Auto Body Definitions

It is not always easy to understand auto body (or autobody) repair shop language. That is why we have provided a useful glossary of terms to help you with those confusing words that you might encounter on your way to having your car repaired following a collision in Hilton Head or Bluffton, SC. You can also reference our Frequently Asked Questions section.


Additive to paint to speed the cure of a coating.


A plastic like material used in the manufacturing of paint to increase gloss and durability.


Same as "catalyst". Additive for paint to speed the cure, give better recoatability, better durability to weather and provides gloss.


Chemicals added to a paint to improve or create certain specific characteristics i.E., Flex agents. .


Adhesion promoter
Material used over an o.E.M. Or cured insoluble finish to increase the adhesion of the topcoat.


Air dry
The drying or solvent evaporation of a topcoat at room temperature.


Alternate color
A color matched to a verifiable o.E.M. Color shift.


Aluminum pigment
Small aluminum particles used in paint to reflect light. These flakes vary in size and polish to give a look of glamour and luster.


Additional operation
An additional process that may be required in conjunctionwith the repair or replacement of a specific vehicle part (ie., Aim headlights).


An insurance company representative responsible for the verification of coverage and settlement of claims.


Aftermarket part
Any new repair part not produced by the original vehicle manufacturer. These are generally considered substandard to original manufacturer parts.


To bring all appropriate edges of a part or assembly flush or square with adjacent or related parts or assemblies during a repair or replacement operation.


Appearance allowance
An agreed compensation from the insurance company for repairs not performed, sometimes appropriate for superficial damage.


A person who inspects a damaged vehicle and determines what repairs or replacement parts are required to restore the vehicle to the condition it was in immediately prior to the loss. Also known as an estimator.


National institute for automotive service excellence - an independent, Non-profit organization dedicated to improving the Quality of automotive Service and repair through voluntary testing and certification of automotive Technicians.


Two or more related parts of a vehicle that are pre-assembled by the Manufacturer and sold under one part number.


Arcing (the gun) 
The action of turning the wrist or elbow at the end of each pass of paint while doing blends or panel repair. This causes a lighter application of paint at each end of the pattern.


The breaking-up of paint into fine particles or droplets by a paint gun.


The process of applying heat to a finish to speed the cure or dry time of the finish.


Bare substrate
Any material (steel, aluminum, plastic, etc.) Which does not have a coating of paint or primer.


A highly pigmented color which requires a coating of clear for protection, durability and gloss.


Basecoat/clearcoat system
A two-stage finish consisting of a color coat and a clearcoat.


The additional charge for a repair that improves the vehicle beyond its pre-accident condition. Betterment can be charged as a percentage or a dollar value.


Soluble dyes or pigments in old finishes dissolved by solvents in new color and bleed through to the new finish color.


The tapering of finishes or colors so slight differences cannot be distinguished. Merging one color into another. This is achieved by allowing some of the old finish to show through the new color.


Effect of pressure from either solvent or moisture under a coating causing a swelling or blister in the finish; i.E. Water blister.


A milky appearance of a topcoat caused by high humidity where water condenses on or in the wet coating. This can be eliminated by use of heat or a slower solvent or retarder.


Body filler
An activated polyester type material used on bare substrate to fill dents in damaged auto body parts.


Occurrence where a primer or surfacer does not totally fill a sand scratch or imperfection. Not usually apparent in undercoat, however, does show up in topcoat.


A paint coating lacking flexibility.


Air or solvent trapped in a paint film caused by poor atomization during spraying. Air trapped in body filler caused by excessive agitation.


Using a mild abrasive to bring out gloss and/or remove texture in a topcoat. This can be done by hand or machine.


Burn/burn through
Polishing or buffing of a color or clear too hard or long causing the underlying coat(s) to be revealed.

A variation of a color; example, a red shade blue.


Additive for paint to speed the cure, give better recoatability, better durability to weather and provides gloss.


Natural polymer or resin from cottonseed oil to make paint coatings.


The result of weathering of a paint film resulting in a white powdery appearance.


Tiny cracks or splitting in the surface of a paint film usually seen in a lacquer. Caused by improper film formation or excessive film build.


Chemical stain/spotting
Circular, oblong or irregular spots or discoloration on areas of finish caused by reactive chemicals coming into contact with air pollution (coal and high sulfur emissions), acid rain and snow.


Removal of finish usually due to the impact of rocks and stones.


Applying of undercoat or topcoat over the surface using a 50% overlap of spray.


