The use of aluminum panels and components in vehicles is not a new practice. Auto manufacturers adopted this practice to combat heavy steel parts in the vehicle makes. This helps vehicles test for specific emissions classes, making them eco-friendlier, with better gas mileage.
Many popular vehicle models are made of all aluminum components, including the Audi A8, Tesla Model S, Jaguar XJ, Land Rover Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz SL, Audi R8, Ford F150, and more. Designing an all-aluminum model is preferred due to the many advantages, including a lighter vehicle, the use of a stronger, more abundant resource, and the ease in recycling. This also leads to better auto gas mileage, and an overall safer vehicle.
In order to get a better understanding of the differences of aluminum repair versus steel repairs on vehicles, we interviewed our Audi Aluminum certified technician at Colorado Coach Auto Body, Nate See. This is what we learned.
Understanding Aluminum Repair
As aluminum continues to be a popular resource to use in the manufacturing of vehicles, auto body shops are investing in technologies and resources to offer aluminum repair services. This is because aluminum auto body repairs are very different than steel repairs. In order to properly repair an aluminum vehicle, you need specific aluminum repair tools, an aluminum cleanroom, and technicians who are certified in the process.
Steel is much easier to work with. It has metal memory, meaning that it allows heat and force to return it to its original structure. Aluminum does not have this metal memory, and requires special tools for dent pulling. It can’t return to its original shape like steel. Because of this, untrained technicians can hammer it too thin, or stretch it too far, or shrink it with too much heat, potentially causing further damage in the repair.
The Most Challenging Part of Aluminum Repair
Aluminum auto body repair is trickier than steel repair. There are many factors that tie into this, but maintaining cleanliness in the repair is the most challenging part. This is because of the possibility of galvanic corrosion in the repair. When steel gets embedded into the aluminum, it corrodes, causing somewhat irreparable damage. In order to avoid this challenge, you must have an aluminum certified cleanroom for ALL aluminum auto repairs. It’s also important to use dedicated aluminum tools in your repair process to avoid contamination.
How to Avoid Overheating in Aluminum Auto Repair
Rivet bonding is a method used to avoid overheating aluminum during your auto repair. Some manufacturers like BMW even require rivet bonding to replace many of the factory spot welded panels on their cars. Rivet bonding is the act of using a structural adhesive and a rivet to hold the two panels together versus welding them together. This ensures that the aluminum will not overheat, and will avoid any potential damage to the mechanical process.
Why You Should Choose an Aluminum Certified Auto Repair Shop
Many popular manufacturers have chosen to use aluminum components in their vehicles make. This includes Tesla, Audi, BMW, Land Rover, Ford, Subaru, and many more. Make sure to do your research and find a shop that is aluminum certified, like our shop, Colorado Coach Auto Body located in Boulder, Colorado. Aluminum auto repair is a different process than steel repair, as we’ve outlined. Due to the possibilities of cross contamination, overheating, and possible corrosion, not being trained can result in a vehicle repair that fails on the road.
At Colorado Coach Auto Body, we take pride in ensuring our auto repair technicians are the top trained in the industry. We hold aluminum repair certifications, and many more – including an Audi Aluminum certification and clean room. Reach out today to set up a free estimate!