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! For the last six years, many models of Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Land Rover have utilized aluminum in the production of their vehicles.
More car brands manufacturing vehicles with aluminum!
Most cars and SUVs with aluminum panels tend to be manufactured by high-end brands because the cost of aluminum is more expensive than steel.
However recently, drivers are starting to see other brands construct at least part of their vehicles from aluminum. For example, the following models are equipped with partly aluminum panels.
- Nissan Rogue
- Chevy Silverado
- 2022 Acura MDX
Those in the automotive industry expect to see this trend continue as automakers work towards meeting 2025 fuel efficiency rules.
Why are cars, trucks, and SUVs being constructed of aluminum?
Aluminum is becoming the material of choice because it is lightweight allowing for better fuel efficiency. In addition, this metal demonstrates superior strength compared to steel during a collision.
If my vehicle is made of aluminum do I need special repair?
Yes, beware! Some collision repair shops like to advertise they can handle any auto body repair. But the truth is, aluminum repair requires a different set of tools, equipment, and training. Choosing the wrong Scottsdale auto body repair facility can cause more damage to your vehicle or extend the length of repair.
How is the auto body repair different?
Repairing aluminum panels is not the same as 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.”
Two entirely different metals:
Depending on the location of the auto body damage, the technician will repair steel with dollies, hammers, picks or a dent puller. However, steel has memory, aluminum does not. A dented aluminum panel will not remember that it was a previous shape. An aluminum panel that has been reshaped due to impact will take on a new form and forget the old form.
When the aluminum is reshaped, the panel will also experience what is called, work hardening. Work hardening is strengthening through shaping. Therefore, a significantly damaged panel will cause more work hardening. This means, not only did the aluminum panel get damaged from the impact, but it actually became stronger.
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 metalworking 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.
Repair or Replace?
Knowing that the two metals are very different, what may be repaired on a steel panel may not be repaired on aluminum, therefore justifying a replacement panel. A few factors to take into consideration:
- Size of the damage. For example, a large crease on a steel door may be repaired, but may not on an aluminum door.
- Location of the damage. Minor damage on an aluminum panel can be easily repaired with backside access, but if the damage is on a body line or crown, the repair may not be possible.
Consumer Advocacy Group
Linking consumers to certified aluminum collision repair facilities.
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.
Aluminum Collision Repair Links