Five mandates shops must understand to repair current vehicles

Aug. 29, 2017
The automakers have three goals when designing vehicles these days: preventing fatalities, reducing injury-causing accidents, and improving fuel economy. As you’re no doubt aware, this is resulting in the dramatic changes you’re seeing in vehicle technology, design and materials.

The automakers have three goals when designing vehicles these days: preventing fatalities, reducing injury-causing accidents, and improving fuel economy. As you’re no doubt aware, this is resulting in the dramatic changes you’re seeing in vehicle technology, design and materials.

Given that, here are my five primary mandates for shops struggling with issues related to these changes.

1. Know what you’re working with. Never assume you know what materials have been used for various vehicle components. I’ve seen a lot of people confuse magnesium with aluminum, for example. But magnesium can be highly combustible, and often is not repairable.

Boron also poses challenges. Some times it can’t be sectioned. It often can’t be pulled, and doesn’t come galvanized from the manufacturer, requiring the use of expoxy primer.

We’re also seeing a lot more use of combinations of materials: widely differing strengths of steels within a single component, or carbon fiber sandwiched between steel, for example.

The key take away: You need to research OEM information so you understand what vehicles are made out of as well as what can be repaired and what can’t. And it’s not enough to just make sure your techs know what materials they are working with and how to do so. Your estimators need training as well. Aluminum repair isn’t difficult, for example, just different. Your estimators need to understand those differences so they can negotiate and justify appropriate repair processes and time.

2. Know what joining methodologies the automakers want used for repairs. Just because a quarter-panel comes welded-in from the factory, replacement may instead require the use of rivets and adhesives. We’re also seeing more aluminum panels attached to steel, using a variety of barriers between the two to prevent galvanic corrosion. One manufacturer uses almost a cardboard washer to separate the aluminum fender from the apron, which is steel. You need to understand those barriers – and they may not always be listed in the estimating manuals.

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3. Scanning is important, but pre-measuring increasingly is as well. There’s lot of discussion in the industry about scanning of vehicles. But new vehicle designs and materials are also absolutely increasing the need to measure the complete vehicle with a three-dimensional measuring system. To protect passengers, the inertia forces from an accident are being transferred further away from the point of impact than in the past. Honda is among the automakers, for example, with a bulletin on one model that says if the vehicle sustains rear-end damage, you must measure the entire vehicle.

4. Check the OEM repair procedures every time. New materials, joining and vehicle technology make checking how the automakers want the cars repaired critical. That has to be the basis for everything you do.

So if you fix a particular vehicle model this week, and another one of those vehicles is in the shop next week, why do you need to check the OEM procedures again? Because they change. One vehicle manufacturer last year changed how to put the bedside on one of their trucks four times. Another manufacturer last year said that when you replace the quarter panel on a particular vehicle, you have to replace the roof; this year, they came out with a sectioning procedure so you don’t have to replace the roof.

You have to search OEM procedures on every single vehicle. Things change.

5. Know that the information you need is out there. The good news is you have lots of options for getting the repair procedures and other information you need. The automaker websites absolutely offer the most accurate information. But there are other resources as well.

The Big Three information providers, for example, each offer an add-on system to increase the amount of OEM information they are making available; those systems (unlike the OEM information sites) integrate with your estimating system.

ALLDATA offers OEM information in a more consistent fashion (among the different automakers), which can make finding what you need faster and easier.

Another great resource is I-CAR’s “Repairability Technical Support Portal”, which includes an “Ask I-CAR” service when you can’t locate what you need.

Each of these resources has pros and cons. The key is that any system for getting OEM repair information is better than no system. The most important thing is consistency, so you can get familiar with the system, understand where to find things, and integrate that step into your process every time.

The new vehicle systems, design and materials demand that.

About the Author

Mike Anderson

Mike Anderson, a former shop owner, operates, a training and consulting firm. He's also a facilitator for DuPont Performance Services' Business Council 20-groups.

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