent Wiping Body Filler
Another problem that was brought to my attention was solvent wiping the body filler. This is using lacquer thinner or other solvents to wipe off the body filler right before priming. The body filler will absorb the solvent and try to escape after the primer has been applied. This is one I am guilty of; well not lacquer thinner, but wax and grease remover. Lacquer thinner was the solvent they mentioned shops having problems with. I will have to check to see if there is a problem with wax and grease remover, because I always use this before priming. I will get with Shawn to clarify the test results on this.
Body Filler Over Plastic Bumper Covers
This is another practice I have heard of many shops doing, but this drives me crazy. Body filler fills and sands well, but it’s not designed to be applied over plastic parts. Plastic requires products with better adhesion and flexibility properties than metals. There are adhesives for plastic that work well and there is even flexible parts putty that can be used. If you are currently using body filler for plastic parts, I would look into something recommended for plastic.
Weld Thru Primers
Another point brought up in the class that I was not aware of is that some weld-thru primers use copper instead of zinc. They had some photos on the overhead PowerPoint to show how the copper coating did not hold up well after time. So you may check you weld-thru primer and make sure it contains zinc and not copper.
Cleaning Plug Weld Locations
It was recommended in class to clean the spot weld locations before performing the plug weld. I have welded over the weld-thru primer and I have also used a spot blaster to clean the plug weld hole locations. They demonstrated a new tool that will make this an easy process. I will try to create a video to demonstrate this tool soon. But they have found some problems when technicians do not clean the plug weld hole before welding. As I mentioned, I have welded over weld-thru primer, but if it is causing other people problems, it’s probably going to cause problems for me and students at some point. So we better start cleaning all of them before welding.
Over Grinding Plug Welds
Another common mistake they saw when visiting shops is over grinding plug welds. If the weld location is ground completely smooth, the metal is thinned and the weld becomes weak. It was recommended to leave a small spot much like a rivet head. On the flip side of this, they also found some spot welds were not ground at all. This leaves too many crevices for corrosion to attack the parts.
What I Did Not Know About STRSW Welding
There was a lot of discussion about welding, but there is one thing that I learned. That is that estimating systems do not give time for plug welding. The time given is for spot welding. I don’t know about you, but I think that is a big difference. It only takes a few minutes to make a spot weld, but a plug weld requires punching holes and cleaning up the weld location.
This is a quick summary of this SEMA class. There were more topics discussed and much more content than I wrote in this article. However, this provides a few of the points for you to consider or to look further into if you are a shop owner or technician.
Cars are changing, which means the repair methods a body shop must change as well. The more we can all keep each other updated the more we can all excel and keep up in this industry.
The SEMA auto show had many great educational classes this year. I was not able to attend all of them, but I will post about other classes in upcoming posts.