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Keeping the pace

OEMs update one vehicle each week—make sure you're keeping up
Monday, January 4, 2016 - 09:00
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OEMs update one vehicle each week—make sure you're keeping up

As automakers continually redesign their vehicles, collision repair shops have to adapt to new construction methods, materials, dimensions and repair procedures

New 2016 model year cars and trucks are hitting the roads, which means it won’t be long before some are involved in collisions and start appearing at your shop. Are you prepared for these new vehicles? If not, you’ll likely waste valuable time playing catch-up and could even drive away potential customers.

Staying on top of vehicle design updates is no small task. According to data from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), every model year changeover affects 40 to 60 models. Think about it this way: since there are 52 weeks in a year, that means automakers are redesigning close to one new vehicle each week!

Today's cars and trucks are designed to direct collision forces around the passenger compartment. Technicians should use computerized measuring systems that measure multiple points on a vehicle's upper half and lower structure and should monitor these points in real time during the pull to ensure that no additional damage is inflicted into the vehicle.

While dealers only have to adapt to the handful of changes made within their brand lines, independent collision repair shops must be prepared for all new vehicles. How can you ensure your facility is ready for 2016 and beyond? Here are four steps you can take throughout the year to limit the possibility that you’ll be caught off-guard by updates in vehicle construction methods, materials, dimensions and OEM repair procedures:

1. Take advantage of training opportunities

In order to properly return today’s collision-damaged vehicles to OEM specifications, technicians and estimators must be familiar with how they are designed and built. Fortunately, year-round training opportunities are available to help provide this knowledge.

Since the collision repair industry has evolved rapidly over the last decade, many training providers have developed new courses to meet the needs of today’s shops. Look for interactive, hands-on sessions led by experienced collision repair professionals to ensure the learning environment will be as close as possible to real-world conditions.

Each provider’s curriculum may vary slightly, but here are some core courses that a technician or estimator should attend to get up to speed:

Design Based Repair: A design based repair course will cover the new materials found in today’s vehicles, and how automakers use those materials to construct lightweight, safe vehicles. An up-to-date course should cover the properties of advanced high-strength steels and aluminum, and the latest bonding techniques used to construct vehicle structures.

Aluminum Analysis and Repair: There’s no hotter topic in the collision repair industry than aluminum. While aluminum repair techniques are different than those for traditional steel, they are not difficult to learn with the right training.

Computerized Measuring: Gone are the days when simple mechanical and point-to-point systems were sufficiently accurate to measure damaged vehicles. Today’s cars and trucks are built to tight tolerances and must be measured with advanced computerized measuring methods in order to be properly returned to OEM specs. Of course, even the most advanced technology is only as good as the technician using it, so training is essential.

Collision Dynamics: As automakers find new ways to direct impact forces away from the passenger compartment while also lightening vehicles for improved fuel economy, vehicles are behaving differently in collisions than they used to. Even experienced technicians can benefit from an update on collision dynamics and how to find all the damage in a vehicle.

Keeping your repair procedures up to date can help ensure your shop is ready for any vehicle. Some measuring systems feature two screens, so the techniciancan view these procedures and the system's measurement readings simultaneously. 
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