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How to improve the performance of your collision repair abrasives.

Improve your auto abrasive performance

Proper repairs, efficiency, and customer satisfaction are the top priorities of every collision shop. Abrasives play a key role in the quality and efficiency of each technician’s work. At 3M, we have developed a full range of collision repair abrasives to suit every type of collision repair application.

What are the best ways to help improve the performance of your collision repair abrasive products?

1. It all starts with the right tool: 6” discs are the most widely used abrasive in Canada in the collision repair market. When choosing a random orbital sander (ROS), consider the tool orbit, backup pad, tool speed, down pressure, and approach angle of the abrasive.

3M recommends 3/16” (7mm) with firm backup pad for the body repair department and 3/16” (5mm) with soft backup pad/interface pad that will maximize the efficiency of 3M abrasives, while also reducing the risk of burn-through in the paint shop with 3/16” tools. The use of 3/32” orbits is no longer advised due to the negative impacts it can have on your abrasive performance, as low tool orbit contributes to low cutting power.

2. Correct sanding speed and angle: Use a controllable medium tool speed with a reasonable down force and low approach angle to the substrate. Sanding with a high angle can lead to difficulties creating flat surfaces while also contributing to the premature wear of an abrasive.

To ensure that technicians use proper settings and techniques, we recommend using a visual training aid, as seen below.

Abrasives setting visual aid

Visual Training Aid

Draw 2-3 lines on the backup pad with a permanent marker. If the operator is using too high a speed or not enough down force, the lines will be difficult to see and will track around the tool quickly like old-fashioned sanders locked into a grinding mode. This will cause the abrasives to wear down prematurely and burn-through along the panel edge. When tool speed and down force are set appropriately, it will cause the ROS to engage in its sanding pattern and the lines will slowly track around the tool. The pad will do more orbiting than rotating, which will lead to more effective sanding, longevity in abrasive life, enhanced control, and improved surface finish.

3. Review best practices for dent repair finishing and blend panel prep: It is important to properly featheredge any damage repairs in an appropriate grade to remove all inline scratches before sending the vehicle to the paint department. Inline scratches are the #1 cause of ‘repair mapping’, which is when you can see the repaired area after the vehicle has been repaired. Proper feather-edging will remove these inline scratches and produce a repair of significantly higher quality, leading to improved customer service index and body shop reputation. 

Our recommendation is to start with hand-sanding techniques, using a Scotch-Brite™ Pad, flexible abrasive sheet, or your preferred product for use on blends. Anticipate and sand the hard-to-reach areas and panel edges completely to remove the sheen prior to sanding the larger areas by machine. This will allow a proper preparation of the edges and hard-to-reach areas without burning through, and it will also ensure that adjacent inline scratches are removed from the larger panel surface by finishing with the ROS.

4. Choose the best abrasive for the job: The Total Automotive Sanding System incorporates Festool’s premium performance power tools and dust extraction solutions. The solution is designed with 3M’s high-performing technologies such as:

Why you should choose 3M for your collision repair processes.

3M’s automotive products keep the world on the move, with innovative solutions for building, repairing, and maintaining vehicles. From the collision repair professional to the individual vehicle enthusiast, people around the world trust 3M products to protect, repair, and keep their vehicles looking brand new.

Our commitment to this industry extends beyond product performance to a careful stewardship of the world’s resources and environment. Serving the needs of our customers has made 3M a trusted leader in vehicle care and repair, and we are dedicated to earning that trust every day.

Learn more about how 3M can help in your collision repair shop.

To find out more about 3M abrasives, power tools, best practices, or Standard Operating Procedures, contact your local 3M Collision Repair Specialist. You can also visit to learn about our wide range of solutions for your collision repair processes.

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