What is Collision Repair Blueprinting?
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What is Collision Repair Blueprinting?

When you bring in your vehicle for collision repair, the process starts with an initial appraisal that provides a ballpark estimate of the work that needs to be done. However, if hidden damage is found during the repair, it can extend repair times as new parts are ordered, new work added and new estimates are sent in to the insurance company. Blueprinting addresses these issues by doing a thorough check of the car and building a complete repair plan that includes every part and bit of labor from the start.

The Problem with Initial Appraisals

When you first look to get body work done on your vehicle, the insurance paperwork will start in one of three ways:


  • The insurance company sends an adjuster who looks over the vehicle either at the crash site or at the owner’s home and creates an estimate.
  • You bring your car to a body shop and an appraiser quickly looks over the vehicle in the parking lot.
  • You use the insurance app to send pictures of their car to the insurance agency, and someone there appraises the damage.


The problem with these methods is that it’s only a very superficial look at your car. A lot of underlying damage can be missed, which can lead to delays and adjustments down the line as these issues are discovered. Blueprinting takes more time and goes more in-depth to find everything that needs to be repaired before work begins.

The Blueprinting Process

Blueprinting starts by recording information about the vehicle, including the VIN, mileage and paint color code. A scan tool is connected to the vehicle to do a quick check of electronic systems.

The appraiser does a quick visual inspection of the exterior, starting at the point furthest from the impact. Changes in panel gaps always indicate damage, but some newer vehicles can have structural damage that doesn’t show up on the surface. Next, the doors and trunk are opened and shut to see if they’re misaligned. The appraiser then moves to the inside of the vehicle and carefully looks over the steering column, headrests, and seat belts for signs of damage. Back outside, measurements are taken of the wheel positions. If they’re off, the undercarriage is inspected for signs of bending and twisting.

Now that the appraiser knows the general areas that have been damaged, parts are removed that could hide structural damage and advanced measuring tools are used to narrow down repair locations. At this point, the technician can create a detailed list of the parts and labor required for the repair. This report is the blueprint.

Damage Classifications

With the extent of the damage established, the repair can be separated into one of three major categories.

Fast track: The vehicle doesn’t have any structural damage and just needs cosmetic repairs, whether that involves autobody painting, straightening body panels or replacing bolt-on parts like mirrors. This type of repair usually takes between one and four days.

Quick track: The vehicle has structural damage, but it’s concentrated in one area. Straightening the structure only adds a little repair time, so the complete process is only a little longer than a fast track car.

Extensive track: Major structural damage requires a lot of repairs, measurements, and tweaks to bring the car back to its original specifications. These repairs can take anywhere from a week to a month to complete.

Naturally, individual cases can vary a lot. It can take longer to fix an exotic or antique car because it can be difficult to source parts, while replacing a bumper with a pre-painted factory part will take less time than if the part is only available unfinished.

Using a Blueprint to Save Time on Collision Repair 

Having a complete repair plan in place improves workflow, so the repair can be completed sooner:

  • All the parts required for the repair can be ordered immediately instead of ordering new parts in the middle of repairs as damage is discovered.
  • By having a clear, itemized list of repairs, technicians can coordinate their work to get the vehicle fixed as soon as possible.
  • The blueprint gives a near perfect estimate of total repair costs, which can be used to get an adjustment from the insurance company. Fewer adjustments means less time waiting for approval.


Put Your Car into the Hands of People You Can Trust

Merton Auto Body has been experts in collision repair in the Lake Country for over 70 years. We have an on-staff appraiser, and we’re an I-CAR Gold Class shop, which means our technicians have the latest training in repair techniques including blueprinting. We’re located in Sussex, WI, between Lisbon and North Lake and just a few miles north of Pewaukee.


Book your appointment now!

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