In the course of providing accident management services to NZ fleet operators and the public, we often called on to provide technical information and advice.
One of the most common questions is regarding the use of body filler, another client asked again today whether it’s acceptable and ‘safe’ and why insurance companies ‘make’ panelbeaters use it. There is no black and white answer to this issue because It’s really a case of scale and appropriate use, depending on the age and value of the vehicle, the nature of the damage, whether the component is structural and why the filler’s being used.
The car’s chassis was once deemed to be the only structural component but that’s no longer the case. Vehicle construction and associated technology is now so complex that all weld-on panels are structural and even some bolt-on panels (ie doors & bonnets) now help support structural integrity, Panelbeating repairs are now model-specific and very detailed, right down to the type of inverter-welder required and the number and placement of spot welds. Collision repair now requires a high level of technical training and even general panelbeating is no place for the ‘bog shops’ of days gone by.
The second part of the customer’s question today was why insurance companies make panelbeaters use filler. While it’s true that some insurance company’s main focus is on reducing cost, it is rare (but not unprecedented) in our experience for assessors to make completely unreasonable demands on the panelbeating sector. Economics rule in some parts of the insurance industry though and the image above doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
As a general guide, as long as filler isn’t used excessively or to disguise a part that aught to have been replaced, it’s ok. It’s also ok as a cosmetic finish to an otherwise uncompromised panel and is appropriate in the same manner that a good application of primer/undercoat finishes the job.
If you have any questions for us about panelbeating practices or insurance repair guidelines, don’t be afraid to ask.