Following OEM procedures and training, having the right equipment to repair today's vehicles and always doing what is right are some ideals we all need to embrace in the collision repair industry.
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In a previous article, I wrote about improper repairs performed on two Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The repairs were performed well outside the recommendations of the manufacturer.
Just one example is that Mercedes-Benz recommends that structural repairs be performed on a Celette or Car Bench. The Mercedes approval is for the dedicated — not universal — fixtures only and they are not rentable — they have to be purchased. Note that Car-O-Liner has a Global Mercedes-Benz certification. Car-O-Liner also has USA approvals from Audi, VW, Porsche, Tesla, Ford and an exclusive approval from Honda... The Car-O-Liner universal fixture kit called EVO is Universal which means it works on all makes and models.
I received an e-mail from a shop owner praising the article, but he had one problem. He stated that his frame straightening equipment did not have fixtures like the Car Bench and Celette. For him, it was not economically feasible, nor did it make sense to make a capital investment in a piece of equipment for such specialized work.
I wrote him back, explaining that he could use a Celette Bench for other vehicles (Honda, Volvo and Ford, for example) as well. He then wrote me back stating that he could not afford purchasing or renting the jigs. Moreover, two insurance carriers in his market refuse to pay for jig rentals. I responded that with Car Bench, he could make the jigs that are needed. Another frame manufacturer, Globaljig, uses multiple components to build the jigs to fit the vehicle that is being repaired.
Around this same time, I received a call from Robert Hornedo, the owner of Pacific Collision Equipment Co. in Signal Hill, Calif. Pacific Collision is a distributor for Car-O-Liner. Hornedo says Car-O-Liner has its own solution called the EVO system. He asked me if I could come to his training center and check it out. I agreed.
A few days later I arrived and Hornedo began his sales pitch on the system. Hornedo is a great person, and I am honored to call him a friend, but being a salesman, I realized he might be a little biased. Therefore, I knew I had to be a bit skeptical.
Hornedo proceeded to show me EVO, and he pushed the fact that there were no jig rentals and that the system is easy to learn and provides a before and after print out on the vehicle. Being the cynical person that I am, I said, "OK, Robert, here is what I want. I will take off the frame rail on a vehicle and replace it using your system. You tell me how to do it and I will do the work myself. I will write an article and tell my readers if it really works."
He said he was fine with the proposal and added that the system will make me a believer. The following week I came to the Car-O-Liner training center, also in Signal Hill, and began testing out the system.
Before I begin describing my experience with the EVO, I need to stress two very important points. One, I am not a technician, and two I have never physically removed and replaced a frame rail (including welding) on a car.
Also, let me remind all of you that there are a number of great bench systems and dedicated rack systems on the market, and I would suggest that everybody does their homework prior to investing in any new system.
Now, here are the steps I used on replacing a frame rail of a 2005 Ford Focus with the EVO system.
Step 1: Check the rail position
I began by centering the Car-O-Tronic arm and measuring the right frame rail (see Fig. 1), which turned out to be out of spec (see Fig. 2). Also, the length, width and height needed to be corrected prior to removal of the damaged rail. I pulled to correct the mash, sway and sag conditions.
After pulling, the length was within 1 mm, width was within 1 mm and the height was within 2 mm. Tolerance on this vehicle was plus or minus 3 mm (see Fig. 3).
Step 2: Prepare the spot welds and the mating surfaces (Fig 4)
I removed all the factory spot welds that secure the rail to the structure. Next, (see Fig. 5) I removed the rail and cleaned all the mating surfaces that were going to be welded (thanks to Erik from Dent Fix for the use of his spot weld annihilator and eliminator, a seam seal cleaner). Then I applied weld thru primer to all mating surfaces. The vehicle now was ready for installation of the replacement rail (see Fig. 6).
Step 3: Assemble the jigs
Note: I was given a lesson on the EVO system, including how to retrieve the necessary data from the computer. Those of you purchasing this technology will, of course, do the same.
With EVO, you'll print out a sheet showing all of the necessary fixtures, which you'll do for this step. Note Fig 7, which shows all the jig parts supplied with the EVO. Fig 8 shows the readout on the EVO monitor. I began by assembling the rail holding jig. (Figs 9, 10, 11).
When it was completed, I placed the replacement rail on the vehicle and clamped it with two vice grip pliers. From there, I secured the rail to the newly assembled EVO holding jig (see Fig. 12).
Step 4: Measure your work
After securing the rail to the jig, I measured the rail, which was a bit too wide (see Fig 13). Using a block of wood and a hammer, I was able to move the rail to its correct width (see Fig 14). I then added a second fixture to secure the rail at this position (Fig 15).
I had to move the front fixture because it was in the way of the measuring hole that I was using. Note that the EVO system was introduced in 2006 and the data for exact placement was not available to me for the 2005 model. Therefore, I had to move it so that I could get the length, width and height reading at the end of the rail. My final check was the position of the upper strut tower. The position was in tolerance and no corrective action was necessary ( Fig 16).
Step 5: Weld the rail
I prepped the plug weld hole for welding, and then welded the rail into place (Figs 17 and 18).
Step 6: Review your work
I finished by measuring the rail and then printed out and reviewed the corrected dimension sheet. If the numbers check out, and they should (they did in my case), you've done the job correctly.
Here's my final diagnosis. The EVO system worked. The EVO can be configured to work with virtually all frame benches and dedicated racks and does not take a great amount of time to learn.
If you have any questions, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome all of your comments, inquiries and critiques.