aluminum-truck-frame.jpgWhen you compare a new Ford F-150 with an F-150 from a few years ago, they don’t appear to be that different. Sure, there are subtle design differences. And, of course, the technology has advanced considerably. The crazy thing is that there is nothing visible to indicate that today’s F-150 weighs more than 700 pounds less than it did just three years ago,

By now, you’re undoubtedly familiar with that story. We’re sure you know the “why” and the “how,” too. In case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s because the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are demanding that cars and trucks shed weight to improve fuel economy.

But here’s one thing you probably didn’t know: in 2016, the automotive aluminum market totaled close to $48 billion in revenue. And by 2026, it’s expected to reach $111.8 billion.

Ford took a lot of heat for their aluminum bodies initially, but Chevy and GMC have both announced that their trucks will soon follow Ford’s lead. In fact, 75% of trucks will have aluminum bodies by 2025.

So what does that mean to you and your shop? You either get on board or get left behind. And soon. There are simply no two ways about it: if you’re not prepared to handle aluminum repairs, you’re severely limiting your revenue in the very near future.

There are three main things you need to consider as more aluminum works its way into your shop. You need to:

  1. Isolate your aluminum repairs from your steel repairs. Dedicate a room each both—or at the very least, have a curtain that separates the two work areas. This prevents cross-contamination before primer or paint, which can result in adhesion and quality problems.
  2. Train your techs as much as possible. Welding, riveting and extracting aluminum is much different than the same work with steel. Your techs need to understand every aspect of aluminum in order to produce high-quality work.
  3. Get dedicated tools and equipment for welding, riveting and extracting aluminum. And we don’t mean extracting dents. We’re talking about extracting the dust and fumes, because aluminum dust quickly becomes a fire and explosion hazard if it’s allowed to settle around your shop and become concentrated.

When it comes to these tools, Chief has you covered from almost every angle. And almost every product is approved by both Ford and GM. For instance, we offer five separate aluminum welders. We have rivet guns that get the job done. Our Goliath pulling rack is approved for aluminum frames. And we offer two types of extraction equipment—a fume extractor for welding and two dust extractors for the tiny particles produced from cutting and sanding. 

If you haven’t taken a deep dive into aluminum—or if your aluminum equipment is outdated—be sure to check those out. At some point, it will be too late, and you’ll be like the saddle maker who took a look at his first Model T and said: “That’ll never catch on.”