Top off a repair or attract new customers with express work

May 2, 2016
Express services are a great way to introduce your shop to a new customer pool or can be upsold during a more intensive repair to fully restore a vehicle.

In an industry where success is increasingly gauged on growth in locations, adding express services may seem counterintuitive. Why spend time on a modest revenue stream, when your efforts could be better spent bringing in high dollar repairs or a greater stream of work? That's the conventional wisdom, anyhow.

Such thinking is way too general and ignores some wider truths in collision repair. Not every shop wants or needs to be an MSO to survive. Some of those shops that do can grow big, at some point, using small steps. Perhaps most importantly, there is a market for this work, as vehicle owners search for affordable options to bring fresh life to cars and trucks with minor battle scars that can be removed conveniently in a day or less. Express services are a great way to introduce your shop to a new customer pool or can be upsold during a more intensive repair to fully restore a vehicle.

(Photo courtesy of Polyvance) Express repairs allow shops to bring even textured bumpers like this back to life quickly.

In the past, some shops experimented with express repair lanes with varying degrees of success. That shouldn't scare off your shop from considering this work. Manufacturers have brought a number of products, procedures and tools to market specifically for express work. Consider these repairs from Polyvance and 3M as quick, money-making complements to the services your hard-work business already is providing.

Profit bump

Bumper covers have always been prime candidates for express repairs since they absorb so much damage, much of it relative minor cosmetic issues that can be remedied without a significant investment in time. Still, given the availability of aftermarket replacements, many shops and insurers tend to be more willing than ever to dispense with an old part and install a new one--even the cost of doing so is greater performing a repair.

That may not be a big issue if the repair is part of an insurance claim, but when customers are paying out if their own pockets, a more affordable express job is just the ticket. Products that allow shops to repair textured  bumpers and reduce time on other work add to these attractive savings.

Textured bumper repair

Step 1. Thoroughly clean the bumper first using a prep soap, scuff pad and water. Wash and rinse the bumper inside and out.

(Photo courtesy of Polyvance) Begin repairs by thoroughly cleaning the repair areas with soap and water before applying a low VOC cleaning agent.

Step 2. After the bumper dries, clean it once more using a plastic cleaner. Spray on a heavy wet coat in a small area and let it sit for a few seconds to dissolve any contamination. Wipe in one direction with a clean paper towel, exposing a clean surface with every wipe. repeat over the entire bumper.

Step 3. Remove any dents by heating the bumper with a heat gun. Heat from one side only until the plastic is too hot to touch on the other side. This ensures that the plastic is heated all the way through. Reshape the plastic to remove dents and stretched areas.

Step 4. If necessary, fill in any low areas with epoxy filler. First sand the area with a DA and 180 grit paper. Apply a filler prep adhesion promoter. Prepare the epoxy on a mixing board and apply. When the epoxy cures, sand with 180 grit. (Do NOT use 80 grit on this soft TPO plastic since doing so leaves swirl marks.)

(Photo courtesy of Polyvance) For textured bumper repairs, apply several layers of texture fillers like Microtex to reproduce the bumper's original look.

Step 5. Use 180 grit to sand down any marred areas. When all the rough areas are smooth, sand again with 320 grit. Next, quickly sand the entire bumper with 320 grit. Be careful not to sand all of the texture of.  Just remove the tops to create a more uniform appearance.

Step 6. Using compressed air, blow the bumper dust free. Spray a medium wet coat of plastic adhesion promoter over the entire bumper. Allow to dry.

Step 7. Apply the texture material (in this case, Microtex waterborne texture material). First catalyze the material 5 percent by weight.

Step 8. Using a 1.3mm basecoat gun, apply a medium wet coat of Microtex to the bumper. After the first coat flashes completely, apply a full second medium wet coat.

Step 9. Once the Microtex has dried completely, sand with 600 grit to remove loose texture and even out the appearance. Use the white nibs as a guide coat to check for evenness of sanding.

(Photo courtesy of Polyvance) When the texture fillers cure, sand with 600 grit to remove loose texture and even out the appearance. Use the white nibs as a guide coat to check for evenness of sanding.

Step 10. To finish the bumper, apply a bumper and cladding coat paint to match the original color. You should be able to match the original unfaded bumper color using the color chip chart on the back of the bumper. This may take some guesswork. Choose the color that matches most closely.

Step 11. Mix the color according to the formula. Using a 1.3 mm basecoat gun, apply two medium wet coats.

Flexible patch
Non-structural bumper repairs arguable would be far more popular if not for one thing--the curved shape of the bumper cover. Manufacturers have answered this problem with flexible patches that allow shops to recreate the curve and therefore salvage the cover. refer to these steps to use a flexible patch.

