Tag Archives: auto body

Auto Body Painting Goes Green in CA

You may see a shakedown of your local auto body shop. In order to go green, paints for cars are going to a water based system…

Legally in California as of June 1, 2008 all Auto Body shops must convert to water-based base coats. What that means is: every new car produced since the mid 80’s (with some exceptions with foreign cars in the past few years) has been done with a two stage paint finish. The color is the base coat, and the clear coat is the top coat, hence two stage painting. Some cars even have three stages (color-base coat, pearl mid-coat and clear coat).

Since the mid 80’s all the base coats have been solvent (petroleum) based. These are very harmful to the environment. But there was no other alternative to paint. The solvents used are really 50% of the base coat which is the harmful part. As the base coat is shot onto the car it immediately realeases p and evaporates into the air.

The clear coats are usually only mixed with a catalyst and the pollutants going into the air are much lower than in the base coats.

To help reduce pollutants greatly the base coat was the one engineers have focused on altering. After years of research engineers managed to develop high quality base coats that are WATER based (instead of solvent based) making them almost completely harmless to the environment (an approximately 90% harmful emmisions reduction). This is a momentus shift in automotive paint refinishing.

California is the first state in the US to regulate the implementation of a state law requiring auto body shops to use water based base coats instead of the solvent based ones.

Going from shooting solvent based base coat to water based is like going from riding a bicycle to riding a unicycle. Ok, that was a bit dramatic ,but it’s very very different in the way you approach the paint work and paint time. There is a certain speed and style that goes into applying base coat. Because of the shift to a water based system there now is the need to allow much more time for the drying of the coat. The solvent based system evaporated much faster than water based: a three layer application of solvent based base coat on a small repair job in an ideal temperature may take 15 minutes to dry. While with a water based base coat that time may increase to about 45 minutes. I’ve found the increase to be at least 3x longer, even with a retro-fitted spay booth.

So what does all this mean to you as an auto consumer? Well if you get into an accident and need to have part of your car repaired and repainted, then it may take additional time and cost everyone in the process (shop, insurance, consumer) more. A shop’s production flow will be  affected by this change. Depending on the shop you take it to, this could possibly translate anywhere from a half of day to a couple of days difference in getting your car back!

My shop was “unofficially” the third shop in the San Fernando Valley to implement this new system. It was installed about a year ago. So We’ve had plenty of time to make adjustments. But if you are in California be aware that this new system will change the way things used to be done….alot.

Happy motoring,

AP Body Shop, North Hollywood, CA



Filed under Green Body Work

Going the extra mile, and then some…

In my day-to-day operations running an auto body shop I often find myself faced with the challenge of how do I serve my customers best interest while maintaining peace with insurance companies. This is not always easy. And sometimes I need to fight in order to help my customers and stay within bounds of my personal integrity. Here’s an  example:

A couple of years ago I had a customer who’s new Lexus RX330 SUV was parked in front of her house on the street and hit by a driver who tried to get away. Incredibly the driver got stuck and the police showed up. The driver was charged with a DUI. The driver only had minimal liability coverage, in CA that’s $5,000. My customer brought her car in and the preliminary estimate was approximately $4,200.

FYI, Insurance companies usually expect about a 20% supplement on a big claim, because until the car goes through tear-down we aren’t completely sure of the extent of damage. Additionally the insurance company needs to factor additional money to cover a car rental.

In this case the preliminary estimate + 20% would be approximately $5000, but the rental would push it over that threshold.

So when I spoke to the driver’s insurance company, they basically said they wouldn’t do a claim because it would go over $5000 and they are not liable to pay unless they pay in full. So the adjuster happily told me to have the customer call her insurance and handle it through them…

I find this offensive. My customer had nothing to do with the accident and now she was being put in a situation where she needed to go to her insurance to file a claim, pay a deductible and get it handled that way. Big headache.

This is where I really went into action.

