Like most industries, auto paint and body shops use some specialized jargon. Here are some brief definitions to help you better understand the repairs to your vehicle. Some of these terms are insurance jargon (since insurance companies can affect the way a repair is handled) as far as they apply to collision repair. The information below is presented for educational purposes, may contain some personal opinions, and should not be taken as legal advice.
Aftermarket parts - automobile replacement parts not made by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). These parts may be manufactured to standards that may or may not meet the quality of the OEM parts. Some insurance companies call these competitive auto repair parts (CARP). See also OEM parts, LKQ parts, replacement parts, used parts, recycled parts, salvage parts.
Airbag deployment – the activation of the passive restraint system (the driver, passenger, or side airbag) during a crash or other incident. If an airbag has been deployed, it must be replaced by a qualified technician.
Appearance allowance - compensation by the insurance company for repairs not performed, typically for superficial damage. An example of when an appearance allowance might be used would be a scuffed taillight. Since the defect is so slight, it does not make sense to pay for an entire taillight assembly.
Automotive recycler – a business that takes in and stores wrecked, damaged, or abandoned vehicles including those totaled by insurance companies. The recycler dismantles the vehicle to sell the parts to body shop or consumers or to sell them as scrap metal. Also called a junkyard, wrecking yard, or salvage yard. See also recycle parts, total loss.
Basecoat/clearcoat - a paint system in which the color effect is produced by applying a highly pigmented coat of paint (basecoat) followed by a transparent coat to provide gloss and durability (clearcoat). The basecoat and clearcoats in use today are generally urethane-based. This system is much more durable and resists fading to a greater degree than previous paint systems. See clearcoat, enamel, lacquer.
Bench - a heavy metal platform used to restore a vehicle's structural geometry to factory specifications. This is done by securing a portion of the vehicle to the platform, then pulling appropriate areas of the vehicle into place using special clamps, chains and hydraulic wrenches. Also called a frame rack or frame machine. See pull.
Betterment - a reduction in a claim payment for replacing a vehicle component that is worn. Betterment is typically applied to items such as tires, batteries, and exhaust parts. For example, if a tire showing 75% wear is damaged during an accident, it would not be feasible to find another tire like it that is also 75% worn out. So the body shop replaces it with a new tire and the insurance company deducts the amount of improvement from the claim total as betterment. The new tire is “better” than the damaged one. The premise is that the insurance company is only obligated to return the vehicle to its pre-accident condition. See pre-accident condition.
Blending - the process of overlapping paint into an adjacent panel to reduce color variations. Because a slight color variation is most noticeable where a newly painted panel is next to an existing panel, blending gradually fades one color into the other so there is no perceptible difference. See tinting.
CAPA - Certified Auto Parts Association - a consumer advocates group that certifies aftermarket parts (funded by the insurance industry and the manufacturers of aftermarket parts).
Chip guard - a chip resistant, protective coating normally applied to lower panels to minimize stones and other object from chipping the paint finish. Also called a stone guard.
Chipping – pits and gaps in a vehicle’s paint due to impact from sharp objects, such as stones.
Claim adjuster - a person responsible for assessing the damage to your vehicle and settling a claim. The adjuster may work for the insurance company or he may be hired by them. See insurance adjuster, independent adjuster.
Claimant - an individual who presents a claim against another party's insurance carrier. The insurance company sometimes calls this the third party. See insured.
Clearcoat – a transparent coating (typically urethane-based) that provides gloss and protection to a vehicle finish. The topcoat in a basecoat/clearcoat paint system. Also called clear.
Coat - a single layer of paint applied to a surface.
Collision insurance – insurance that covers damage to the insured vehicle caused by collision with any object, stationary or moving. This coverage pays for the repair of a vehicle after a crash. See liability insurance.
Color sand and buff - the process of sanding a repainted surface with ultra fine sandpaper to remove minor surface imperfections in the paint. The repainted parts are then buffed to restore original gloss. Also called denib and buff, final sand and buff, or finessing.
Compounding - using an abrasive material on a surface to remove small imperfections. This can be done either by hand or by machine. Also called polishing.
Computer estimate– an estimate of the cost to restore your vehicle back to its pre-accident condition prepared with the aid of computer software. Almost all modern body shops use computer estimates today. See estimate, pre-accident condition.
