The Importance of Following Aluminum Repair Procedures
“In a very short period of time, shops will find themselves on the outside looking in.”
This is the warning that Frank Ponte, Car-O-Liner National Sales Manager, has for shops that are not following OEM aluminum repair procedures. It may sound harsh, but the reality is that the industry is changing, and shop owners must adapt or they’ll be forced to play catch-up or be left out in the cold.
Ponte and Car-O-Liner Training Academy Manager Mike Hoeneise have been to their fair share of shops and from what they’ve seen, many shops are not following the OEM repair procedures—especially when it comes to aluminum repair.
“The OEM knows more about the vehicle than we do,” Hoeneise says. “When they tell us to do something, there’s engineering and testing results behind it.”
Neither Ponte nor Hoeneise think that shops are intentionally ignoring aluminum repair procedures.
“I think most people want to do a good job, but you don’t know what you don’t know,” Ponte says.
With so many demands, it’s hard to keep up but for the safety of customers and shop success, shop owners need to find a way to make sure they have the current OEM information, training and equipment to complete proper aluminum repairs.
Introduction of Aluminum
Until recently, aluminum was only sporadically used on domestic vehicles and was used primarily in high-end luxury/performance vehicles. With the introduction of the Ford F-150, body shops have had to learn the ins and outs of aluminum repair on high volume products.
“What was once a high-level repair process is now being dealt with by the masses,” Ponte says. “All the more reason to be trained and have OEM information and recommended equipment.”
Lack of Awareness
Hoeneise, who is frequently in the field, says that there’s a large percentage of shops that are not doing repairs correctly and it needs to be brought to their attention.
With the rate of technological advancement, the future of shops depends on their owners’ investment in the future, and a big part of that is following OEM procedures, Ponte says.
Why don’t shops invest the time and effort in this? According to Hoeneise, there are a few reasons for it. The first is simple: Lack of awareness.
“They haven’t realized that the world has changed; they don’t know where to look,” Hoeneise says.
Another reason is denial. In Hoeneise’s experience, many shop owners come up with excuses that others around them aren’t “actually doing it” or that they have to make insurers happy. The last one he hears is that there is “no money in collision repair.” Shop owners say that because they’re not making money, they can’t make the investment. Hoeneise says that this is a victim mentality. True, it will cost both time and money, but the alternative is going out of business.
Putting the Pieces Together
“We’re in the equipment business but equipment is only one ingredient,” Ponte says.
In order to perform successful aluminum repairs, shop owners need to invest in the right training and find people who are motivated. They need to have access to OEM repair information in real time and the industry overall needs to accept these procedures as the new standard.
“The equipment completes the recipe,” Ponte says.
Hoeneise, who used to work at a body shop, says if he could go back in time and give his younger self professional advice, it would be to start working with the OEMs immediately.
Ponte, who says a lack of awareness is one of the biggest culprits for shops not following OEM procedures, says to start small.
“Take an hour each week to look something up. Start interacting with people. Join social media groups. Become connected. If you’re reading this article, it’s a step in the right direction,” Hoeneise says.