Aluminum is becoming a more popular material to manufacture vehicles. Ford trucks are now being manufactured with aluminum and because of this, the trucks are much lighter and have reduced fuel consumption. Aluminum is also more environmentally friendly and is a great cost effective way to improve a vehicle’s performance. Aluminum also increases safety and durability. Because we have a lot of customers coming in and asking for Ford F-150 body parts, we’ve decided to list some facts about working with aluminum in collision repair.
Aluminum is more pliable.
You will need specialty tools to work with aluminum. Steel has something called “metal memory” which means it can easily be returned to its original structure. Aluminum does not. Many body repair shops are now using dent pulling stations to repair aluminum auto body pieces.
You have to use heat to work with aluminum in auto body repair.
Heat is always used to reform aluminum. Too much heat can compromise the integrity of the metal. Because of this, many auto body technicians have opted to use other methods besides welding to connect parts. This is particularly relevant with the Ford F-150 which has many aluminum parts. These are held together by rivets and specialized adhesives.
Aluminum body repair work should be done separately from steel repair body work.
Aluminum and steel cannot mix. If combined, the corrosion damage to the aluminum parts cannot be reversed. You should have a separate area specifically for working with aluminum. If possible, the area be enclosed or have walls to prevent cross contamination. You should always use separate tools to work with aluminum and steel as well.
The dangers of working with aluminum.
The dust that is generated from working with aluminum has the potential to become explosive. Any type of spark created from grinding, sawing, cutting, sanding, and scratching has the potential to cause the dust to explode. A vacuum system that is designated for dust control should always be used. You should also be sure to use personal protection equipment when working with the dust. This includes a fall body suit and breathing apparatus.
Your shop needs an OEM Certification to work with aluminum.
Most OEM Certified body shops require their technicians to undergo intensive Certified Collision Repair Facility Training in working with aluminum. Ford requires technicians to undergo I-Car Gold Class Designation. One of the more positive things about becoming a Certified Collision Repair Facility is that employees will often receive continuing education in collision repair.