Corrosion – deterioration of a metal due to oxidation. In the case of iron and steel, corrosion is often referred to as rusting.
Corrosion protection – chemical additives applied to surfaces to reduce the tendency for corrosion to form.
Coverage - protection and benefits provided by an insurance policy. Coverage varies from company to company. Always read your policy carefully. The lower cost policy may not provide the same coverage at a higher priced one.
Deductible - the amount of a claim that is paid by the insured before insurance payment begins.
Degreasing - the removal from a surface of contaminants such as oil and grease. Failure to remove such contaminants can lead to defects, such as poor paint adhesion.
Detailing – a final, and thorough cleaning of the inside and outside of a vehicle to remove dust, dirt and other materials that may have accumulated during the repair process.
Direct gloss – a paint system using a coat of paint containing pigment and resin that gives the desired gloss level without the need of the application of a clearcoat. See clearcoat, two-stage color.
DRP - Direct Repair Program – a program that often involves a contractual agreement between a body shop and an insurance company. The agreement typically sets the rules for repair and standardizes procedures such as warranties, billing, and record keeping. Such programs can be good for the consumer as they can streamline the repair process by eliminating the need to wait on an insurance adjuster or a check from the insurance company. Longhorn Collision Center has DRPs with several insurance companies.
Drying - the process in which a coating changes from a liquid to a solid due to evaporation of a solvent, a chemical reaction of the binding medium, or a combination of these processes. When drying takes place during exposure to air at normal temperatures, it is called “air drying.” The process can be accelerated by the application of heat, in which case it is called “force-drying” or low bake. High bake is done at much higher temperatures and typically can be done only by the manufacturer, since it must be done prior to adding parts that might melt under such conditions.
Edge-to-edge repair – repair of a complete panel as opposed to a partial or spot repair.
Enamel - a topcoat paint which forms a film by chemical cross linking of its component molecules during the cure. This type of paint system typically is not used for automotive finishes today. See lacquer, basecoat/clearcoat.
Estimate – the approximate cost to restore your vehicle back to its pre-accident condition. Estimates are written estimations of the charges — they are not quotes. Additional damages may be found after repair has begun, in which case the charges will increase. See pre-accident condition, computer estimate, supplement, hidden damage.
FEA –Front End Alignment – the procedure that adjusts the wheels of the vehicle to minimize tire wear and provide vehicle stability. It can be either a 2-wheel or 4-wheel alignment.
Flex additive - a material added to paint to make it flexible for use on soft, flexible parts, such as bumper covers and side moldings.
Frame - a square, rectangular, or tubular steel undercarriage on which the suspension, drive train, engine, and body are attached. Most late model vehicles use unibody construction, which supports the structural load using the vehicle external skin. Most automobile use unibody construction while most pickup trucks use frame construction.
Frame machine – a heavy metal platform used to restore a vehicle's structural geometry to factory specifications. This is done by securing a portion of the vehicle to the platform, then pulling appropriate areas of the vehicle into place using special clamps, chains and hydraulic wrenches. Also called a frame rack or bench. See bench, pull.
Gloss - the degree to which a painted surface reflects light in a mirror-like manner.
Hazardous waste disposal fee - a charge assessed by many body shops to pay for the disposal of the wastes gemerated while repairing your vehicle. These wastes are unusable by-products created during the repair and painting process that cannot be disposed of through normal waste disposal streams.
Hidden damage – addition damage to a vehicle that cannot be seen until repairs have begun. Since estimates are based on visible damage, supplements must be prepared when such additional damage is found. See estimate, supplement.
Independent adjuster - a person hired by an insurance company, fleet company, or other party to assess the damage to your vehicle. See insurance adjuster, claim adjuster.
Insurance adjuster - a person from the insurance company responsible for assessing the damage to your vehicle and settling a claim. See claim adjuster, independent adjuster.
Insurance estimate - the preliminary assessment of damages and costs of repairs that will be used as a guideline for making repairs to the vehicle.
Insured – the person or company covered an insurance policy. Insurance companies sometimes call this the first party. See claimant.
Insurer - an organization that provides insurance; the insurance company.
