The days of simple stationary objects, like a tree, and a pulling system, like a come along, were well before my time in collision repair. When I came into the industry in the 70s, I became familiar with pulling towers that fastened to tracks in concrete floors or floor pots. A heavy drive-on rack was acquired and frame/structural work, on primarily full-frame vehicles, was more sophisticated and powerful. Trams and tape measures were the norm to determine dimensions. Sheet metal adjustments could be made to compensate for discrepancies. Our designated frame technician, who developed a mastery of verbiage to obtain supplements, was often accused of “making more money with his pencil than his frame rack.” Co-workers affectionately altered his last name and referred to him as “Sledgeberg.” In the late 70s, when unibody vehicles became the norm, our industry had a great deal of anxiety over how we would adapt to changing methods of measuring and pulling, as well as the need for closer and much less forgiving tolerances.
Thankfully, I-CAR came into existence as part of a solution to address our education on proper repair methodology for new technologies. A whole new array of equipment came into our market. The dealership shop I worked for purchased a portable rack with stationary fixtures — a good solution for the high frequency of repairs on a small number of models.
Of course, we still deal with both unibody and full-frame vehicles. However, the complexity and precision has increased exponentially, as well as the potential exposure for substandard repair. Complicate that with typically smaller profit margins and the decisions on equipment purchases become even more challenging.
Some of those frame/structural repair equipment companies still exist today and some have gone by the wayside. Many new companies have arrived. Today, they offer a wider array of straightening solutions, as well as measurement systems beyond our imagination when I-CAR came into being. We are going to explore these options in regard to how the MSO should approach such equipment decisions in today’s world.
Let’s look at the basic categories of some of our current choices.