Part of the hands-on demo during the aluminum information session. CARSTAR is set to hold three more of these events between now and mid-February.

By Mike Davey

Hamilton, Ontario -- January 26, 2016 -- CARSTAR Canada has launched a series of one-day aluminum repair information sessions. The events take place at CARSTAR Vision Park in Hamilton, Ontario. The first of these sessions took place January 26. The next is set for January 27, with two more events scheduled for February 17 and 18.

The information sessions are focused on providing CARSTAR’s franchise and insurance partners with a better understanding of the processes used in aluminum repair. Each event follows a set pattern. Representatives of CARSTAR and Pro Spot deliver classroom style presentations on the process, including the importance of making sure the right tools and training are in place before a facility attempts aluminum repair.

At the January 26 session, Bill Davidge of CARSTAR and Art Ewing of Pro Spot delivered the classroom portion before attendees broke for lunch. After lunch, franchise and insurance partners were given a live demonstration of some of the equipment and techniques used for aluminum repair, including a hands-on portion.

It’s been said before that aluminum repair is not necessarily difficult, but it is definitely different from steel repair. For one thing, unlike steel, aluminum has no memory. It does not want to return to its original shape and becomes work hardened when damaged or straightened. This means that usually a sharp bend or kink cannot be repaired.

Cross-contamination with steel is a serious issue. The carbon in most steels can easily corrode aluminum. At its most basic, this means that all tools used for aluminum repair must be kept separate from those used for steel. A separate aluminum room or heavy curtain walls are also recommended. As for the repairs themselves, make sure you have the correct training and equipment in place before attempting them. This can’t be stressed enough.

The aluminum must be thoroughly cleaned before the repair with a stainless steel brush. The "stainless" part is very important. Using a regular steel brush can result in contamination of the aluminum part, due to the carbon content in ordinary mild steel. The dent needs to be heated to between 250F and 400F to allow the aluminum to bend back to where it should be. Art Ewing of Pro Spot says that it’s slow and steady that will win the day here, as a too fast pull will result in cracking or further damage.

When it comes to welding, thorough cleaning is again very important. Use the correct filler wire, as mandated by the vehicle's manufacturer, and use the correct pulse MIG welder, again matching manufacturer’s specs. The proper technique is important as well. Push, don't pull. In the case of welding, speed is your friend. Aluminum sucks up heat very fast and can deform very quickly when overheated.

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