Lacquer- a clear or colored coating, that dries by solvent evaporation and/or a curing process that produces a hard, durable finish. Lacquers were in wide use as automobile finishes a number of years ago, but are generally not used at all today.
Liability insurance – insurance that provides protection for the insured against financial loss against claims of financial damage from others. In other words, it pays for repair of the other person’s vehicle if you caused it to be damaged and it was your fault. See collision insurance.
Lien - a legal right to the vehicle by a third party to ensure the repayment of a debt or other financial obligation. This most often occurs due to an auto loan. See mechanic’s lien.
Lienholder - a person or organization that has a financial interest in your vehicle up to the amount of money borrowed or still owed on the vehicle. See lien, mechanic's lien.
LKQ - Like Kind and Quality - a used part salvaged from another vehicle. Such parts may be specified by the insurance company. We inspect all such parts upon receipt and use them only if they meet our standards of quality. Also called recycled part or used part.
Masking - temporary covering of areas not to be painted, usually with tape and/or paper. While this is a normal part of almost all auto painting procedures, some economy shops carry this procedure to the extreme. They mask everything—headlights, taillights, mirrors, grilles, mouldings. When done properly these items should be removed from the vehicle prior to painting and then replaced afterward. See also R&I.
Mechanic’s lien - a legal right to the vehicle by an auto repair shop to ensure the repayment for the cost of repairs to the vehicle. If a consumer fails to pay for repairs to his or her vehicle, a body shop or other repair facility has the right to repossess the vehicle (when proper procedures are followed). See lien, repossession.
Metallic – a finish that incorporates fine metal particles (typically aluminum) in the paint.
OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturer – the company that originally made your vehicle.
OEM parts – parts sold by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). See also aftermarket parts, replacement parts, used parts, recycled parts, LKQ parts, salvage parts.
O/H - Overhaul - remove an assembly, disassemble, clean, and visually inspect it, replace needed parts, reassemble and reinstall on the vehicle making any necessary adjustments.
Overlap - an automatic deduction made by an estimating system when two processes have duplicate operations. Since the operation is only performed once, the excess charges are not allowed.
Paint and materials - a charge for paint products and other materials, such as sandpaper and polishing pads, used to repair your vehicle. Sometimes shown as P&M or PM.
Passive restraint system - a passenger safety system, such as an air-bag, that activates automatically in the event of a collision or other incident.
PDR - Paintless Dent Repair - the process using specialty tools to remove minor, rounded dents without damaging the paint. This process is frequently used to remove hail damage and parking lot dings.
Pearl – a type of finish that incorporates mica particles in the paint to produce a pearl-like appearance. Mica is a naturally occurring mineral that when mixed with paint exhibits different colors with changing angles of illumination. Sometimes called pearlescent.
Pigment - the material in paint that produces color. A pigment differs from a dye in that a pigment is insoluble in the media in which it is used while a dye is soluble.
Prep – short for preparatory work - the process of washing, degreasing, and lightly abrading a panel prior to applying paint. Improper prep work can result in paint pealing at a later time.
Pre-accident condition – the condition your vehicle was in prior to being damaged in a collision. This is the target condition most body shops strive to attain, although it has been pointed out that in reality achieving pre-accident condition is not truly possible. For example, if you replace a damaged fender, the fender will be newer than the fender on the vehicle before the accident. Likewise, if you repair a damaged fender, it will in will most likely look the way the fender looked prior to the accident, but it will probably contain new primer, new paint, and fillers that were not on the original fender. Sometimes call the pre-loss condition.
Pretreatment - the chemical treatment of unpainted metal surfaces prior to painting, in order to enhance adhesion and corrosion resistance.
Primer - the first layer of a coating system, applied to an unpainted surface. The purpose of primer is to protect the surface from corrosion and properly prepare it for the next coat. It must have excellent adhesion to the substrate and to the coating that follows.
Primer-sealer – a combination primer and sealer, designed to improve adhesion of the basecoat and to seal old painted surfaces that have been sanded.
Prior damage – damage to a vehicle that was sustained in a previous accident, but not repaired. Insurance companies routinely deduct for prior damage on the basis that the damage was paid for or should have been paid for with the previous claim (if any).
