I am teaching a class on how government regulations will impact the collision industry right now, but for those who cannot attend, I am going to highlight my presentation here. Let’s look at the US Government CAFÉ (corporate average fuel economy) standards. By the year 2015, the CAFÉ standard for the industry (cars and trucks combined) is 31.6 MPG (35.7 for cars and 28.6 for trucks). How will these standards affect body shops?
First, cars will need to get lighter and smaller. The use of aluminum will increase. You will see more hoods, deck lids, fenders and other body parts being made from aluminum. Many aluminum hoods are double paneled with virtually no access to the back side. Most shops today do not the capability to repair this type of damage. What is needed is an aluminum stud gun.
The unit pictured first comes with the stud gun and a number of hand tools for repairing aluminum. The machine pictured second is just the stud gun with the puller. You will need to invest in hand tools because aluminum tools can’t be used on steel components because of the likelihood of galvanic corrosion. Dent Fix, Reliable Automotive Equipment and ProSpot are a few examples of companies that sell aluminum repair equipment. You will also need to invest in training. Repairing aluminum is not difficult, but there are a few techniques that need to be learned to achieve a successful repair.
You will also see smaller vehicles. With smaller cars, you will see an increase in the use of ultra high strength steels in cabin reinforcements for passenger protection. Nearly all manufacturers require full replacement of these reinforcements and that will lead to more total losses. Let’s look at Federal Motor Vehicle safety standard 216A.
FMVSS 216A deals with roof crush. The standard for 2009 was 2.5 times Gross Vehicle Weight. In other words, if a car weighs 2000 pounds, the roof would need to support 5000 lbs. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did not think the 2.5 standards were sufficient, so they set a standard for 2009 at 3 times GVW and 4 times GVW by 2012. To gain a 5 star rating, the vehicles manufacturers had to increase the strength of the ‘B” pillar reinforcements. How does this increased strength affect the collision industry?
The first thing that comes to mind is the need for OEM data. You cannot do structural repairs or structural parts replacement without it. For example, you can section a “B” pillar on (lower portion) on a Toyota Venza, but you will need to replace the entire reinforcement on a Toyota Camry.
The following page was taken from Toyota’s Technical Information System or TIS for short. The sheet shows where to section and the type of welds that are needed for a quarter panel replacement. You can subscribe to TIS or you can subscribe to ALLDATA (they obtain the OEM data for you).
While at SEMA, check with the OEMs for their current data (most of the time they make it available free) or check out ALLDATA. It is another investment that any body shop will need make. The stronger reinforcements have also created a need for pre-measuring for damage analysis.
Besides the roof crush, these super strong reinforcements are designed to transfer energy and deform. This energy will travel to the opposite side of the vehicle and, if not measured before an estimate is written, can lead to all kinds of problems. The “B” pillar on the opposite side of the car can move (side impact), but the floor may not and this can lead to all kinds of improper fit issues. You will need to look at measuring systems that can measure “A” and “B” pillars without placing a vehicle on a frame machine.
Some of the manufactures that make this type of equipment are, Celette, Car-O-Liner, The Collision Equipment Group and Chief Automotive Equipment. You see all of these machines at SEMA. Still dealing with the stronger “B” pillars, you will need to invest in an inverter spot welder. Ultra High Strength steels are very sensitive to heat. MIG welding produces a large heat affected zone.
The weakest part of the weld is in the heat affected zone. The temperature when MIG welding can approach 2000 degrees Fahrenheit and UHSS steel becomes mild steel at that temperature. It’s weaker and it loses all of its energy transfer properties. A spot weld, on the other hand, has a very small heat affected zone.
Inverter Spot welding machines have computers to reduce the heat affected zone on HSS and UHSS metals.
Manufacturers of these smart machines include Car-O-Liner, Elektron, Wielander+Schill, Tecna, and CompuSpot. Besides being able to produce a smaller heat affected zone, compared with their predecessors, they are fully automatic and can keep records on the welds for each repair job. But don’t run out and buy one without doing your homework. First and foremost, you will need to check your electrical supply. These machines only work on 3-phase power. They also require large gauge wires (minimum of 4 gauge is recommended) due to the increase in amps that is needed. Again, before you purchase one of these “bad boys,’ get the electrical needs and consult with a qualified electrician.
One more item pertaining to side impact, is the side curtain. Side curtains will be mandatory on all vehicles sold in the United States by the year 2013. With more vehicles with side curtains, knee bolsters, and between seat air bags, the cost of repairs is going to skyrocket and that will in turn lead to more total losses. Moreover, with a number of insurance companies not paying sublet markups (they are now calling them handling fees), you better start doing the work yourself. That translates into more training and equipment.
A scan tool will be needed to reset the codes on the SRS system. You need this tool to clear the codes on the occupant classification system, when you R&I the front passenger seat. You will need this tool to reset the steering-angle sensor.
Let’s review the SAS. The government has mandated all vehicles by the year 2012 have some sort of electronic stability system. Part of that system is the steering angle sensor. The steering angle sensor counts the steering-wheel revolutions accordingly. The overall steering wheel angle is thus made up of the current steering wheel angle together with the number of steering wheel rotations. If a correction is needed, the ABS is activated and/or the engine is retarded to slow the vehicle down to prevent skids and rollovers. Every time an alignment is needed, a complete 4 wheel alignment is done followed by a recalibration of the steering angle sensor. If this is not done, the ESC may not work properly or, even worse, not at all. Most systems will not show a fault code on the dash, therefore, a scan tool will be needed to reset the steering angle sensor. A couple of other governmental items that are on the horizon that you should be aware of are the new Freon refrigerant—HFO-1234yf and, of course, waterborne paints for those not yet mandated.
HFO-1234 yf is a new type of Freon that is now being used in Europe. GM will be using it on their U.S. vehicles next year. This new Freon is much safer to the environment than 134A. You will have to invest in a new recovery system, leak detection equipment, and new manifolds.
Many states have mandated the use of waterborne paints in areas of poor air quality. It is only a matter of time before the paint companies will switch entirely to waterborne so, if you’re not already there, you better get on-board soon. You will have to retrain your paint staff and invest in new equipment. It is easier to do it now and not when it is mandated. Where are you going to get the money to pay for all of this equipment?
It comes from profits and every time you give something away, you are making a lot less in profits. I suggest that you visit the Society of Collision Repair Specialists web site (scrs.com). Scroll to the center of the page and click on the Guide to complete repair planning. There are over 800 not-included items on their estimating guide and by adding a few of these items to all your estimates; you can achieve some higher profits. The best part of all, it is free for everyone. Enjoy SEMA, I know I will.