Automakers see greater need for pre-repair measuring, tech specialization
Las Vegas—It’s become increasingly critical for collision repairers to choose the correct adhesives and perform pre-repair measuring, as well as have technician specialization.
“Not all adhesives are alike from manufacturer to manufacturer, and even within a manufacturer’s line you have different products,” said Dan Black, advanced body development service engineer for Fiat Chrysler, during the Society of Collision Repair Specialists’ “OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit” in Las Vegas during SEMA.
“You always need to go back to the OEM repair procedures to ensure you’re repairing the vehicle correctly. Even if you looked it up a week ago, it could have been revised. We may have discovered something during the development process that could add value to that repair process that may have not been considered in the past.”
Mike Kukavica, collision repair technology instructor for Porsche Cars North America, noted that unlike with welding, a repairer can’t pull apart something bonded with adhesive to test whether it is correct. That’s why it’s critical to do every step correctly.
“I’ve never had a glue tell me what it is. It’s just there,” added Bob Hiser, body structure service engineer for General Motors. “If you don’t put the right glue back, in the amount and place where it was in the first place, the people who are paid to know will tell you the car is not going to be the same. It’s never been more important than now to be really sure you understand what each glue is.”
The automaker representatives were in similar agreement about the increased need for pre-repair measuring of vehicles to locate all damage.
“You don’t know where that energy has been deflected,” Black said. “Some of it can’t be caught by the human eye. It could be deflected all the way to the other end of the vehicle. This can be less apparent than indirect damage in the past. Three-dimensional measuring is what we always want in our processes as you are pulling a frame rail, replacing a frame rail, and doing any sectioning process to ensure everything is in spec before you go through the whole weld process. I know that’s more work. I know you have to put it on a rack and that adds more time, and there can be some difficulties with getting reimbursement. So you just have to be well documented. Go back to the OEM procedures that call for this and state that you need to use three-dimensional measurement to determine where all the damage truly is.” Kukavica agreed.
“When you’re developing a repair plan you need to measure it then,” he said. “Cars aren’t really made with square edges any more, where you can see the damage. They’re buried underneath a lot of seam sealer and other things to provide corrosion protection. So there could be damage you just can’t see. It happens a lot. What you don’t want to do is get knee-deep into repair and then find out it’s a lot more severe than you thought — possibly a total loss situation. This shifts a lot of the work to the beginning. But if people don’t do it, they pay a price for it.”
When asked whether shops are going to see an increasing need to specialize in the type of vehicles they repair, Kukavica said it brought to mind the workshops he attends, during which new questions for ASE tests are developed.
“The rules for ASE questions are: It has to be broad-based. If it doesn’t apply to every car, it can’t be a question,” Kukavica said. “It is getting impossible to write a question for an ASE test because of that exact reason.”
Shawn Hart, collision instructor of Audi of America, said even if shops don’t specialize, technicians almost certainly should.
“There’s too much information, too many specifications for them to remember and not be confused between brands when they’re making a repair,” Hart said, “because each brand has its own methodology, its own procedures and ways the automaker wants specific things done. For a technician to say: ‘I’m going to fix this today and this tomorrow, but wait, what rivet was I supposed to use? What size? And where is that 4.2 mil drill bit I need to have?’ It’s going to be too much. The technicians are going to have to specialize.”
Hart said the latest Audi A8 sedan is an example of one of the previously aluminum-intensive vehicles that has shifted to more of a mix of materials, including ultra-high-strength steel, mild steel and aluminum. He said one new component in the vehicle is a carbon fiber partition between the rear seats and the trunk that helps increase the vehicle’s stiffness by a third. Removing that component for replacement is “pretty much an entire day,” Hart said.
“The repair instructions show exactly where to place different heating pads on the vehicle, and then a control unit actually runs a timed heating program,” Hart said. “Each pad has a temperature sensor in it to monitor the heat. There are 45-minute processes of heating the different areas. After the heating process, the technician can come in with a plastic wedge and literally pop the panel loose. But it’s seven 45-minute heating sessions just to remove this panel.”
Hart said another caution for North American collision repairers is that the ultra-high-strength steel B-pillar on the vehicle cannot be sectioned. “We have to replace it as a complete unit, which means we have to open a window, almost up to the roof, and replace it entirely,” he said.
Almost any time representatives of any of the automakers are on a panel at an industry event, they are asked whether the equipment requirements for the various OEM shop certification programs will ever become more standardized. Porsche’s Kukavica said automakers don’t always have the resources to test and approve multiple welders, rivet guns, etc.
“I don’t think they have any ill-will toward repairers, but when you look at their priorities, a lot of car companies don’t even have enough people to get done what they have to do,” Kukavica said. “Things also have to be global. You have to have a supplier or tool that is available everywhere. Sometimes that will make the choice for us.”
Equipment and tool availability is very good in the U.S., he said, but that’s not true about every market in which Porsche cars are sold.