Aluminum builds a better vehicle. Aluminum’s use in autos and commercial vehicles is accelerating because it offers the fastest, safest, most environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to increase performance, boost fuel economy and reduce emissions while maintaining or improving safety and durability. From mass-market vehicles like the Ford F-150 to luxury cars like Audi, Mercedes Benz and Land Rover, aluminum is increasingly the “material of choice” for automakers thanks to its strength and environmental advantages.
What’s the difference between aluminum collision repair and steel collision repair? Here are the major differences:
1. Aluminum doesn’t have metal memory like steel.
This means that when aluminum is dented or bent, it cannot be reshaped back to its undamaged state as easily as steel. A body repair technician needs better skills to reshape an aluminum panel without damaging it beyond repair, as well as aluminum-specific tools like an aluminum dent pulling station.
2. Aluminum reacts to heat much differently than steel.
Aluminum conducts heat much more than steel, which means that heat travels through aluminum farther and faster. This makes welding aluminum parts more difficult. Welding aluminum requires both special welders unique to aluminum repair and the the skill to weld precisely.
Since excessive heat will compromise the integrity and strength of the metal, improper aluminum welding can create vehicle safety issues if the car is involved in an accident. With the Ford F150, many parts of the aluminum structure are joined not by welds, but by special rivets and adhesives. Joining these parts requires unique tools that are not used in traditional collision repairs. Special training is also needed to make these repairs properly so that the strength and safety of the vehicle is maintained.
3. Aluminum and steel don’t play well together.
Unfinished aluminum and steel are actually corrosive to each other. If shavings from one metal contact a panel made of the other metal, damage is immediate. Even using a tool to repair an aluminum panel that was previously used to repair steel will cause corrosion on the aluminum panel!
Because of this, a completely separate set of tools is required in order to repair aluminum. In addition, aluminum body repair must be performed in an area that is separate from the area where steel is repaired, as even steel dust is corrosive to aluminum.
The Aluminum Advantage
If aluminum requires all of this additional equipment and training to repair, why do auto manufacturers use it? In a word, weight. Aluminum is as strong or stronger than steel, but weighs less. Less weight means better fuel mileage, as well as better towing and payload capacities.
Talk with Pierre at Signature Repairs in Barrie, Ontario if you have a vehicle with aluminum body panels that needs repair.