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Satisfying Seams: Collision expert weighs in on seam sealing at SEMA education session

Toronto, Ontario — A job well done for a collision repair technician often means a repair that makes a vehicle look like it just rolled off the assembly line, and an industry expert who spoke at this year’s SEMA Show is making it his goal to help tradespeople do just that, starting seam sealers.

John O’Neill, head of collision at Henkel Adhesives’ subsidiary Teroson, spoke during a Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) Repairer Driven Education session during the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, where he touched on where the practice of seam sealing came from and where it is heading for repairers.

“There’s really not a vehicle that I can think of that doesn’t have these difficult ribbon seams or sprayed seams often,” said O’Neill. “It started with just a tub of seam sealer, brushable, way back in the day; even before my time where we’re just packing seams and covering seams as best we can with acid brushes and horse hair brushes. But there wasn’t really a lot of decor in it.”

O’Neill says that aftermarket sealing solutions are only now starting to catch up with the methods used by OEMs, remarking that the bead and nozzle size limitations of cardboard cartridges and foil sausages were leaving technicians wanting for the desired OEM-quality result.

“The equipment is now catching up to the material. There used to be kind of just that one nozzle, one gun, and the ‘we’re pulling for you’ approach. We’re really trying as an industry to look at how we incorporate nozzles, equipment, and material all-in-one to make it look just like factory.”

Aluminum cartridges are a technician’s best bet, according to O’Neill.

“The fine threads allow us to kind of add different nozzles to that cartridge to replicate different seams, different beads. They can be heated up to manipulate that seam a little bit more because it’s not plastic,” he said.

When it comes to application, O’Neill recommends an automatic piston-driven gun with a sprayable feature, which he says will “make your life 10 times easier and they make the beads look as close to factory as possible.”

In order to prevent idle time, shop owners may want to invest in a heater box to preheat aluminum cartridges and allow for other work to be done in the meantime.

“There’s a lot of wasted labour time taping,” said O’Neill. “There’s a lot of material that still stays on the tape once I tool it off. What we would really like to be able to show you is a better transfer efficiency.”

What are your biggest struggles with seam sealing around the shop? What would you like to see out of your tools that would make the process easier? Let us know in the comments.

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