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Sharpen Your Sectioning Skills

Sectioning is a common procedure in hundreds of collision-repair shops across the country. Most of those shops make a conscientious effort to section according to the rules;
some shops make up their own rules.

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But, when the structural integrity of the
vehicle is at stake, making up your own rules can be a costly
mistake. There’s little doubt that keeping abreast of new sectioning
rules can be time consuming, but quality repairs demand you do
just that.

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Why Section?

"Virtually all components can be replaced
at factory seams so why bother with sectioning?" one of your
technicians asks you. One answer is that it’s often a matter of
economics. As an example, let’s think about one of the many vehicles
that currently incorporates the one-piece door ring.

Because the one-piece ring has reduced the
number of individual parts (lowering manufacturing costs), has
enabled OEMs to meet new side-impact standards and has improved
the fit of the doors, many OEMs like this approach to building
cars.

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However, when one of these vehicles sustains
minor damage to the side, replacing the entire door ring is typically
cost prohibitive. There has to be an economically viable alternative,
and that alternative is partial sectioning. Of course, the key
is to know where to cut and weld.

The other, less obvious reason to use sectioning
techniques is that they often result in a repair with less destruction
of factory spot welds and corrosion protection. Both of these
advantages are just as important as the economic advantage. If
a front lower rail can be straightened, except for the crush zone,
why not section out the damaged portion of the rail and section
in an undamaged portion of the rail?

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As you think about what sectioning entails,
ask yourself six questions:

  • Do I know which structural component or components can be
    sectioned?

  • Do I know where a particular structural member can be sectioned?
  • Do I need to use a new part or a salvaged part?
  • Do I know which weld joint to use?
  • Do I know what welding process to use?
  • Do I know how to restore corrosion protection and will I do
    it?

Note: Once you’ve determined sectioning is the correct procedure,
remember not to re-engineer the vehicle. In other words, don’t
do anything that will weaken the repair, and don’t make the sectioned
joint so strong that it alters the way the vehicle will collapse
in another collision. Also, be certain the area selected for sectioning
can be accessed properly for quality welding and for restoring
corrosion protection.

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Following the Rules

When sectioning, the best rule is to use OEM recommendations.
Some OEMs, however, are no longer publishing body-repair manuals
for specific models. The new Ford Escort is a good example. Though
Ford will make four service parts available for the door ring,
the collision-repair shop will have to use general I-CAR sectioning
guidelines to make the repair; if you aren’t familiar with general
I-CAR sectioning guidelines, you’re probably going to guess more
than you should.

Some OEMs are still producing repair manuals that will specifically
recommend particular areas for sectioning. These body-repair manuals
offer detailed sectioning information, and the recommendations
should be followed to the letter. That means purchasing the appropriate
body-repair manual.

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As an industry, we haven’t always purchased the published OEM
repair manuals. As a result, some car companies have decided to
no longer spend money publishing and storing them. There’s a lesson
here: If you grumble about not knowing how or where to section,
maybe it’s time to incorporate the cost of an up-to-date body-repair
manual into the cost of the repair.

If no repair manual is available, an alternative is to use sectioning
recommendations from Tech-Cor, Inc., a subsidiary of the Allstate
insurance company that develops sectioning procedures designed
to save time (labor) and destroy less OEM seams and factory corrosion
protection. Most importantly, the repair procedures are fully
tested at Tech-Cor to establish the performance of the repair
procedure in the event of another collision.

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The I-CAR Option

No longer publishing repair manuals, some car makers are deferring
to general I-CAR sectioning guidelines. If the OEMs are going
to do this, then you need to know what the guidelines are.

If you haven’t completed the I-CAR Collision Repair 2000 course,
now is the time to think about it. I-CAR is in the process of
developing uniform repair procedures, but for now, the Collision
Repair 2000 course is the best source of information about general
sectioning rules and other shop procedures. For instance, Unit
8, which focuses on body-over-frame repair, also includes sectioning
procedures for the Ford Ranger and Explorer sport-utility vehicles.

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Units 6 and 7 focus on sectioning procedures. Topics include:
replacement of damaged parts at factory seams, sectioning decisions,
the use of templates, types of weld joints, front-rail sectioning,
corrosion protection, seam sealers and rear-rail sectioning. Unit
7 begins with sectioning rocker panels, discusses sectioning A
and B pillars, and finishes with full body sectioning.

Within the units on sectioning, I-CAR has implemented some hands-on
procedures using cardboard mock ups, and these are some of the
neatest and most realistic training aids in the industry. The
information included in units 6 and 7 alone will more than pay
for the cost of taking the Collision Repair 2000 course.

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Ready, Willing and Able

If the OEM provides a body-repair manual for the particular vehicle
you’re working on, use it. Don’t second-guess the manual and don’t
re-engineer the car. If no body manual is available and Tech-Cor
has an approved repair procedure, consider using it before you
make a costly mistake.

If, on the other hand, the car maker refers you to I-CAR general
sectioning guidelines, then enrolling in the Collision Repair
2000 course is the way to go.

The bottom line is this: Today’s vehicles demand that you follow
OEM sectioning recommendations. If you don’t, your customers –
and your business – will suffer in the long run.

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Writer Fred Kjeld is a contributing editor to BodyShop Business.

Check It Out

The next time a repair in your shop calls for sectioning procedures,
remember these points:

  • An economical alternative for repairs, sectioning often results
    in a repair with less destruction of factory spot welds and corrosion
    protection.

  • Once you’ve determined sectioning is the correct procedure,
    remember not do anything that will weaken the repair or that will
    make the sectioned joint so strong it alters the way the
    vehicle will collapse in another collision.
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  • When sectioning, follow the OEM recommendations. If no repair
    manual is available for reference, an alternative is to use
    sectioning recommendations from Tech-Cor, Inc.

  • Some car makers are deferring to general I-CAR sectioning
    guidelines. If you haven’t completed the I-CAR Collision Repair
    2000 course, now is the time to do it. Though I-CAR is in the
    process of developing uniform repair procedures, the Collision
    Repair 2000 course is currently the best source of information
    about general sectioning rules and other shop procedures.

    I-CAR’s Uniform Procedures

    Moving with the fast pace of the industry, I-CAR is currently
    developing Uniform Procedures for Collision Repair (UPCR) and
    will demonstrate the procedures at NACE ’97 this month. At this
    time, I-CAR only plans to provide UPCR – scheduled for release
    in April 1997 – in an electronic format. The procedures will be
    released on a one-year subscription basis with four releases per
    year.

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    Currently, about 40 procedures are being field tested in a pilot
    program. A canvass review is part of the pilot program, and as
    part of the review, industry members are providing feedback on
    the procedures. If you, as an industry member, decide to participate
    in the canvass review, you’ll be asked to provide feedback on
    topics such as the technical accuracy of graphics, step-by-step
    procedures and guidelines.

    The I-CAR web site can keep you up to date on the progress of
    UPCR. You can also download a sample procedure, a current task
    list and a canvass invitation. The site will also permit you to
    e-mail your thoughts and ideas about the UPCR project.

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