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How it Works: Pro Spot PR-5 Riveter

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The Shop:
Penske Ford in La Mesa, Calif., has been in business for 88 years and now stands as one of the largest truck sellers in its market. And with recent advancements in vehicle design (particularly the aluminum-bodied 2015 Ford F-150), it’s critical for Penske’s 30,000-square-foot collision center to keep up its certifications and tooling for aluminum vehicles. Two years ago, the $4.5 million-per-year shop installed a clean room and invested in the necessary equipment for aluminum repair, including the Pro Spot PR-5 Riveter.

The Reviewer:
Collision center manager Larry Houk started at Penske 27 years ago. Houk began as a lot porter when he was 18 and worked his way through various positions on both the mechanical and collision side. In 1991, he moved into an estimating position before becoming the assistant manager. For the past 10 years he has held the position of general manager.

How it Works:
The riveter, one of two approved by Ford, joins different materials (aluminum, steel and plastic) by using extreme pressure and precision-machined punch and die sets. The punches are magnetic, which hold the rivets in place.

One of the features that makes it so unique is that it is both a removal and an installation tool, Houk explains. The electric tool runs off of a battery pack and the specialty dies allow the user to put the self-piercing rivets (SPR) back in. The different magnetic dies that come with the tool can be used for applying SPR and solid rivets, removing rivets and flattening.

The Review:
The Penske team says the riveter is an integral part of the aluminum repair process.

In order to use the tool, which is part of the Ford’s aluminum program, the shop requires technicians to be certified in MIG welding aluminum by I-CAR and Pro Spot educated. A handful of the body technicians, including Houk, are able to use the tool and do so on almost every vehicle that enters the clean room. Houk says that the tool requires both hands and sometimes requires an additional person, depending on the job. Overall, Houk and the Penske team are very happy with the tool.

“It’s a little large and cumbersome, but you need that power to pierce the rivets out. It’s not something that can be compacted further,” Houk says.

The Return:
“It’s funny, we have a lot of shops asking if they can borrow it. With close to a $10,000 price tag, (roughly $8,000 for the tool and $1,600 for upgrades) we don’t lend it out,” Houk says.

The decision to invest in aluminum repair can be pricey—up to $100,000 altogether, Houk says. The price tag attached to the rivet gun was steep, but it was an important investment in ensuring vehicles are repaired according to manufacturer specifications.

“Business has increased since we made the investment in aluminum repairs,” Houk says. “Before, we weren’t able to work on these vehicles at all since we didn’t have the necessary equipment. We took the steps and made the investment because we are such a large volume truck dealer and we knew the return would come.”

The shop, which was not able to work on aluminum before, now sees between two and three F-150 jobs per week. Houk says that the shop’s total investment in aluminum repair two years ago, which includes the clean room and rivet gun, hasn’t paid for itself yet but he expects it will in the next two years, especially with the increase of aluminum in the industry.

“Aluminum repairs will become more frequent with the Ford 2017 Super Duty,” Houk says.

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