Some of the most asked questions we receive at our auto body shop here in Palmdale usually revolve around costs. The funny thing about repair costs is that the only out of pocket expense an “insurance-pay” customer will have is whatever their deductible is,  and any rental expenses if the policy does not include rental. And yet, customers are still worried about repair costs as if they are having to pay the whole bill themselves. Naturally with the rising inclusion of aluminum in new car construction you can imagine we get asked about aluminum repair costs a lot. This is especially true since not every shop here in Antelope valley is equipped to perform aluminum repairs, the fear is that the ones who can, will over charge for aluminum repair. At least for our shop, that is not the case.

Aluminum has gained its notable reputation for being strong and light material used for our military and aerospace.  We’re seeing more and more cars come into the shop that have aluminum somewhere in the vehicle. So what’s the real difference between steel and aluminum? Sure, they both can be formed into vehicle bodies and they’re both metals. But they also couldn’t be more different. Each material requires unique paint primers and a completely different metal-working technique. But does that mean a repair on a car made with this material will be more expensive? And if so, how much more expensive? Is there a specific shop I need to take it to? Have no fear. We answer all those questions and more below.

The rise in Aluminum parts usage

Ford dropped a bomb on the collision repair world back in 2014 when it stated the new 2015 model F150 would be made entirely of aluminum. Prior to that, Aluminum was only ever used in really high end luxury cars like the Audi A8, and very few shops had to deal with that kind of repair. But 2015 was a game changer that still, four years later, is an issue for auto repair shops who are not investing in their future. Today manufacturers are using aluminum panels such as hoods and doors more frequently than they used to.

Aluminum vehicle construction

You have to be trained how to fix Aluminum

The biggest thing that auto technicians need when repairing a car with aluminum material is the specific knowledge associated with these type of cars or trucks. In many case aluminum cannot be welded like you can steel since aluminum reacts differently to heat than steel does and aluminum conducts heat better than steel so the heat affected zone is much larger on an aluminum weld than a steel weld. As a result the OEM procedures for aluminum often include complete panel replacement, adhesive bonding or mechanical rivet bonding. You also need a separate aluminum downdraft clean room to make any aluminum repairs because you can’t work on a steel car and then jump right on to an aluminum. If steel shavings, or chips get into a raw aluminum panel it can cause galvanic corrosion and will quickly begin to affect the paint.

This switch to aluminum has forced body shops to make a decision, either shops have to send off their technicians to get aluminum certified or they simply refuse to fix aluminum vehicles. We are aluminum certified here at Telesis Collision and our technicians are continually trained and certified in aluminum repairs. This is an expense to the shop, but not one necessarily passed on to the consumers. We do not charge different hourly rates for aluminum repair than we do for steel repair.

Aluminum also has less memory than steel does so hammering out dents is more difficult with aluminum than it is with steel. Steel always wants to return to its formed state so once you unlock the tension in the panel from the dent it typically will return to its shape. Aluminum is not as forgiving.  This type of specific knowledge seems like it would be more expensive, right? Wrong. In fact, it takes the same amount of time for a technician to repair a steel-bodied vehicle as it would for an aluminum-based vehicle. It all comes down to the technicians having the knowledge by being I-CAR certified. Despite there being over 40,000 repair shops in North America, only a small fraction of those are OEM and/or I-CAR certified for working with aluminum.

This is why the argument that aluminum repair will cost more than a steel repair is a silly one to begin with because if you have an aluminum F150, it really does not matter how much it cost to repair a steel F150. The way your aluminum F150 is repaired is not the same method as steel repair and the parts are not the same. It is truly an apples to oranges comparison.

We know you have several choices to choose from when searching for an auto repair shop. But not all car repair shops are created equally. Did you know that in California a technician is not required to have a license to repair your car? So that means you really want to make sure your technician knows what they’re doing. Here at Telesis Collision Center, we ensure all of our technicians are I-CAR and ASE certified and follow OEM procedures to make sure your car gets repaired the way the factory manufactured your car to be. Many repair shops overlook this, but not us.

Feel free to give us a call for a FREE ESTIMATE at (661)-952-4732. We look forward to hearing from you!

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