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Reading an Estimate

Reading an Estimate

Reading an auto repair estimate can be very difficult and confusing. Here is a guide to help you understand some of the terminology. Estimates will itemize repairs to various sections of your vehicle like Front Door, Rear Door and Quarter Panel. Under each section there will be breakdowns of the specific repair operations for that section. Each estimate will list labor time, paint time, parts cost, paint and materials cost, sublet cost and taxes. The totals can be found at the end of the estimate.

Common Estimate Terms and Abbreviations

R&I: Remove and Install
This operation is used for taking parts off of your vehicle to gain access to the damage for repairs. This operation may also be necessary when painting a panel to ensure that there are no tape lines. Depending on the estimating software, R&I time may vary a little.

RF: Refinish
Refinish means paint time. This estimates how long it will take to paint a part or panel. RF time in some estimates is broken down with base coat (the color) and clear coat (the protective layer on top). Some special colors may include an additional pearl stage before the clear coat. This is also known as 3 stage. Usually the paint and materials cost are calculated with the RF time.

BLND: Blend
Because most colors have tints and metallic flakes, blending is necessary to ensure a perfect color match. The painter paints the new panel or part but doesn’t stop there. He continues to the adjacent panels, fading out the color gradually. Then the adjacent panel is clear coated. The eye cannot see the small change in color because it is so gradual.

RPR: Repair
This is the estimate time it would take to repair a part or panel. Every estimating software has its own predetermined industry standard times for replacing parts, R&Is and RF. However, the repair time is determined by the estimator, so this can vary from shop to shop even if they are using the same estimating software. 

Subl: Sublet Repairs
Sublet repairs are those done by a third party other than the shop. Some shops will sublet their glass work, wheel repairs, wheel alignments etc.


There are different kinds and grades of parts that shops can chose to replace on your vehicle.

OEM: Original Equipment Manufacture
As the name suggests, these parts are made by your manufacturer, specifically for your vehicle. Usually this is the most expensive option, but they offer benefits like better fit and performance. 

OPT OEM: Optional Original Equipment Manufacture
Most manufacturers outsource their parts to different companies. Sometimes the third-party parts manufacturer will sell the part with its own brand. For example, Denso makes oxygen sensors and sells it to Honda and Toyota. Denso sells the same oxygen sensor to Auto Zone. Buying direct and cutting out the middleman (the vehicle manufacture) can result in savings. 

AM: Aftermarket
Aftermarket or economy parts are generic parts. Like a store brand, AM parts serve the same function as the OEM parts, but it is not made by the same manufacturer of the parts that came originally on your vehicle. These parts are a cheaper option to OEM. AM parts come in different grades. CAPPA is a certification that ensures the parts are the same quality and fit as the OEM. NSF is another certification for AM parts similar to CAPPA. If you elect to use AM parts to save some money, Car Consultants recommends going with certified parts.

RCY/ LKQ : Recycled and Like Kind and Quality
These are used parts from the same year, make and model of your vehicle. These salvaged parts come from cars that are declared a total loss. The benefit to using LKQ parts, is that it is cheaper than OEM parts but unlike AM parts, it is a factory part. Sometimes it may not be cost effective to use LKQ parts because there is usually a recondition cost, as these parts are used.

Miscellaneous Operations

At the end of estimate, there is usually a list of various operations.

Color Sand and Polish or Denib and Polish
This procedure is to remove the paint imperfections in the newly panted panels. This procedure includes wet sanding to get out any dust particles and orange peels (ripples in the clear coat).

Tie Down, Set Up, Measure and Pulls
This is to ensure the replacement parts fit properly as they did before the collision. The vehicle first must be secured then pulled. Tie down is done with anchors or floor pods. Set Up secures the vehicle to a frame machine where it can be measured and then pulled. Pulling the vehicle reverses the collision impact bringing the body or frame of the vehicle, back to factory specifications.

Color tint/ Spray Test Cards
Most shops have a paint mixing system. The paint is mixed to the factory color code. Even with the correct paint code, there are many different tints that make up a color. Painters tint the color and then spray the color on cards. The painter then compares the color on the card to your car’s color, and chooses the best match.

Pre and Post Scans
Modern cars have many sensors and computers. Scanning a vehicle with a scan tool is a very important part of the repair process. Electrical and mechanical damage that cannot be identified visually, can sometimes be detected by the stored error codes during the pre-scan. After the repairs are completed, a post scan may be necessary to reset and clear all codes stored in the system. Some replacement electronic parts may also need to be initialized before they can function properly.

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