by Jim Kerr

Winter’s slippery roads can be hard on your vehicle’s body. Dings, scrapes and fender benders occur all too often. Getting your vehicle repaired at a body shop could take many days, as new body panels are installed and then painted. Painting takes a large portion of the total repair time. Now, some innovative thinkers are using a new strategy to improve both the quality of repairs and shorten the time it takes to get your vehicle back.

Traditionally, after the metal work is done on a car body, the repair area is primed first, then sprayed with a primer surfacer. The primer surfacer is a high build base that fills small scratches and marks. By sanding the high spots off the primer surfacer, the base layer now has a smooth surface for the finish paint materials to be sprayed on. Then, sometimes a sealer coat is needed depending upon the type of paint to be applied and the length of time before the final coats.

Now the vehicle is ready for colour. This means the vehicle is rolled into the paint booth, the body is masked where paint is not going to be sprayed, and then all interior edges such as door jambs , trunk panel edges and the insides of hoods where repair work was done are painted.

Often, a clear coat paint is applied over the colour coat to provide more durability and shine. Now the paint is baked and left to dry. The next day, more masking is done to prevent overspray on already painted parts and the outside panels of the vehicle are painted. Then the masking is removed, often leaving a small rough edge where the paint was sprayed up to the edge of the masking. Any overspray on panels that could not be easily masked now has to be cleaned.

As you can imagine, getting a good quality paint finish takes a lot of time, and that is time that you don’t have your vehicle. Now, some innovative painting strategies developed in California are being tried by Autobody students at Kelsey Campus in Saskatoon, with amazing results.

This strategy involves removing panels from the vehicle and painting them separately from the main body shell. Then they are assembled after they are painted. It sounds too simple. After all, this is what the factory does. So what are the advantages to the vehicle owners? According to Autobody Instructor, Scott Kucharyshen, less time is needed for masking, cleaning up overspray, and time in the paint booth using this strategy. That gets the vehicle back to the customer more quickly.

As Kucharyshen explained, with doors, hoods and trunk lids removed, the door jambs and fender openings can be painted at the same time as the rest of the car body. There is no overspray between panel gaps, there are no rough paint lines where the masking was and the finish is superior. While the body is sprayed in one booth, the removed panels can be placed flat and painted in the same booth or painted in another booth. Placing the body panels flat enables the paint to flow out smoothly, minimizing runs or dry spots. Doors can even be painted at different times, so that they can be assembled and ready to install as soon as the body is rolled from the paint booth. The finish looks just like factory, even on the hidden edges.

Using this strategy, several body panels from different vehicles can be painted in the same paint booth one right after the other. Downdraft paint booths and new paint materials enable many different colours to be painted in the same booth at the same time. If all that needs painting is a door, why tie up the paint booth by putting the whole car inside? Kucharyshen gave the example of a customer that needed a hood repainted. They removed the hood, and the customer drove the car home. The hood was painted at the same time as some other panels and reinstalled on the customer’s vehicle the next day. Inconvenience to the customer: minimal!

Care has to be taken when reassembling a freshly painted vehicle, but so far this has not been a problem. The results: a paint finish that looks like it came from the factory, and refinish jobs that are done in about two thirds of the time it now takes in most body shops.

While this painting method hasn’t been adopted by the industry yet, as Autobody students in the program experience the benefits and time savings and return to the industry, we will likely see progressive shops using this strategy in the future. Better paint finishes with less down time for the customer. Now that’s performance!

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