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Body shops face huge costs to gear up and train for aluminum vehicle repairs

Mainstream auto manufactures have used aluminum in the construction of vehicles for a number of years. However, most of the panels on cars and truck were traditionally made from stamped steel, while in some cases hoods and trunk lids were made from aluminum.
With Ford rolling out the all-new F-150 that uses a body made 95 percent from aluminum, the future looks expensive for body shops charged with fixing vehicles after an accident. Reports indicate the costs of tools and training at body shops could soar.

The Aud A8 has been primarily constucted of aluminum for nearly two decades
That would lead to labor rates at the shops rising as well, leading to more costly repairs. Ford is blazing the trial into mainstream vehicles made mostly of aluminum, but other manufactures will follow. Making broader use of aluminum to reduce the weight of vehicle is one of the big ways that automakers plan to meet CAFE standards handed down by the White House.
Some body shops will have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in new training and equipment to be able to repair the aluminum used in Ford trucks. Smaller body shops might not be able to justify the cost, which could be a big benefit to dealer-owned body shops.
“Not every shop in America will be equipped to repair the new F-150,” said Dan Risley, president of the Automotive Service Association. “It’s cost prohibitive because there aren’t a lot of vehicles on the road with aluminum, so the return on investment could take a few years. When you throw aluminum into the mix, everything changes.”

The 2015 Ford F-150 will be the first mainstream vehicle to make wide use of aluminum throughout its body structure
He says that less than 20 percent of body shops will be equipped to fix aluminum body structures. Shops certified to fix high-end European brands like Porsche, Jaguar, and Audi cars that are used to working with aluminum will be the best ready to deal with the influx of new aluminum vehicles needing repairs.
Ford is not the only company that will employ extensive use of aluminum in full-size pickup trucks. General Motors announced last month that its next generation Silverado and Sierra will use the lightweight material.

Source: Detroitnews

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RE: Yup
By MightyAA on 3/24/2014 4:24:01 PM , Rating: 3
Lol... doesn't sound like many of you have had a fender bender. It's been a long time since they 'hammer it out'. They replace the panel. That's the cost; It cost more, but less than carbon fiber. It lacks the aftermarket replacement part yet. The training? Aluminum doesn't rust, it does electrolysis. So you handle it differently and need to know how. Really, this is no worst than when unibody was introduced and people freaked "What, no frame? It'll fall apart and crack like an eggshell!"

btw; you can hammer aluminum out too. My '73 Landrover is aluminum and I've done the bfr (big f'n rock) body repairs due to rock rash. It's not as delicate of a material as you'd think. You understand engine blocks are often aluminum now right?

RE: Yup
By syslog2000 on 3/24/2014 6:00:19 PM , Rating: 2
While you are correct I should point out that there are many different aluminum alloys with quite a bit of variation in properties.

The aluminum in an engine block is a pretty different animal than the one the body is made from.

RE: Yup
By Motoman on 3/24/2014 8:10:33 PM , Rating: 2
You're clueless. Really, you're going to compare an engine block to the wafer-thin body panel?

I've seen and worked with plenty of sheet metal. And the irrefutable fact of the matter is that a body-panel thin sheet of aluminum is nowhere near as resilient as a comparable steel panel.

Also, you're infinitely wrong on "they just replace the panel." Sure, if you're really munched it...but there's more repairing of the original piece than just ripping it off and putting on a new panel.

RE: Yup
By MightyAA on 3/25/2014 7:39:41 PM , Rating: 2
Of coarse there are differences in grades in aluminum. I just said 'engine block' because it seems like most people here are thinking pop can and how easily it's crushed. You even allude to 'wafer thin' like it's a sheet of tin foil. Most wheels are a aluminum blend now too. Oh no, they'll crush I tell ya... And although you can get them straightened, it'll probably cost just as much just to replace them if you hit a pothole too hard.

And of coarse it's not as easy as just popping off a panel and slapping on a new one. But the arguments seemed to be headed into this idea of some guy with a hammer pounding away to remove dents. That's not how it's done for anything more than a door ding.

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