Pull – the method by which a vehicle's structural geometry is restored to factory specifications. A portion of the vehicle is secured to the platform and appropriate areas of the vehicle are pulled into place using special clamps, chains, and hydraulic wrenches. See bench, frame machine.
R & I - Remove and Install – used on estimates to refer to the removal of a part from a vehicle and reinstallation of the same part after the repair has been completed. Such parts are routinely removed so that repairs and/or painting can be performed without damaging the part. Not to be confused with R & R.
R & R - Remove and Replace – used to refer to removal of a part from a vehicle followed by replacement with a new part. Such parts are replaced because they are beyond repair or the cost of repair is greater than the cost to replace. Not to be confused with R & I.
Recycled part - a used part obtained from a salvage yard. Such parts may be specified by the insurance company. We inspect all such parts upon receipt and use them only if they meet our standards of quality. Also called a used part. See also LKQ, OEM parts, aftermarket parts, replacement parts, salvage parts, used parts.
Reinspection - an inspection made by insurance personnel after repairs to a vehicle are completed. This is done to make sure the work done by the body shop was done properly and according to the estimate. Reinspections are often a part of DRP procedures. See DRP.
Rental reimbursement - optional coverage provided by your insurance company to help pay the cost of a rental vehicle when your vehicle is disabled as the result of a covered accident, usually available for an additional premium.
Repair authorization – the act by which a consumer gives the body shop permission (usually in writing) to repair his or her automobile. This authorization is sometimes contingent upon the insurance company settlement process.
Remanufactured part - a used, original factory part that has been refurbished to like-new condition. A typical remanufactured part is a bumper covers, which can be easily reformed back to the original shape. Also called reconditioned part.
Replacement part - any parts used to replace damaged parts on your vehicle. These may be new parts, both OEM and after-market part, or recycled parts. See also OEM parts, LKQ parts, aftermarket parts, used parts, recycled parts, salvage parts.
Repossession – when a financial institution (or a repair facility in the case of a mechanic’s lien) takes possession of a vehicle because the vehicle owner fails to make a payment. See lien, mechanic’s lien.
Rubbing compound - an abrasive paste that smoothes and polishes paint films. Also known as polishing compound. See also compounding.
Salvage parts - parts obtained from a salvage yard. Such parts may be specified by the insurance company. We inspect all such parts upon receipt and use them only if they meet our standards of quality. Also called a recycle part. See also LKQ parts, OEM parts, aftermarket parts, replacement parts, recycled parts, used parts.
Salvage value - the amount a salvage yard will pay for your damaged vehicle. This amount is used to determine whether your vehicle is a total loss or not. See also total loss.
Salvage yard – a business that takes in and stores wrecked, damaged, or abandoned vehicles including those totaled by insurance companies. The salvage yard dismantles the vehicle to sell the parts to body shops or consumers or to sell them as scrap metal. Also called a junkyard, wrecking yard, or automotive recycler. See also recycle parts, total loss.
Sectioning - a repair method in which only a portion of a damaged panel is replaced. It is sometimes a preferred method of repair.
Subrogation - when one insurance company pursues another for payment. It is sometimes more expedient to have your insurance company initially pay to repair your vehicle and let them negotiate with the other party's insurance over who is at fault.
Sealer - an undercoat that improves the adhesion of the basecoat, designed to seals old painted surfaces that have been sanded.
Solid color - a coating that contains only colored pigments and no additives such as aluminums and micas (used to create metallics and pearls).
Solvent – a liquid used to carry pigments, polymers, and other materials used in coating systems. Solvents are also used to reduce viscosity of the coatings to make them easier to spray and apply. Solvents evaporate during application and drying process, which means they do not become a part of the dried film. In conventional coatings the solvents are organic compounds such as alcohols, esters, and ketones. In an effort to reduce air pollution, newer waterborne systems use a mixture of organic solvents with water. Over the next few years, waterborne systems will probably replace organic solvents.
Steering the illegal practice of influencing a vehicle owner to take their vehicle to a particular person or body shop for repairs. You have the right to choose which body shop will repair your vehicle.
Substrate - the unpainted surface; the bare metal surface.
