We’re thinking of adding aluminum repair to our shop, which means buying an expensive set of aluminum-only tools. How hard is it to add this to an existing shop regarding the "clean" area? Do I need a special booth? Because I really don’t have any extra space.
Asked by Melissa Takamatsu, Epps Body & Paint, Bee Cave, Texas.
The question you ask requires more information, but I will try to answer as much as I can.
To add aluminum repair to your shop, you must decide: a) Do I, as a shop, want to be more efficient with aluminum repairs, or B) Am I going to go all out and get my shop certified by makers such as BMW, Jaguar and Audi?
If you want to be more proficient or capable as a shop, the expenses are there but they probably won’t be as high as they would be if you pursued certification from a car maker.
I would suggest sending your technicians to some I-CAR aluminum classes such as ALI01. Then, listen to the techs as far as what they would need and how they could make it work in the shop as far as space and tools are concerned. Their input is valuable as they will know what they need to complete the jobs correctly.
Things to discuss are:
• Tools. Separate hand tools are needed. The cost is dependent on what technicians want or their cost in this venture.
• Welder. You do need a good welder – new 220-volt machines that are pulse or spray arc. These can weld steel and aluminum and do MIG brazing all in one machine.
• Dent pullers for aluminum.
• Grinding discs and cut-off wheels designated for aluminum may be a good idea.
• Space. A frank discussion on space and procedures will need to take place to avoid contamination issues.
• Training. Know your capabilities. Get training.
If you’re going all out for a manufacturer certification, the expense can be a lot more as the requirements and tools are not negotiable. They also will have different requirements from maker to maker.
This is a very basic answer to a very big decision and commitment. If I knew more about your situation, I could be more specific. The best idea is for you and your techs to take some training or classes and then decide how you want to approach it. That way, you have an idea of what equipment you’ll need. Plus, you’ll also know proper procedures needed for working, repairing and painting.