Understanding the Complexity of Aluminum Repairs
We Do Aluminum Auto Body Repairs in Billings
Here at Big Sky Collision Center, one of our goals is to be the best auto body repair shop in the area. A few years ago aluminum vehicles started rolling off the lines. That caused a big dilemma with repair shops around the country: have to tell the customer they can’t service their vehicle, learn to do the repairs (and invest in the equipment needed), or do the repair but likely do it wrong?
When uncompromising integrity is one of your core values, such as it is here at Big Sky, the last option isn’t even considered. Instead, Big Sky took the time, and the money, to invest in aluminum repairs, and to do them the right way.
Equipment Needed for Proper Repairs
Aluminum and steel don’t play well together. If mixed, the steel will cause the aluminum to corrode. In order to prevent accidental and unwanted corrosion, tools cannot be mixed. Those that have been used to work on steel body vehicles can’t be used to work on aluminum body vehicles.
In addition, the welding process is entirely different. For a steel welder to jump over and try the same techniques on aluminum would end with less than desirable results.
Because steel is caustic to aluminum, the rooms where each are repaired must be entirely separate. Some auto body shops will curtain off a section of their facility and call it the aluminum room. Here at Big Sky Collision, we have an entire building that has been designed just to conduct aluminum repairs at our Billings, Montana auto body shop.
The Correct Repair Process
Just having the right equipment isn’t quite enough. Aluminum functions entirely different than steel. The same processes used on steel often won’t even work with aluminum.
When damaged in an accident, aluminum won’t pop right back into place like many dents and dings on a steel auto body. Instead, the surface must be heated and essentially re-molded back into shape so that the panel can be as smooth as it came off the factory line.
Factory Safety Specifications
To further complicate matters, there are specific methods that auto manufacturers recommend (and sometimes require) to ensure that the repairs are done correctly. For example, on Ford trucks, the vehicle is built in sections. The damaged section can have the rivets drilled, a new section put in, and re-riveted. But again, if a cheaper steel rivet is used in place of a more expensive aluminum rivet, the repair won’t last. In addition, the skill needed to work with the aluminum may not yield the most desirable results.
Again using our Ford example: Ford requires the use of an expensive sealant/bonding agent. A much cheaper alternative is often used, but it won’t adhere nearly as well as the factory recommended version.
If any of these shortcuts are taken, you end up with a vehicle that is not up to full factory safety recommendations. Because of our creed to only release vehicles back to the consumer that meet these recommendations, we aren’t going to skip any of these steps.
Fighting for Your Safety with Insurers
Sometimes what that means is we have to go to bat for you with the insurance companies. Very few adjusters are going to put the expensive adhesive on the estimate list. But if that’s what the manufacturer recommends, that is how Big Sky Collision Center will do the repairs. Often the insurance companies aren’t happy about paying out a claim that is much larger than they estimated due to following the proper techniques.
Our goal here at Big Sky Collision Center is to shake up the industry by pushing back. We won’t take shortcuts because insurance companies don’t want to pay out for the proper repairs to be done. We don’t believe that your safety is worth compromising a repair.
If you want the aluminum auto body repair done right, in the only aluminum repair building around, with staff that takes ownership of their jobs, then you need to come to Big Sky Collision Center. Call us at 406-259-6328 to learn more and to schedule a time to bring your vehicle in.