Supplement – a detailing of the repair charges for additional damage found after repairs have begun. Often it is not possible to determine all the damages to a vehicle until it is disassembled. Original estimates are generally based on visible damage. If additional damage is discovered after repairs are begun, a supplement is prepared and submitted to the consumer and/or insurance company for approval. See also, tear down and hidden damages.
Tack rag – a rag made of cotton fabric, such as cheesecloth, lightly impregnated with a resin, used to remove dust from a surface after rubbing down and prior to further painting.
Tape marking - the mark caused by applying masking tape to a newly painted surface before it has time to harden.
Tear down – the process of removing damaged parts from a vehicle in order to determine the extent of hidden damages. Sometimes an insurance company will order (and pay for) a tear down before issuing a final estimate. This especially true if the vehicle is close to being totaled and hidden damages may be the determining factor. See hidden damage, estimate, total loss.
Thinner – a blend of volatile organic solvents added to the paint to reduce it to the correct viscosity for application. See also, solvent.
Third party claim - claims for damage to the vehicle of a person not insured by the insurance company. See claimant, insured.
Three-stage color - a color system consisting of three parts: a basecoat, a midcoat, and a clearcoat. Metallics and pearls are often three-stage colors. Also called three-coat or tri-coat. See also two-stage color.
Tint and blend - see tinting, blending.
Tinter - a colored pigment or paint mixture used to mix color. Typically a painter will input a color code from the vehicle into a computer that uses various tinters to reproduce the color of the vehicle. Tinters are also used to make small adjustments in color when color variations occur. See tinting.
Tinting - the process of mixing toners to a paint in order match the existing paint finish. Even though we use a computer to match the paint back to the factory specifications, variations occur even at the factory. Tinting is used to more closely match the color to that on the vehicle.
Topcoat - the final layer of a coating system. The topcoat may also impart ultra violet (UV) protection from sunlight.
Total loss – when the cost to repair a damaged vehicle is greater than the value of the vehicle. Factors included in the decision to total a vehicle are the anticipated cost of repairs, any rental charges, and the salvage value. If your vehicle is totaled, the insurance company is, in effect, buying your vehicle from you. Negotiation over the purchase price is completely appropriate. You also have the choice to keep the vehicle and have it repaired, but the amount the insurance company will pay you will be less than the cost of the repairs. See also salvage value.
Touch-up – applying paint to a localized area. For example, covering up a small scratch. Typically touch ups do not look as good as a correctly applied paint.
Two-part – a paint or lacquer supplied in two parts that must be mixed together in the correct proportions before use. The mixture will remain usable only for a limited period after mixing. Most modern paints are two-part systems. Also called two-pack.
Two-stage color - a color system consisting of two parts: a basecoat and a clearcoat. Solid colors are normally two-stage while metallics and pearls are usually three-stage colors. See also three-stage color.
Ultra violet light - a portion of the spectrum that is largely responsible for the degradation of paint films. UV light is invisible to the eye, but is the cause of sunburn.
Undercoat - the first coat applied to a vehicle, typically a primer, sealer, or surfacer.
Unibody - the structural support found in most late model vehicles. Unibody construction supports the structural load using the vehicle external skin. The older method of support used an internal frame that was covered with a non-load-bearing skin. Most automobile use unibody construction while most pickup trucks use frame construction. Also called unitized body.
Used part - a part obtained from a salvage yard. Such parts may be specified by the insurance company. We inspect all such parts upon receipt and use them only if they meet our standards of quality. Also called a recycle part. See also LKQ, OEM parts, aftermarket parts, replacement parts, used parts, salvage parts.
UV Absorbers - chemicals additives used in paint to absorb UV radiation to reduce paint degradation. See ultra violet light.
Uninsured motorist coverage - insurance coverage that may pay for your injuries or property damage caused by an uninsured motorist. In some cases, it may cover hit-and-run damage, unidentified drivers, and undererinsured motorists. Review your coverage with your agent.
VIN - Vehicle Identification Number - a unique number that identifies each vehicle. While the primary purpose of the VIN is to identify your vehicle, it often contains important information concerning the equipment and options that were installed on your vehicle at the factory. This information allows the body shop to order the correct parts for your vehicle. Most professional estimates will have this number on it.