As an attempt at reducing the weight of a vehicle to help in its energy efficiency, many car manufacturers are making its body from aluminum. Pound for pound, aluminum is stronger than steel, and it is being seen as the potential answer to energy efficiency issues. It is claimed that constructing a car body from aluminum can improve its fuel economy by 29%.
There are, however, there are a number of challenges that car repairers face when fixing aluminum bodies.
One of the main challenges for those who are used to working with conventional steel vehicle bodies is that the metal is different. This means that the way the metal is worked with, as well as the tools which are used, are different. There is a whole set of new skills and techniques to learn.
The physical properties of aluminum are different to those of steel. This means that mechanics will have to learn new skills and techniques. There is a risk of corrosion when dissimilar metals come into contact with each other and after impact, aluminum springs back in a different way than steel, as aluminum metal doesn’t have a good memory and is resistant to attempts at straightening it.
A body repairer would need extra equipment including – unique tools for welding, riveting and joining, technology for dust extraction, and processes which have been designed to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
Due to the extra equipment that is needed, it can be relatively expensive to get a body shop equipped for aluminum body repair.
It is worth remembering that all of these challenges occur at the beginning. Once a mechanic has the equipment and training that they need to be able to work with aluminum vehicle bodies, there are much fewer challenges.
However due to the extra expense in training, labor costs can be higher. The aluminum panels are also more expensive – costs which will obviously have to be passed onto the customer, pushing up costs to them. This can potentially cause friction between vehicle owners / customers, and the body repair shop.
The idea of using aluminum as a vehicle body material seems like a great one in theory, but in practice, it is a little more challenging. However, once the body shop is properly set up with the right equipment and staff training there is not too much more that needs to be done. However, these costs can be high and it might mean that smaller mechanics and body shops might not be able to offer the service.
Whilst there are very few vehicles which use aluminum as the main material for its body, it might not be worth the while of many body repair shops to invest the money in the equipment and training. This in turn, should make it more worthwhile for those who do make the investment.
If you have had a collision or are looking for more information about aluminum body repair, get in touch with us today!