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Joining methods for today's materials

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - 07:00
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“’I believe I can repair anything’ is no longer the case. Technicians need to be courageous enough to say I need training in order to repair this vehicle properly..”

This is a quote from an industry colleague and applies not only to training, but also to actively researching OEM information, to ensure that all collision repair technicians are following the vehicle-maker recommendations for repair. Today’s vehicles are vastly different than those of just a few years ago. The use of new steels, aluminum, carbon fiber, and other materials require new repair methods and new tools and techniques for joining to achieve complete, safe, quality repairs.

As the use of different materials continues to grow, the collision repair industry will be faced with new challenges; not only for repairability, but also for the joining technologies that will be required to replace parts on these vehicles. The vehicle makers continue to evolve their attachment methods, but many of the technologies they use today and will be using in the future cannot be duplicated during the collision repair process. Laser welds, friction stir welds, spot welding of aluminum and dissimilar metals are all techniques that are impossible today for repairers. These technologies will likely not make it to the collision repair industry anytime soon; perhaps never. This will require repair professionals to rely on OEM information more than ever.

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GMA (MIG) Welding

While GMA (MIG) welding had been the preferred welding method for the past 30 years, we’ve seen a significant change in recent years and expect we’ll see a decline in the number of vehicles that require GMA (MIG) welding for part replacement. We will also expect to continue to see an increase in the number of vehicle makers that warn against using this process for repairs on vehicles that employ a high level of high- and ultra-high-strength steels (HSS and UHSS). This is due to the heat-effect that GMA (MIG) welding produces on HSS and UHSS. GMA (MIG) welding heat damages the areas adjacent to the weld and can potentially produce an inferior repair. It’s imperative to follow the vehicle makers’ recommendations for when GMA (MIG) welding is acceptable.

In addition to determining if the vehicle maker has specifications for the welding equipment, it also important to identify the type of electrode wire the vehicle makers recommend. While conventional ER70S-6 remains the preferred electrode wire for many vehicle makers that allow GMA (MIG) welding, there are a handful of recommendations for ER70S-3 from some vehicle makers. With regard to Honda GMA (MIG) welding, where allowed, they have an additional consideration. For steels up to 440 MPa, Honda allows conventional ER70S-6. For steels above that, up to 990 MPa, Honda had previously required an electrode wire from Bosch: DS980J. That wire has now been replaced with new electrode wire, available from https://www.techniciantools.net/ part number HWW-98008. Honda also requires an 80/20 mix of Ar/CO2 (C20), not conventional 75/25 (C25) shielding gas. More information on Honda’s welding requirements can be found at the I-CAR Repairability Technical Support (RTS) Portal (i-car.com/rts); note login information is required.

Squeeze-Type Resistance Spot Welding

Squeeze-Type Resistance Spot Welding (STRSW) has become the welding method of choice for many of today’s steel vehicles, especially those with a significant use of HSS and UHSS. While each OEM may have welder specifications for spot welding equipment, STRSW is accepted, and more often than not preferred, for collision repairs on late-model vehicles. Additionally, some OEMs require STRSW for certain applications and warn explicitly against GMA (MIG) welding. Repairability guidelines from Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and others outline which welding methods are acceptable and should always be adhered to. As mentioned earlier, Honda also has published welding guidelines that are available to the collision repair inter-industry. Deviating from the vehicle maker recommendations may produce an inferior repair and may open the door for a potentially litigious situation.

Spot welds are created as resistance builds, fusing two, or more, sheets of steel together
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