The application of aluminum panels for automotive use is nothing new. Hoods and deck lids have been made with aluminum for years. Replacing steel parts with aluminum helps minimize weight levels which can help vehicles be manufactured for a specific emissions class.
In fact, many luxury cars including the Jaguar, Range Rover, Ashton Martin, and the Audi now use almost exclusively aluminum parts. In the past cars were more exclusively made from steel. It is a solid choice for creating a sturdy car but modern design can create light-weight impact-resistant solutions out of other materials that are just as safe and weigh far less.
Aluminum vs Steel Parts for Car Bodies
The Ford F-150 is perhaps the most well-known vehicle to pioneer the use of extensive aluminum parts. Although a steel frame still resides inside, giving the vehicle a sturdy internal structure, the aluminum parts now make up most of the vehicle. Less weight due to replacing the steel also leads to better gas mileage for such a large vehicle. This is one of the main reasons aluminum is now preferred.
Aluminum Collision Repair
Aluminum collision repairs are much different than steel. Steel has “metal memory” which means it easily can be returned to its original structure. Aluminum is more pliable and special tools are needed to repair dents. An aluminum dent pulling station is now the standard resource for body shops that do aluminum repairs.
Aluminum also reacts differently to heat. This means body shops that have traditionally have worked with steel will need to adjust their methods. Too much heat can compromise the integrity of the aluminum. Due to this act, many vehicles with extensive aluminum components use alternative methods to connect parts besides welding. For example, the Ford F150 has many aluminum parts joined by rivets and special adhesives. This replaces welding in the initial construction and of course for repairs.
Body shops must know how to perform these kinds of repairs. Those who are experienced with welding on steel vehicles cannot simply use the same techniques and tools on aluminum components. Incorrect welding of aluminum can even become a safety concern as the metal can start to decay after being welded at overly high temperatures. Panels can even shrink at high temperatures. Technicians must also be sure not to accidentally melt off adhesive connections while welding other parts of the vehicle.
Popularity of Aluminum
Why is aluminum becoming so popular? The government continues to put stricter fuel economy requirements on cars. It’s all about weight, so lightweight materials are going to become more and more common. While it can be more complicated to fix, the cost in fuel savings far outweighs the costs of repairs.
Can Your Auto Body Shop Handle Aluminum Repair?
Most new model vehicles including the Ford F150 contain mostly aluminum components. Body shops need to make an investment in tools and training to properly repair them. However, it seems like the trend of using aluminum will continue for quite some time. There are even training courses to become certified to work on aluminum body repairs. Such certifications will help an auto shop stay current and provide high-quality repairs.
If you’re in the Portland, OR or southwest Washington area and in need of auto body repair services, visit one of our eight locations to have your car repaired right, the first time. Mackin’s Auto Body specializes in aluminum body repair, as well as many other vehicle types, makes, and models.