Two single coats with longer flash time.


Made with ground pigments, solvent and resin. Used in the intermix system to produce colors.


Color coat
The application of color to a prepared finish.


Color match
Two colors exhibiting no perceptible difference when viewed under the same conditions.


Color retention
The ability of a color to retain its true shade over an extended period of time. A color that is color fast.


Color standard
A small sprayed-out sample of oem color. This is the established requirement for a given color code. This is the color the car is supposed to be from the factory.


Color version
A color matched in a different quality finish, to match the same oem standard; i.E., A color matched to an acrylic enamel in lacquer.


Complementary colors
Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.


The ratio of pigment in paint to resins in paint.


The forming of holes in a film due to contamination.


Fine line cracks in the surface of the paint finish; see crow's foot.


Applying paint in a criss-cross pattern. Single coat applied in one direction with a second single coat applied at 90° to the first.


Tiny cracks in the surface of a paint film usually seen in a lacquer; also see checking.


The chemical reaction of a coating during the drying process, leaving it insoluble.


The gelling or partial cure of paint due to incompatible materials.


Large sagging or runs of paint due to improper application.


Painting of the edges of parts before installation.


Comprehensive is the appropriate type of loss if damage to an insured vehicle results from something other than collision (e.G., Fire, Hailstorm or vandalism).


The amount of a claim that is paid by the insured before insurance payment begins.


Diminished value
The value established by comparing the pre-accident value of a vehicle, the amount of damage to the vehicle, and the post-repair value of the vehicle.


Drive in inspection
An inspection of a damaged vehicle in which it is still operable and is brought to wherever the appraiser/estimator conducts business.


Defined orientation
The dispersion of metallic or mica flake with a definite pattern.


The peeling of a finish having improper adhesion.


Lighter or darker in comparing two colors. The first adjustment in color matching.


The gradual loss of gloss due to continued evaporation of solvent after polishing.


Direct (face) 
The color viewed from head-on (90°).


Dispersion lacquer
Particles of lacquer paint suspended or dispersed in a solvent which is not strong enough for total solution.


D.O.I. (Distinctness of image) 
How clear a finish reflects an image.


Double coat
One single coat of paint followed immediately by another.


A material used in a paint which enables it to cure.


The evaporation of solvent from a paint film.


Dry film thickness (d.F.T.) 
The thickness of a paint after it has dried and/or cured. Measured in mils.


Dry spray
The process of applying paint in a lighter or not as wet application.


How well a film weathers and lasts.


Electrostatic paint application
Process of applying paint by having the surface electrically charged positive or negative and the application equipment on opposite electric charge.


E.P.A. (Environmental protection agency) 
Government agency established to administer federal environmental legislation.


The process of chemically treating a material for corrosion resistance and adhesion of a primer, or to remove rust.


Etching primer
A primer which contains an acid which etches the substrate as well as applying a primer. To protect against corrosion.


The written determination made by an appraiser or Estimator, upon inspection of a damaged vehicle, regarding the cost required to restore the Vehicle to the condition it was in immediately prior to the loss.


Field inspection
An inspection where the appraiser/estimator goes to the Location of a damaged vehicle to write an estimate.


Final bill
Itemized repair invoice detailing what repairs were actually performed (Not just an estimate of repairs.) Included in the Itemized statement will be Codes designating the type of parts used.


First party claimant
Vehicle owner's insurance company will be paying for the Cost of repairs.


Flat rate labor
A suggested set time to remove and replace a part, or to complete any labor operation.


The square, rectangular, or tubular steel undercar that has the suspension, drive train, engine and body bolted to it.


Factory package color (FPC) 
Car colors that are matched, produced and packaged by paint companies for specific car color codes for use at the refinish level.


A sanding process of tapering a broken paint edge to a smooth finish.


Slang term for blending or slowly moving the edge of one color into a second color.


Film build
The wet or dry thickness of applied coating measured in mils; also see dry film thickness.


Round ring-like craters caused by contamination.


Large pieces of paint or undercoat falling off of substrate; also called delamination.


The time needed to allow solvents to evaporate from a freshly painted surface before applying another coat or heat.


Flatting agent
Material used in paint to dull or eliminate gloss.


Flex agent
Material added to paint for additional flexibility, usually used for rubber or plastic flexible parts.


Characteristics or some pigments to separate from solution and migrate to the surface of paint film while still wet.


Flop (side tone) 
The color of a finish when viewed from a side angle, other than direct.