Step 1. Clean the front and back of the repair area with soap and water, followed by a VOC compliant surface cleaner.

Step 2. Be especially thorough on the back and remove any overspray from the repair area. For stubborn areas, use a scuffing pad.

Step 3. Grind the front of the repair using a 3 in. grade 60 disc. Grind at a low speed to create a “Dish Out” area that is 3 in. wide and that tapers to the bottom of the damage.

Step 4. Sand the “Dish Out” area using an abrasive disc on a DA sander, removing any melted plastic. Keep the abrasive scratches within the “Dish Out” area. Using P180 abrasive, feather edge 2–4 in. from the “Dish Out” area.

Step 5. Apply the reinforcement patch. On the back side of the repair area, apply the flexible patch adhesion promoter. Firmly apply the flexible reinforcement patch so that it overlaps the damaged area by 1-1/2 in. on all sides of the repair.

Step 6. Apply adhesion promoter to the front side of the repair and allow to dry for 5 minutes. Mix and apply flexible filler with a “tight coat” followed by additional coats to fill in all low areas. Be certain to follow the curing instructions which typically recommend 15 minutes at 75 degrees F.

Step 7. DA sand the flexible filler material with an abrasive disc. Block sand the repair area with an abrasive sheet.

Step 8. Using a DA sander with an abrasive disc, sand the repair and the surrounding area. Blow off the area and inspect the repair for quality. Repeat Step 7 and this step as necessary to create the best finish.

Note: The bumper is now ready to be painted. Be sure to use to your paint company's recommended paint adhesion promoter to avoid any compatibility issues.

Plastic tab repair

At one time, broken tabs practically guaranteed a bumper cover would need replaced. This is the case no longer as new films and adhesives can rebuild tabs. Note these repair steps.

Step 1. Clean the repair area with soap and water. Next apply a VOC compliant surface cleaner.

Step 2. Perform initial prep sand. Grind the broken tab using a 3 in. 60 grit disc to create a tapered edge. Using a DA sander, sand the repair area with a 3-in. abrasive disc to remove any melted plastic.

Step 3. Prepare the tab. Drill 1/8 in. pinning holes in the damaged area, 1/4 in. from the tapered edge and 1/4 in. apart. Apply aerosol adhesion promoter. Wait 5 –10 minutes for the product to dry.

Step 4. Apply the repair material. Cut the contour film three times the length of the tab. Mix then apply the adhesive to the contour sheet and apply to the damaged tab. Shape the contour sheet as you work. Allow 5 –10 minutes to cure. Remove the contour film.

Step 5. Shape the damaged tab. Rough shape the repaired tab area with a 3 in.60 grit disc. Using a DA sander, sand the repair area with a 3 in. abrasive disc to restore original tab dimensions. Re-drill mounting holes as necessary.

Step 6. Use a DA sander to finish sand the repair area and the surrounding area with a 3 in. abrasive disc. Use compressed air to blow off the repair area and inspect for quality.

Non-structural steel repair

The following steps provide directions to repair small damage areas in nonstructural steel. Note that the steel can be repaired similarly to bumper covers.

Step 1. Clean the repair area with soap and water. Once again, followed up by cleaning with a VOC compliant surface cleaner.

Step 2. Perform an initial prep sanding using a DA and 3 in. disc. Be careful to not sand through the clear coat. Use clean, dry air to blow off the area and re-clean with a surface cleaner.

Step 3. Mix and apply polyester glaze per manufacturer’s recommendation. Recommended cure typically is 15–20 minutes at 75 degrees F.

Step 4. Apply a dry guide coat over cured glaze. Re-apply as necessary during sanding process.

Step 5. Using an abrasive disc/sheet, hand block or DA the sand glaze to completely remove the dry guide coat.

Step 6. Us the clean, dry air again to blow off the repair area. Re-apply the dry guide coat. Finish sanding the repair area and the surrounding area using a abrasive disc. Inspect the repair for quality. Repeat the process if necessary.

Final note: Pricing

How much should you charge for express services? This area can be a bit tricky since you want to make these services attractive, but they also need to be as profitable as possible. Start by investigating prices in your market. Keep in mind the fact the reduced labor times and material costs that are part of express repairs. From there, work in a non-insurance labor time you believe is fair.

Ultimately, you'll need some price structure that appeals to customers. Revenue numbers might not seem appealing to your business at first. The key here is the bigger repair picture that can include more customers and the possibility that you might add as much as several hundred dollars. 

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Vehicle Service Pros, create an account today!