Can any Auto Body Shop Repair Aluminum?
Did you know that more and more vehicles are made using aluminum? In 2015 Ford released their F-150 truck with its aluminum cab and bed. The result? It was more dent resistant and it weighed 700 pounds less! Many newer models of Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Land Rover are increasingly using aluminum in production of their vehicles. The trend continues in 2018 as automakers work towards meeting 2025 fuel efficiency rules.
Why are cars, trucks and SUV’s being made of aluminum?
Aluminum is becoming the material of choice because it is lightweight allowing for better fuel efficiency, and demonstrates superior strength compared to steel during a collision.
If my vehicle is made of aluminum do I need special repair?
Yes, repairing aluminum panels is very different from repairing steel. For example, removing a dent in an aluminum panel is different because the material is stronger than steel. Repairing the area of impact without damaging the surrounding metal can be difficult, and requires special skill, welding materials and other equipment.
Doug Richman, vice president of engineering for Kaiser Aluminum and technical committee chairman at the Aluminum Transportation Group says, “Technicians need aluminum-specific knowledge to do repairs properly, If they don’t have this training, it’s not likely they would be able to fix things correctly and in a time-efficient manner.”
What is the difference between steel and aluminum?
Both materials are metals, and they are used for auto bodies but they are also uniquely different when it comes to collision repair. Aluminum panels will require different paint primers, special coated fasteners, sealants and completely different metal working procedures.
How is the repair procedure for aluminum different than steel?
A traditional steel repair Involves a hammer and a dolly (hand-held anvil). The hammer hits the metal and the dolly supports the back side. This technique is used to smooth out wrinkles and dents in steel. However, repairing an aluminum panel requires the metal to be heated up before it can be smoothed. Heating up the metal and welding procedures are difficult because of thin gauge body panels.
Interesting Facts about Aluminum
- The first sports car made from an entirely aluminum body was shown at the Berlin International Motor Show in 1899.
- Almost 90% of automotive aluminum scrap (half-million tons a year) is recovered and recycled.
- Aluminum can weigh up to 50% less compared to a traditional mild steel structure.
- Vehicle auto body structures made of aluminum are the same or better in strength compared to steel and absorb two times as much crash-induced energy.
- The lightweight material increases fuel efficiency and reduces emissions.
- Aluminum is the second most common metal used in auto body structures.