Fluorescent light
Light emitted from a standard fluorescent fixture.


The leveling properties of a wet paint film.


A final atomized coat of paint, usually applied at higher air pressure and at greater distance than normal.


Force dry
Speed of dry due to application of heat. See baking.


A very fine polishing material used to gain gloss and shine.


Reflectance of light from a painted surface. Measured at different degrees by instruments known as gloss meters.


The amount of black or white in a specific color.


Using a coarse abrasive, usually a spinning disc to remove paint, undercoat, rust, etc. Before applying body filler.


Ground coat
Highly pigmented coat of paint applied before a transparent color to speed hiding.


Guide coat
A mist coat of a different color, usually primer, to aid in getting a panel sanded straight. A dry contrasting color applied to prime prior to sanding. This coat remains in the low areas and imperfections during the sanding process. When removed, imperfections are eliminated.


The time it takes for a wet paint film to become ready for another coat of paint.


Material used to speed cure of an enamel. See also catalyst.


Resistance of a paint film to surface damage measured as in pencil hardness.


High bake
The baking of a paint above 180° f.


High solid
Paints and undercoats which have more pigment and resin (film formers) than their regular equivalent.


High strength/high concentrated
The amount of pigment in the volume solid portion is in a higher amount, more pigment vs. Resin.


High volume low pressure (HVLP) 
Spray equipment which delivers material at a low pressure of no more than 10 psi (at the air cap), however, with greater volume of air.


Small increment. A gradual increase in quantity. Term used in color adjustment.


Hold-out (color) 
The ability of an under-coat to stop or greatly reduce the topcoat from soaking into it.


The amount or degree of water vapor in the air measured in percent.


Hazardous waste/hazardous material charge
A charge assessed by many Collision repair facilities to dispose of wastes as Associated with repairing your Vehicle in an environmentally appropriate way. Some Insurance companies refuse to pay this charge.


(Inter-industry conference on auto collision repair) - an international, Non-profit training organization dedicated to improving the quality, safety and efficiency of auto collision repair for the benefit of the consumer.


Insurance estimate
The preliminary assessment of damages and costs of repair that will be used as a guideline for making repairs to the vehicle.


An individual is an insured in relation to one's own insurance carrier.


Incandescent light
Light emitted from a burning filament in a glass bulb.


A gradual increase in quantity.


Infra-red light
Portion of electromagnetic spectrum just below the visible light range. Can be used to cure paint due to heat being produced.


Innercoat adhesion
The ability of one coat of paint to stick to another coat.


The mixing of specific colors by adding different components or colorants to produce a usable mixture at the paint store or shop level.


Thickening of paint to an unusable form due to drying or curing, before being used.


A paint which dries by solvent evaporation which can be redissolved in its own solvent.


Let down
The process of reducing the intensity of a colorant or mass tone through the addition of white or silver, allowing you to see cast and strength.


The soaking of a solvent into a soluble undercoat causing swelling, then causing the topcoat to wrinkle from underneath.


Labor rate
The dollar amount applied to flat rate labor (time) Specifically Quoted in dollars per hour by labor category (frame ; Mechanical/electrical; Refinish; sheet metal.)


Liability is the appropriate type of loss resulting from damage or Injury one individual causes to another for which the first individual is legally Liable.


Baking of a paint film up to 180° f.


Low pressure coat
The process of applying the final coat of paint at a lower air pressure. Used to uniform a finish or blending.


Process of applying pressure, sensitive tape and paper to a vehicle to prevent paint from being applied where it is not wanted.


Metallic color
Colors containing various sizes of aluminum flakes. These flakes have reflective properties and when used in combinations and/or amounts, modify the optical characteristics of the color.


Mica color
Colors containing various sizes and/or colors of mica. Mica flakes have several optical characteristics allowing light to reflect, pass through and absorb. When added to color alone or with metallic flake, cause the color to look different depending on the angle of view.


A measure of paint film thickness equal to one/one-thousandth of an inch.


"Mini bell" 
Equipment used to apply paint electrostatically consisting of a spinning disk to which paint is applied. The spinning disc is charged electrically and paint is atomized through centrifugal force.


Mist coat
A thin sprayed coat to uniform metallic finishes. Also used to blend colors. Sometimes used with light amounts of solvents to uniform finish and/or increase gloss.


Blotches of metallic or mica particles in a paint film.


NAGS (National Auto Glass Specification, Inc.) 
An organization that specifies, certifies, and publishes pricing for automotive glass.


