Any paintless dent repair technician or auto body man who has worked with aluminum knows it is a totally different beast than steel. Aluminum body panels have been used on certain luxury cars for decades. However, more and more cars are moving towards aluminum, due to its light weight and comparable strength to steel. Ford’s recent decision to produce an all Aluminum body panel F-150 has brought the light weight metal to the masses.
Aluminum presents many challenges with both PDR and conventional body repair. In general, aluminum is a stiffer metal that takes more force to distort and thus more force to return to its stamped shape. It has more of a tendency to tear rather than bend, when compared to steel. Aluminum can also become contaminated when body repairs are completed on adjacent steel panels or with tools that are used for steel auto body repairs. This is why OEM’s are now requiring body shops to have separate tools, welders, and aluminum isolation rooms in order to become OEM certified for aluminum body repair.
In the PDR world, aluminum is just flat out more difficult to repair than traditional steel. Aluminum tends to feel much stiffer when pushing, thus requiring more force and slower pushes. Most dent guys will tell you that steel has a “memory.” It wants to flow back into it’s stamped shape when PDR is performed properly. Aluminum on the other hand is more stubborn resulting in dents needing to be forced out.
Two auto repair industry groups, ASA and NAPDRT, along with other individuals in the collision repair and PDR industries participated in a study with Volkswagen/Audi of America to try to verify the varied strengths and repairability of steel and aluminum. Click on the link below to learn about the process and results of the test.