When repairing vehicles, it sometimes feels like there is a vehicle manufacturer out there that wants us to have a horrible day. But if we stop and take a look at the reasons why vehicles are being built in a way that is sometimes frustrating, you may find that the vehicle manufacturer and the technician have more in common than you think.
For years the collision repair industry had been used to having only vague directions to follow or we had to figure it out ourselves because the information did not exist. Now the repair manuals are so detailed, we can look at a procedure and it shows where every weld, rivet, foamed area, and even where to put the adhesive.
Why the drastic change? As the vehicle requirements around safety, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), and fuel economy has evolved, everything that goes into a vehicle had to change. The demands of these often-conflicting priorities have added complexity to an already complex machine.
For example, the next time you need to put three-quarters of a front lower rail at a factory seam instead of just the front third, don’t assume that the vehicle manufacturer is making our lives difficult. Though you may see a spot that seems perfect for a sectioning joint, there are several factors that could be making this infeasible. Some of the factors are:
- The repair joint failed testing – there is a possibility when the vehicle manufacturer tested a sectioning joint in that perfect spot, the vehicle would not have the correct performance in the next collision. Remember making a change that strengthens an area can be just as fatal as making an area weaker.
- There is a hidden reinforcement that cannot be seen – these parts can often be UHSS over 600 MPa and no repairs or replacements are allowed.
- Panel layering – there may not be access to all areas that may need to be welded or the whole assembly has areas that cannot be duplicated outside the factory.
These are just a few of the possible causes that in the past, has started a few rants about vehicle manufacturers. But the frustrating part from a vehicle manufacturer’s point of view is that one small change can affect the crash rating, the price of the vehicle, the repairability of the vehicle, and all the other conflicting priorities in a confined space. This can be just as frustrating to a vehicle manufacturer as a technician.