Aluminum Vehicles Require High-tech, High-touch Repair
Automakers are betting the ranch that aluminum body frames and panels will deliver the new fuel efficiency requirements imposed upon them. Aluminum, while lighter and potentially stronger than steel, doesn’t fare well in collisions as seen in some of River City Auto Body’s repair vehicles.
The dents require more care and more often than not require replacement of the panel. According to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study, aluminum is more expensive than steel in a raw state, in its conversion to a usable sheet metal, and in its assembly — resulting in a 60 to 80 percent cost premium. That aside, you want the finish to last. River City Auto Body has been repairing and refinishing aluminum long before fuel economy became the reason for changing metals.
Ford is one automaker that was using aluminum well before they ramped up their flagship truck production to all-aluminum in 2015. A common issue with those older panels: Corrosion under the paint. It’s a quirky way the paint bonds to the metal that’s gotten better with manufacturing improvements. Some repair shops aren’t up to speed on those improved techniques.
Audi, Volvo, and several other luxury and sports brands have been using aluminum body panels for twenty years – Mercedes Benz even longer, going back to the early 20th century. Those cars have an unwarranted reputation as being hard to fix right. According to Doug Richman, vice president of engineering for Kaiser Aluminum this simply isn’t true. “They’re not more complex, they’re not more difficult. They’re different."
“Technicians need aluminum-specific knowledge to do repairs properly,” he says. When repair staff is up to speed on aluminum repairs and how to avoid corrosion issues, your repair can be done efficiently, and the finish will last. River City Auto Body techs have this specialized training for this generation of vehicles, the last generation of aluminum cars, and the next one.
SAE International, initially established as the Society of Automotive Engineers, has an interesting write up "2015 F-150 aluminum body creates challenge for auto body shops" on aluminum body repair for additional reading.