Non-photochemically reactive
Solvents which do not react with sunlight to cause ozone or smog.


Original equipment manufacturer.


A finish that is not transparent. Light cannot be seen through it and does not allow what is underneath to show through.


Orange peel
Texture in a paint film that resembles the peel of an orange. Caused by improper reduction or application.


Osha (occupational safety and health administration) 
A federal agency which sets safety and health regulations for most of the US Industries and businesses.


Placing one coat of paint alongside another, one partly extending over the other.


Over spray
Paint which during application will stick to adjacent panels not being painted.


Chemical reaction between oxygen and another substance, causing paint film curing, paint film failure or metal rusting.


A triatomic very reactive form of oxygen that is a bluish, irritating gas of pungent odor. Formed naturally in the atmosphere by a photochemical reaction and is a major air pollutant in the lower atmosphere but a beneficial component of the upper atmosphere.


The labor associated with an operation that is common to the replacement of two or more parts.


Paint & materials
A charge for paint products, and other materials, Such as Sandpaper and polishing pads, expended to repair your vehicle.


Paint matching, tinting, blending
These describe various methods of ensuring that there is no perceptible difference between the appearance of newly Refinished panels and undamaged panels on your repaired vehicle.


Pre-loss condition
The Overall condition of the vehicle immediately preceding collision, vandalism, or theft.


Primary impact
The area of the loss vehicle that sustained the most severe damage.


Paint settling
The dropping or settling of the solids in a reduced or unreduced paint to the bottom of paint gun or can.


Painter variables
Painter can control range of reduction, air pressure, speed of travel, flash time, etc.


Panel repair
Refinishing of a complete panel.


Loss of adhesion between one coat of paint to succeeding coats or coatings.


An insoluble finely ground powder, either natural, synthetic, inorganic or organic. It provides color, hardness, durability, hiding and corrosion resistance to paint.


Paint imperfection resembling a hole about the size of the head of a straight pin. Caused by solvent entrapment or air bubbles.


Pressure pot
A sealed paint cup with a paint gun which puts a measured amount of air pressure into it. This then forces the paint to the gun for atomization.


Primary color
Red, yellow and blue. These colors resemble no other color and cannot be formed by mixtures of any other colors.


The coating applied to a properly pre- pared substrate to give corrosion resistance, adhesion and chemical resistance.


An undercoat used to improve adhesion and color holdout with mini- mum filling properties.


Undercoat used to fill imperfections, with primer qualities and maximum filling properties. Must be sanded.


Small wrinkles or buckles caused by a non-compatibility of additives.


Putty (spot) 
Materials used to fill imperfections in a substrate. Composed of a lacquer or polyester resin. Applied with a squeegee and sanded smooth.


Quality recycled part
A used part from a salvage yard.


Quality replacement part
A new part sold by someone other than the original Vehicle manufacturer.


A solvent used to lower the viscosity of an enamel or urethane.


The act of replacing or repairing a painted surface, usually undercoat and topcoat.


Adding heat to such a degree as to cause the paint to melt and become a liquid.


A clear or semi-clear part of a paint film which gives solids or film build. Resin gives the finish shine, gloss, durability, adhesion, handling and drying characteristics.


Slowest evaporating solvent.


Related prior damage
Damage to the vehicle that occurred prior to the current loss. When prior damage exists, the estimator determines an amount to be deducted from the cost to repair or replace the damaged part since the part was not in original condition when the current loss occurred.


Remove and install. Sometimes parts need to be removed to gain access to repair or replace damaged ones, or to facilitate repair of the part itself. The Part which is removed is reinstalled on your vehicle.


Remove and replace. To remove old components and replace with different ones.


Excessive amount of coating failing to adhere uniformly over the surface, thus flowing unevenly in a small area.


Material applied before topcoat to increase color holdout and uniformity of color and adhesion.


Secondary colors
Mixture of two primary colors to produce a second color. Example red and yellow make orange.


Rough or gritty appearance of paint due to very small insoluble particles.


A variation of color. Example 1 a blue shade blue. Example 2 light blue versus dark blue.


Tightening or shrinking of paint film as solvent evaporates.


Sidetone "flop" 
The color of a finish when viewed from a side angle.


Single stage
A one-step paint procedure of applying color, protection and durability in one application. No clear is used.


Siphon feed gun
Any paint gun which uses air flowing over an opening to create a vacuum to draw paint up a tube to be atomized.


