In the past, the repair would have been completed using torches to get the metal hot and pliable enough so it could easily be worked with pry bars, dollies and hammers, but he said the use of heat in this repair process was no longer acceptable.
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“I knew if it was a problem for me it is for every other tech out there,” said Gerhards. “Being that I’m an auto body repair technician, I had all of the required skills and tools to make my own tools, so I decided I would try to solve this problem.”
The result was The Rail Saver Repair System, which Gerhards said repairs rails quickly from the inside out with no heating required. The tool is used for the inside of the side member or frame rail, pushing outward from the opposite side. Gerhards said the tool operates using wedges, pushing one wedge into another with a four-ton hydraulic pump and ram.
“This simply transfers the pressure out to the side of an elongated arm,” he explained.
There is also a measuring gauge on the tool, which allows technicians to measure the proper depth from the outside of the damage and insert the tool to repair from the inside. He said the system allows repairs to be done easily, improving cycle times and reducing severity as well as offering greater accessibility for technicians.
“The Rail Saver Repair System can access areas that can’t be reached any other way," said Gerhards. “This access can create repair possibilities that can be the difference between a vehicle being repairable or deemed a total loss.”
It is common for technicians to still use heat, said Gerhards, as well as cutting access “windows” to hammer through and cutting out the damaged areas, and re-shaping on an anvil or the frame rack and welding back in place. These methods do not follow OEM guidelines, and should not be performed on today’s vehicles.
“The Rail Saver is not a ‘fix all’ for rail repair,” said Gerhards. “As in any repair the technicians should first check OEM structural repair guidelines in making their determination as to the reparability of any structural part of the vehicle.”
GM Dealer Equipment has recommended The Rail Saver system.
“The Rail Saver Repair System was tested and approved by General Motors for use on both full-frame and unitized vehicles. This product works on steel, high-strength steel, and aluminum body components. This tool will help pin-point the damage location to ensure accurate repairs from the inside of a frame rail working outward," said the GM Collision Repair Technology Center Manager for General Motors.
Gerhards has been an auto body repair technician since 1986 working for B&J Body Shop in Rancho Cordova, CA from 1997-2013.
Prior to starting TG Products in 2008, Gerhards licensed his product ideas to Steck Manufacturing based in Dayton, OH. “They have been great to work with and manufacture six tools I helped design,” said Gerhards, who has created tools for the last 13 years.
- The Skin Zipper, a door skin installer, which is now being looked at for its capabilities for installing aluminum door skins including the NEW 2015 F150
- The Work Stand Clamp for holding door shells on X frame work stands while skins are installed
- The MIG Light, which attaches to the neck of a MIG/MAG welder torchThe Panel Shaper Kit for sheet metal forming and shaping
- The Handy Pull Kit, a set of eyebolts and brackets for light pulls around the vehicle
- The Easy Strip II, a re-design of the Easy Strip molding remover