I called my customer and found out that she didn’t need a car rental. Score! So I called back the driver’s insurance adjuster and told her that my customer didn’t need a rental car and therefore we had a claim. Bingo! Let’s just say the adjuster was a bit speechless… I could almost hear her thought bubble “Oh, shit, now I’ve got do deal with this guy. He’s getting paid anyway, why does he care?” I almost wanted to say to her “Gotcha!”

So the next step was to tear-down the car and rewrite a precise estimate to make sure it would fit under the $5000 threshold. Which I did, and it came in at $4,921. Perfect. I informed the driver’s insurance adjuster. They made me sign a contract which basically stated that if I find something that causes it to go beyond the estimate, it is on the customer or me to cover that. I was confident that I had everything I needed and would be able to complete the job for under $5,000. To go from initial estimate to getting approval for the work took nearly 20 phone calls! But mission accomplished. The work was done on budget and now I have a customer for life.



Filed under Service and More Service

Welcome to Auto Andre’s World

I am in the unique position of being a truly independent auto body shop owner, AP Body Shop in North Hollywood, CA. I plan to share my thoughts, feelings and ideas about auto repair, custom cars and whatever comes to mind about my passion for cars and people. I’m just gonna dive right in. I hope you enjoy the journey…

Here’s a little background on the way auto insurance industry/claim process works (at least in CA): when you call in a claim while your insurance provider may suggest/request a place for you to take your vehicle (“preferred shop”), by law you can take your car wherever you want. The insurance company is only making a suggestion. And you would probably figure it’s the best to take it to a recommended place. And sometimes it may be. However, the preferred body shop will have a deal with the insurance company and really be looking for their best interest as oppossed to yours. In exchange for having business sent their way the “preferred” body shop will reduce their rate. And most shop owners do the right thing but keep in mind that when things come up like: if you are in an accident and there is damage that is not obvious (sometimes structural) the shop owner may not force the issue with the insurance company or the adjustor may deny the claim and the shop owner would have his/her hands tied and possibly not even say anything to you. So whenever possible I highly suggest that you find an independent auto body shop to take your car after an accident. If you are in the Los Angeles area definitely contact me. I am also in the process of connecting with independent shop owners across the country. Any good shop will fully guarantee their work.


In alot of cases an insurance company won’t cover anything customized on a car that is damaged (aftermarket, add-on’s, etc.). So if you are planning to do any customization to your car or you’ve already done some, I’d recommend that you check with your auto insurance carrier to find out what is or isn’t covered. For example, in California, AA Insurance will not cover any non-factory parts, add-on’s, upgrades, etc. But State Farm and Mercury will as long as they know about them. Meaning you’ve upgraded your policy to cover those items and your rates where adjusted accordingly  . In the long run this may literally save you thousands of dollars!

Here’s an example: I had a customer come in with a 2002 Camero SS with tons of upgrades and add-on’s (engine, suspension, wheels, stripes, etc.). He had probably spent about $15,000 in upgrades. He had an accident where he had hit a fire hydrant. The front of the car, suspension and wheels were severely damaged. He was with AAA Insurance. They would not pay for the replacement of any of the upgrades. I told the customer that his upgrades would not be covered. Of course he was furious. I called everyone (adjustor, supervisor, even a vice president) connected to claim. He also called everyone I called. Both of us got major push back along the way. The first adjustor said even if the owner of the car had claimed all the upgrades it wouldn’t be covered…”AAA just doesn’t cover that”  he says. Fine, but no way ( I thought)…After a dozen phone calls made by me and the customer , the complain went all the way to a vice president .They did end up covering the entire repair bill with upgrades because nowhere on my customer’s contract was it mentioned that his upgrade where not included…..nice. But here is a situation where if he had gone to a preferred shop he would not have been able to get his car back to it’s pre-accident condition through his insurance. They would have only paid for the original parts. Again, a preferred shop will not challege the insurance companies in fear of loosing their account with them…which means, you, would end up loosing and  paying the difference.

Ultimately there are many tricks that insurance companies and preferred shops use to minize their costs. I’ll be back with more info about this soon. Stay tuned…


Filed under About Auto Andre & AP Body Shop