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OEM Collision Repair Certification: Don’t Overlook Your Shop’s Electrical Power

Before starting on a path to OEM certification, make sure your shop has the electrical service to meet your equipment needs.

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Josh Cable has 17 years of experience as a writer and editor for newspapers, B2B publications and marketing organizations. His areas of expertise include U.S. manufacturing, lean/Six Sigma and workplace safety and health.

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So you’ve decided to take the plunge. After analyzing your business, studying your local market and considering the costs of equipment and training, you’ve determined that pursuing an OEM certification will help your shop compete and grow.

Before you commit, though, there’s one more thing to consider: your shop’s electrical service.

“Look at the electrical panel in your shop,” said Dave Gruskos, president of Reliable Automotive Equipment, during a March 17 panel discussion at NORTHEAST 2018 in Secaucus, N.J. “In most body shops, you’ve maxed out your electrical panel simply by putting in your spraybooth or your second spraybooth. You need to have power to run all of these devices.”

For example, most squeeze-type resistance spot welders require three-phase, 220-volt service. In the future, all welders will be three-phase machines, Gruskos asserted.

“When you say, ‘Oh, I’ll find that single-phase welder,’ it’s not going to exist,” Gruskos said. “It’s going to be three-phase. So it means you’re going to need wire of a size large enough to carry the amperage. A lot of electricians will say, ‘Oh, you could get by.’ You can’t. It’s like a garden hose – you have to have something to flow the electric through.”

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Typically that will be No. 4 wire.

“If you’re making a long run from the panel, it’s going to be No. 2 cable going to No. 4 wire to your outlet,” he added.

The proper shop infrastructure has dedicated outlets for three-phase welders, and grounding conductors running from the panel to an earth spike, according to Gruskos.

Dave Gruskos, president of Reliable Automotive Equipment

For shops that might balk at the cost of upgrading their electrical service to accommodate new welders, Gruskos said: “You have no choice.”

“If you buy a $25,000 welder from me and your electric is bad, you’re calling me up 10 months later for an $8,000 repair,” he said. “You’re calling me up again four months later for an $8,000 repair because the electric was bad. You have to have the proper electric before you do anything.”

It’s not just the back end of your power supply that might need attention. Extension cords are the “enemy” of equipment reliability, Gruskos asserted.

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“Whatever wire is coming off your welder, it should plug into a bigger cord,” he said. “You should be buying the most expensive, best-quality, largest plugs you can get – and you should be inspecting these cords.”

Today’s welders are computers, and they’re designed to ‘think for themselves,’” Gruskos explained. Anything that affects the performance of a welder – such as an inadequate power supply – can lead to a costly repair.

“Or worse: You produce a substandard repair because you didn’t put the proper power into the welder.”

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