Understanding Aluminium

Corrosion, cross-contamination, metal memory and energy absorption. These may sound like terms you might see in a science exam, but equally apply to the field of crash repair when it comes to vehicles with high aluminium content.

Today more than ever, vehicle manufacturers are using an increasing number of aluminium parts and panels on their vehicles and drivers need to be warned: If these cars have an accident, not every bodyshop has the expertise and equipment to repair them properly.

You might think that this only applies to premium models, but this is far from the case. While cars such as the Audi Q7, BMW i3, Jaguar F-PACE, Range Rover Sport, Mercedes-Benz-S-Class and Porsche Panamera all have a high percentage of aluminium used in their construction, equally very popular models such as the Dacia Duster, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Tucson, Opel Corsa, Renault Captur, Skoda Fabia, Toyota Auris and VW Passat also have significant aluminium content. It is especially favoured by car makers when it comes to electric vehicles such as Tesla.

The reason behind the growing shift to aluminium is down to weight. Aluminium is much lighter than steel and in modern vehicle design weight is all important as the lighter the car, the less emissions it will produce. Aluminium also absorbs twice the energy in a crash compared to steel making it better for passenger safety.

Aluminium makes perfect sense to car makers and its use is on the rise even in volume models. However, when it comes to body and structural repair, it presents a whole new set of challenges to a bodyshop.

A major issue is that of cross contamination causing galvanic corrosion. In a repair environment, aluminium and steel do not mix well. Each has a natural electrical charge and aluminium, with its higher charge, will start “donating” electrons to the lower-activity substrate, steel. If this happens the aluminium will corrode over time and lead to paint defects.

Secondly steel is much easier to reshape into its original form as it has a metal memory. Aluminium does not have this characteristic which makes repair of dents in an aluminium panel much more time consuming and difficult. Aluminium also undergoes a process called “work hardening” when it is damaged. This actually adds strength, making working with the metal even more of a challenge.

To cope with these very real difficulties requires an investment in facilities, equipment and training, which many bodyshops have not yet been prepared to make.

At Ashmore Ryder we were one of the first accident repair centres in Ireland to invest in a dedicated aluminium repair bay and our expertise in this specialist repair field has been growing ever since. This is a completely separate repair area, away from the main workshop that eliminates the risk of cross contamination. Added to this we also have invested in dedicated aluminium repair and welding equipment and employ a strict cleaning and maintenance regime to ensure there is no contamination risk.

To complete the picture our expert technicians are trained in the very latest aluminium repair techniques and work to strict manufacturer repair procedures to ensure that aluminium parts and panels are always fully identified and repaired correctly.

Only by following strict procedures and using the right dedicated equipment can you ensure that any vehicle that has aluminium components is repaired right and safely returned to its pre-accident state. For complete peace on mind, choose Ashmore Ryder for your vehicle repairs. Our aluminium expertise means we can ensure your safety, protect your investment and maintain your bodywork warranty.