Apr 29 2015

Aluminum Auto Body Repair

Car manufacturers are always looking for innovative ways to reduce fuel consumption, while continuing to improve safety ratings. One of the ways to improve fuel consumption, construct a lighter vehicle.

In 2012, the Obama administration set a mandate for each manufacturer’s fleet to have an average fuel consumption of at least 54.5 mpg by 2025. This new standard made each manufacturer quickly look at ways of using new types of materials in the manufacturing process. Historically, most vehicle parts have been manufactured using steel.

One material becoming more and more popular in vehicle construction is aluminum. Although not new to the auto industry, Aluminum is now being adopted by many of the mainstream auto makers. BMW, Audi, and Jaguar are just a couple luxury brands that have been using aluminum for years. In fact, aluminum was even a common material used in the 1920s and 1930s by European car makers. Manufacturers are becoming fonder of using aluminum for its lightweight, corrosion resistant, and recyclable properties while also being in abundant supply.

Ford changed the aluminum game by announcing that the 2015 Ford F-150’s body would be constructed using aluminum. This announcement had great impact due to the F-150 being the most popular vehicle choice in North America. The F-150 plants in Dearborn, Michigan and Kansas City, Missouri have a combined capacity to build over 700,000 half-ton pickups per year. Ford’s switch to an all-aluminum body for the F-150 reduced the truck’s weight by 700 pounds. Ford dramatically improved the overall fuel economy of its fleet by investing in the redesign of the F-150.

For collision repair shops, aluminum repair is a whole new game. If aluminum and steel are cross contaminated, Galvanic Corrosion occurs; creating a reaction that will cause the paint to bubble. A separated work area and dedicated tools are required for aluminum repairs. The techniques to repair aluminum are much different than steel, requiring additional investment in specialized auto body technician training.
Here is a list of specialized tools required to repair the new all-aluminum F-150:

  • Specialized pulling devices for crease and dent removal
  • Hand and power tools that are only used on aluminum panels
  • Aluminum MIG welding system
  • Dust extraction system with wet-mix air filtration
  • Aluminum SPR rivet gun

Unlike steel, Aluminum is work hardened. After the material is bent in a collision, it becomes harder. As you try to pull it back into place, it can crack or tear. Many industry experts are predicting that aluminum panels will need to be replaced more often that steel panels are today.

The capital investment required to repair aluminum can be over $75,000 per facility. As more and more manufacturers look to aluminum to assist with meeting fuel economy standards, this investment will be a necessity for auto body repair shops to stay in business. As an investor, you may be finding aluminum very attractive. It is estimated that the market for body sheet aluminum could grow from $300 million to $7.5 billion by 2025.

Looking for aluminum auto body repair in the Vancouver, B.C. Lower Mainland area? At Kirmac Collision & Autoglass we are equipped and have auto body repair technicians trained for aluminum repairs. Contact us today!