When Ford introduced the F-150 truck with a high-strength, aluminum alloy body, light-weight materials became a game changer. The vehicle maker’s move to aluminum saved over 700 lbs., creating greater fuel efficiency by reducing weight. The shift in auto body materials also affected auto body repair.
Reforming Aluminum and Holding Strength
Aluminum, as well as other materials like magnesium, carbon fiber and high-strength steel, are being used in auto manufacturing too balance strength and durability with weight for fuel efficiency. But with this advance, be it full or partial auto body construction, materials like aluminum require specific expertise and skill in handling.
Fixing an aluminum alloy auto body uses different welding and precision heating to reform the material, much different than working with steel alloys. Aluminum has a higher level of conductivity and a lower melting point. The reason this is critical is that if aluminum goes past the threshold of being pliable, reaching too high a temperature, the material may start to lose strength very quickly.
In performing aluminum auto body repair, technicians need to take care not to go beyond the stage of being malleable, which can cause aluminum to become brittle. An effort to bend the metal, too close to its melting point, may result in cracking or breaking.
Another aspect to maintaining aluminum’s strength is to provide adequate time for set-up. To reform aluminum to shape its outcome requires heat and a cooling process to ensure the form is upheld and the integrity of strength is not lost.
Aluminum Dust and Contamination
Auto body repair has always involved sanding, grinding, cutting and welding. With aluminum repairs these interactions need isolation. If not contained, aluminum dust can carry in the air and settle on steel, creating cross-contamination or even combustible dust explosions.
Surface contamination may cause poor adhesion and painting peeling if the dust is not captured with extraction systems at the source of work. Additionally, the dust can cause corrosion to other materials, such as steel.
Aluminum Repair Specialization
To perform aluminum repairs, an auto body shop needs expertise in aluminum welding and a commitment to specialized tools, equipment and an air filtration system to safely capture aluminum dust. This qualification is necessary to ensure your vehicle’s factory condition.