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Re-tooling your shop with must-have tools

Friday, April 20, 2012 - 15:06
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Where is the ultra high-strength steel and the high-strength steel? You'll need information to help identify these steels and proper repair instructions. (IMAGE / FORD)

In the rush to go lean and cut costs, many shops may have forgotten the fact that it's often necessary to spend money to make money. Nowhere is this truer than with your tools and equipment, which require updates, upgrades and additions to keep your business moving ahead. Considering all the options you have for this part of your shop inventory and the potential costs, investing in the right tools and equipment can be challenging.

Where should you put your hard-earned dollars? Consider those repair areas being immediately affected, or soon to be impacted, by changes in the industry – especially those changes driven by government regulation and new materials used by automakers. Let's look at these changes, along with the tool and equipment purchases you should be considering.

Lighter cars, lighter materials, special tools

With more vehicles utilizing more airbags, especially side curtain airbags, you need to look into scanning tools that can help you reset the supplemental restraint system. (IMAGE / FORD)

Federal government Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards now mandate that by 2015 average fuel economy for cars and trucks combined must be 31.6 MPG (35.7 MPG for cars and 28.6 MPG for trucks). To meet these standards, vehicle manufacturers will look to make their fleets smaller and lighter.

Cutting vehicle weight means increasing the use of aluminum in vehicle parts. Shops should expect to see, in particular, more aluminum hoods, deck lids and fenders, along with other body parts.

You'll also need scanning tools to help reset parts of the electronic stability control systems.(IMAGE / STRATEGIC TOOLS)

Repairing aluminum poses some interesting challenges that shops may not be prepared for. For example, many aluminum hoods currently are double paneled with virtually no access to the backside. Most shops don't have the capability to repair this type of damage, primarily because they don't possess an aluminum stud gun. Be aware that stud guns made for repair on steel are not appropriate for aluminum. Those dedicated to aluminum work are worth the investment – as is the training to use them properly.

Repairing aluminum isn't difficult, but there are a few techniques that need to be learned to achieve a successful repair.

Structural smarts

You need a spot welder to weld UHSS and HSS. Before investing, make sure your shop has the proper power setup.(IMAGE / CAR-O-LINER)

The increase in the number of smaller vehicles will translate into even more use of ultra high-strength steel (UHSS) in cabin reinforcements for passenger protection (on a side note, nearly every manufacturer requires full replacement of these reinforcements, which could translate into more total losses). UHSS is necessary to help these vehicles meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 216A.

FMVSS 216A addresses roof crush. The FMVSS for 2009 demanded that the roof support be 2.5 times gross vehicle weight (GVW). In other words, if a car weighed 2,000 lbs., the roof had to support 5,000 lbs. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) didn't think that the 2.5 standards were sufficient. For 2009, it set a standard for three-times GVW. In 2012, that standard will go to four-times GVW. To gain the IIHS's highly prized five-star rating for roof protection, vehicle manufacturers have increased the strength of the B-pillar reinforcements using UHSS.

Repairing these B-pillars starts with correctly identifying them as utilizing UHSS. From there, you need to stick to the manufacturer's repair recommendations. In other words, more than ever before, shops will need OEM repair data. You cannot do structural repairs or structural parts replacement properly without this information. For example, did you know you can section a B-pillar (lower portion) on a Toyota Venza, but need to replace the entire reinforcement on a Toyota Camry? You would if you looked at the OEM repair data.

OEM data, such as Toyota's Technical Information System (TIS for short), shows where to section and the type of welds required for a quarter panel replacement. If you're looking for the best way to access this repair tool, I recommend attending an industry trade show where you can talk to both information providers and the OEMs themselves. You need this repair information. You might be surprised to find that much of it is available directly from the OEMs at no cost.

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