At the 2015 NACE conference (the main annual tradeshow and information conference for the North American collision repair industry) held in Detroit one of the speakers was a representative of the aluminum manufacturers supplying the auto industry.
The collision repair industry was in 2015 continuing to recognize that aluminum was becoming a common material in modern vehicles. Both training and equipment would be needed to be able to do proper repairs with aluminum. The main theme I remember from that speaker, who repeated it several times in comparing steel and aluminum repair ‘aluminum is different, it is not difficult.’ He was referring to aluminum repair compared to steel repair that was very common in the industry.
At Tsawwassen Collision we responded to the increase in aluminum use and the encouragement of ‘different not difficult’ with investment in training and equipment. Training and equipment costs were not trivial, but the results have been excellent and we have been working successfully with all aspects of aluminum repair for well over a year.
After some investigation we made the decision to use Pro Spot equipment for our aluminum work. We have been using a Pro Spot i4 resistance spot welder for high strength steel section replacement since January 2014 and were confident in their equipment and support. With a specific Pro Spot MWS-AL Aluminum Welding and Dent Repair Station, an SP2 aluminum wire feed welder and a PR5 Self Piercing Rivet Gun we are properly equipped for all aluminum repairs.
As an example of the of the growing use of this metal, the first two vehicles that required the aluminum Dent Repair Station were a $110,000 2015 Mercedes and a $16,000 2015 Honda Fit.
The 2016 Ford F150 is the most prominently promoted vehicle using aluminum, with the entire body made for that material. We have done extensive repairs on three of these trucks over the past 6 months, in each case using all three pieces of the aluminum specific Pro Spot equipment to allow a return to factory specs.