The part of the paint, pigments and resin which do not evaporate.


Salvage value
The amount a salvage yard will pay for your damaged vehicle. This amount is used to determine whether your vehicle is 'totaled' or not (see Total loss, below.)


A repair method in which only a portion of a damaged panel is Replaced. It is sometimes a preferred method of repair.


Shop estimate
The preliminary assessment of damages and costs of repairs that will be used as a guideline for making repairs to the damaged vehicle.


Illegal practice whereby a representative of the party paying the bill Tries to influence a vehicle owner to take their vehicle to a particular person, Or body shop for repairs.


An assembly within a multi-level assembly that is Available Individually from the vehicle manufacturer.


To contract services to be performed by an outside company, ie. alignments, glass replacement, theft recovery.


It is sometimes most expedient to have your insurance company initially pay to repair your vehicle and let them negotiate with the offending Party's insurance company over issues of fault. When one insurance company pursues another for payment, it is termed subrogation.


An additional amount paid to settle a claim. More Often than not, It's impossible to identify all damage to your vehicle until it's disassembled. A Supplement is a detailing of the repair charges for Additional damage found after repairs are begun.


Solid color
Colors that contain no metallic flakes in the pigment portion of paint. These colors have opaque pigmentation or properties in the paint film.


A homogeneous mixture of two or more dissimilar substances.


Solvent cleaner
Solvent-based cleaning material used to remove contamination from surfaces prior to refinishing.


Solvent pop
Blisters in the surface of a film caused by trapment of solvent.


The breaking open of an undercoat or topcoat into long cracks resembling the look of a "dry river bottom".


Spot repair
The process of repairing only a portion of a panel or vehicle.


Spray pattern
Spray from the paint gun adjusted from a very small, almost round pattern to a wide, flat, somewhat oval shape.


Special resin-containing solvent used in basecoat color to lower viscosity helping in metallic control and recoat times.


Strength of color
The hiding ability of a pigmented toner or colorant.


Tack coat
Usually the first light coat of paint is allowed to set and become sticky before additional coats are applied.


Tack free
Time in the drying of a paint film where it is not sticky but not completely cured.


Tack rags
A sticky cheese cloth used to remove dust before painting.


The amount of orange peel or roughness in a dried paint film.


Third party claimant
The other party's insurance company is responsible for paying for the costs of the repairs.


Total loss
It's imprudent to repair a vehicle if the total cost of repair exceeds The value of the repaired vehicle. Factored into the decision to total a vehicle Are the anticipated cost of repairs, rental charges, If applicable, and 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.


Thermosplastic paint
Material which with the addition of heat becomes soft and pliable, returning to solid when cooled, i.E., Lacquer.


Thermosetting paint
Type of paint that becomes hard when heated and thereafter is cured, i.E., Enamels, urethanes.


Solvent material used to reduce the viscosity of lacquers.


Three-stage system
A three-step paint procedure. First a highly pigmented color coat is applied to achieve hiding, referred to as the groundcoat. This groundcoat is then followed by the intermediate coat. The intermediate coat is applied using a transparent mica in a number of single coats until the desired effect is obtained. This finish requires a clearcoat for gloss protection and durability, which is applied last.


A pure toner used for the changing of another color.


The act of changing one color by adding another.


Titanium dioxide
A commonly used white pigment with high hiding power.


Made with ground pigments, solvent and resin. Used in the intermix system to produce colors.


The pigmented color portion of the painting process.


The ability of a finish to withstand abrasion, scratches, etc.


The ratio in a percentage of the amount of paint actually applied to a surface compared to the amount of material used.


A paint material which must have a catalyst or hardener to react.


Ultra violet light
The part of the electromagnetic spectrum which can cause fading of paint. Located just beyond the visible part of spectrum.


The coatings below the top color coat that help in adhesion and corrosion resistance


A type of body construction that doesn't require a separate frame to provide structural support for the vehicle's mechanical components. Also Called "unitized".


Determined by allowing a measured amount to flow through an orifice and measuring the time it takes for this amount to flow.


The vehicle identification number assigned to each Vehicle by its manufacturer to identify the model, year, production sequence, and other Vehicle-specific information.


V.O.C. (Volatile organic compound) 
Any organic compound that evaporates and subsequently participates in atmospheric photo-chemical reaction; that is, any organic compound other than those that the administrator designates as having negligible photochemical activity.


Waterborne coating
A coating containing more than five percent water in its volatile fraction.