Bob Jansen

Nov. 1, 2012
Senior Instructional Designer, I-CAR

New vehicles, and the standards for repairing them, are changing all the time.

Shop owners and their employees should be prepared for these changes, because more are coming, says Bob Jansen, senior instructional designer for I-CAR. Jansen designs courses for I-CAR, including one called Vehicle Technology and Trends (NEW13).

Jansen warns repairers not to avoid learning new developments, even those in high-end vehicles, as many high-end vehicle technologies have become common in everyday models. They should try to learn as much as possible so they can repair vehicles to the best of their ability.

“You’ve got the advantage of the Internet to find out more about these systems right away before they come to your stall,” he says.

Jansen spoke with FenderBender about upcoming changes in vehicles, as well as the courses that I-CAR will be teaching about new technology and trends, and how repairers can get prepared.

What should repairers be prepared to see in 2013 and beyond?

In NEW13, we look at a trend of a lot more aluminum being used in vehicles. In fact that’s probably due to the vehicle makers concentrating on the 2025 deadline to create cars that get an average of 54.5 miles per gallon. That is foremost on a lot of manufacturers’ minds, so you’re seeing a lot of technology they’re putting on vehicles heading in that direction. It’s not going to be done overnight, it’s going to be done over the long haul.

So they’re already starting it.

When I say aluminum, I mean all future Land Rovers and Jaguars are going to be aluminum-intensive in 2013, meaning their structure and body panels are made of aluminum. Of course, Mercedes-Benz came out with their first aluminum-intensive vehicle, the SL, which is more than 90 percent aluminum. The only steel on that vehicle is the windshield frame.

“We’re probably going to be training more than 150 instructors around the country (about new vehicle trends).
Then they go out and hold their classes, which are held anywhere the students want to learn.”
—Bob Jansen, senior instructional designer, I-CAR

How does that kind of vehicle change what a shop needs to do and have in order to repair a car properly?

As they say, aluminum is not more difficult to repair, it’s just different. It requires different skills as far as welding goes, and as far as straightening goes. Aluminum reacts a little differently than steel. We are also coming out this year or next year with a new aluminum course that combines a lot of the aluminum courses we have, and it talks about all those differences between aluminum and steel. There are many more technicians who are familiar with working on steel than aluminum.

Does repairing aluminum require new equipment?

In some cases, yes. There are more dedicated aluminum welders these days. In the past, you could just convert a steel welder over to aluminum use, which required new gas, new gun liner, and new electrodes, of course. These days, the trend is getting an aluminum-dedicated welder if you’re doing a lot of that work in your shop. In fact, because a lot of vehicle makers are now going to aluminum, that might be almost standard equipment in a lot of shops that do general repairs.

Aluminum used to be looked at as expensive for vehicle manufacturers. But now with this 2025 requirement, now all of a sudden it’s looking a little better.

So what are some other trends to look for in 2013?

Active grill shutters, which first appeared in a concept Cadillac, are now appearing on the 2013 Dodge Dart, the 2013 Ford Escape and the Ford Taurus, as well as General Motors eco-assist models, like the Malibu and a couple of others. The shutters automatically close when the vehicle is going fast. They automatically open when the vehicle is going slower. The idea is it saves fuel, so a lot of vehicles are going to that.

“We’re probably going to be training more than 150 instructors around the country (about new vehicle trends).
Then they go out and hold their classes, which are held anywhere the students want to learn.”
—Bob Jansen, senior instructional designer, I-CAR

Also, stop-start systems on non-hybrids is another trend. That’s been popular in Europe since 2010. When you come up to a stop sign and the vehicle has to idle, the engine automatically stops, and starts again when you hit the accelerator. This is pretty common on hybrid vehicles, and in fact it’s on every hybrid out there. They have an electric motor that can start the vehicle again. But they haven’t done that on non-hybrids except in Europe, where they’ve had the technology since 2010.

What about new technologies that are being used. Can you talk about some of those?

You’re going to see for the first time in 2013 ultra high-strength steel floor pans on the 2013 Dodge Dart. It’s new technology because floor pans are usually tin. Now they’ve got ultra high-strength steel. That’s not a trend, though, because only one vehicle maker is doing it.

Also, one of the tricks that Mercedes-Benz has come out with is what they call magic windshield wipers. They call them magic because you really can’t see what’s happening from the inside, but it’s working. Mercedes-Benz puts the fluid through a wiper wand so it comes out of a tiny little hole from the wipers as the wipers are moving.

Another trend is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants vehicles to start talking to each other. They consider that the new safety breakthrough. And whenever NHTSA says something like that, you know that it’s right around the corner, and it will start to be mandated. The technology is there, but in order for that to work, every vehicle would have to be equipped.

So how can shops learn more about these trends?

We’re probably going to be training more than 150 instructors around the country. Then they go out and hold their classes, which are held anywhere the students want to learn.

We’ve got a new system at I-CAR here called the Professional Development Program. They’re on a career path and have chosen the path they want to go on, whether it’s refinishing, structural or non-structural repair. And so there are particular courses we’re telling them to take, depending on their path. They will probably take this course about new vehicle trends and technology.

However, NEW13 touches everything but then leaves it. It doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail as to how to repair something. A lot of our courses are procedure courses, where we go through the steps, but this course just tells you, “Hey, this is what’s new out there, and it might be coming into your shop tomorrow.”

What do you think are the biggest challenges in regards to new technology and trends?

A lot of the technologies that you heard of on the BMW and the Mercedes in the past are now trickling down to vehicles that you see every day. That’s, I think, one of the bigger challenges. We have a course, for example, called Damage Analysis of High-Technology Systems, where we talk about cars that park themselves, and blind spot assistance. What used to be on high-end cars are now on vehicles like Fords and Buicks and cars that you see every day. And if you didn’t pay attention to it back then, well you might have to start thinking about it now. When it comes to damage analysis, you’re trying to figure out what could go wrong with a vehicle. Now there’s little cameras on the grill, little cameras on the side mirrors on the back, radar systems, parking sensors and other things to worry about.

And when it comes to aluminum repairs, shops are going to want to think about that. We’ve got, for example, an aluminum welding qualification test. If you’re going to be welding aluminum, you might want to consider that.

The high-strength steels also continue to get stronger. It makes you wonder how strong this stuff can get. On the new Cadillac they’ve got 1,300 megapascal steel. Boron alloy steel is in the 700 megapascal range. There’s also a Lexus out there that has 1,500 megapascal steel. There’s a Mazda CX-5 that has 1,800 megapascal on the bumper reinforcements. So there are different skills needed to deal with that.

In what ways do you think these trends change repairers’ day-to-day jobs and their businesses?

The vehicle manufacturers are getting a lot better at identifying the steel that’s on their vehicles. With every new model, such as in 2013, there will be more information as far as where the aluminum and high-strength steel are on the vehicles, and what strength the steel is. They’ll also have recommendations on how to repair each car. It’s getting more complicated every year.