Nearly every industry deals with some controversial issue that it resolves but doesn't eliminate. In the collision repair market, that issue would be sectioning.
Sectioning took center stage in a dispute between shops, insurers, customers and manufacturers in the late 1990's. Advanced and high strength steels had become standard components of vehicle structures. Because their unique makeup could alter if heated, thereby dangerously changing safety system dynamics, these steels couldn't be sectioned. Manufacturers didn't always fully communicated where these steels were located, forcing repairers to make potentially dangerous repair decisions. Repairers preferred to go with other part replacement options that guaranteed safety but tended to be more expensive. That put them at odds with customers and insurers who felt they should lean towards sectioning.
Over time, manufacturers updated their repair information and began creating vehicle designs that eliminated the need for many sectioning repairs. Sectioning slowly diminished as a core industry issue. But it hasn't gone away. Today, repairers still have plenty of questions as they try to locate updated OEM information and determine when sectioning can be performed.
I-CAR has always taken the lead in assisting shops with these problems. Here are five points I-CAR says shops need to know as they address sectioning in 2015.
Point 1: Sectioning recommendations continue to decrease
Jason Bartanen, I-CAR Director of Industry Technical Relations, notes that OEMs are becoming more proactive than ever making sectioning procedures available. As the information has become more accessible, the occasions when sectioning can be performed continues to decrease. In its place, Bartanen says I-CAR sees more partial part replacement at the factory seam.
Many new designs have helped eliminate sectioning where it was once commonplace. For example, OEMs are increasing the use of energy‑absorbent "crush caps." Typically featured on the bumper reinforcement or the end of a rail, these caps absorb the collision energy in a light-to-moderate collision. Since many crush caps are attached to the vehicle with mechanical fasteners, as opposed to welds, they can be easily replaced, thereby eliminating the need to section the rail.
The current arc of vehicle designs trends towards future engineering that will further eliminate sectioning. Bartanen explains that as vehicles become more advanced, some front rail designs likely will become more complex, reducing the potential for sectioning.