Spectrophotometers Allow for Seamless Color Matching of Auto Paint After an Accident


Posted on April 26, 2018

When a consumer turns to a body shop for car repairs after a crash, their goal is to get their vehicle back in the best condition possible. Ideally, they want it to look like their vehicle was never in an accident in the first place. In part, this is driven by financial considerations; after a vehicle is in an accident, its value can drop by as much as 10%.1 This diminished value can be a significant issue and a point of contention between car owners and insurers, as it limits resale options for a vehicle. Of course, even owners who want to keep their vehicle typically also want to remove any indications of damage, particularly if the car is rare, valuable, or has sentimental value. As a result, the auto shops that can return a car to its pre-accident condition are in high demand.

A significant part of the post-accident repair process is ensuring a seamless paint job without requiring the entire vehicle be repainted. For body shops, this means that paint matching must be a top priority. While you may have a good idea of the base color of the vehicle, matching that color identically virtually impossible without the use of modern technology. As such, spectrophotometers are essential to pinpoint the perfect color match.

Challenges in Auto Paint Matching

Color matching is often the first step that a body shop undertakes when dealing with the repair of a vehicle due to the lengthy nature of the process. A car will have a base color that’s listed on its initial spec sheet, but that paint will fade over time as the result of environmental influences, which means that simply selecting the same base color will likely not generate a perfect match.2 When that’s the case, auto shops repairing a paint job have one of three options:

  • Accept a slight mismatch: If the area to be fixed is not particularly noticeable, a customer may be willing to tolerate a small mismatch in paint color. Accepting the mismatch is the least desirable option to the customer, however, as the repairs will be apparent.  
  • Repaint the entire vehicle: In cases where a mismatch would be very noticeable, the body shop may instead choose to repaint the whole vehicle. The issue here is that repainting the whole vehicle is expensive and customers—or, more likely, insurance companies—may not be willing to pay this cost.
  • Create a custom color: Creating a custom color to perfectly match the paint can be a challenge but tends to be the most cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing option for repair. However, this step can also be time-consuming, requiring extensive trial and error to ensure a precise result if relying solely on visual color assessment.

While creating a custom color is often the best alternative for repairing a vehicle’s finish, it’s also the process that has the highest potential for error. Even a slight variation between the existing finish and the new paint will be noticeable and likely unsatisfactory to the customer. To ensure a perfect repair, auto body shops should therefore employ modern spectrophotometric technologies in finding and creating the right color.


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