American drivers have demonstrated a sustained preference for larger vehicles over the past few years. In 2017, light-duty truck sales (which includes crossovers, trucks and SUVs) were up 4.3 percent. Of note were pickup truck sales (4.8 percent increase), small SUV sales (3.4 percent increase) and luxury SUV sales (2.7 percent increase). In comparison, car sales fell by 17 percent during the year.
These figures aren’t an anomaly but rather are part of a continued trend, and one that collision repair centers need to prepare for. As trucks and SUVs become more common, body shops need to update their techniques and equipment for working on these larger vehicles. Here are some of the considerations that come with repairing frames on these trucks and SUVs.
Frame Damage Affects the Entire Truck or SUV
Because trucks and SUVs, unlike cars and crossovers, are built on a solid frame that’s one piece, damage to any part of the frame will affect an entire truck or SUV. Diamond, twist and any other form of frame damage will both be noticeable where the damage is actually sustained and have ripple effects throughout the rest of the vehicle. One such effect is that damage at either end of the vehicle will be exaggerated.
In short, the body-on-frame design of trucks and SUVs means collision repair centers need to look for and address effects across the entire vehicle when any part of the frame is damaged.
Frame Damage Must Be Addressed First
While an entire truck or SUV must be inspected for body damage and all discovered damage must be repaired, no body work should be done until the frame is first properly repaired. The frame is the foundation of the vehicle and as such, it must be squared before anything else can be done. A house built on a non-square foundation would be crooked and unsafe, and the same holds true for a truck or SUV.
Only after a frame is properly squared should cutting or sectioning work on the ends be done. It’s the frame that requires attention first.
Frame Machines Are Best Suited to This Work
Collision repair centers can technically use either frame racks or benches for squaring frames, but frame racks are clearly better suited for working on center sections. Compared to benches, frame racks:
- Have larger working surfaces that can better accommodate extended trucks, duallys and full-size SUVs
- Make it possible to securely anchor one rail while working on another
- Are able to perform simultaneous pulls of equal force, which help prevent ripping, bending and tearing of a frame’s metal
- Are stronger and better able to handle the high-strength metals used in newer trucks and SUVs
- Are able to hold a truck or SUV in multiple places and offer a larger working surface when performing end repairs
Collision Repair Centers Must Adjust to the Trend
Collision repair centers will still see beat-up sedans and there remains a place for bench machines. As drivers purchase more and more larger vehicles, however, body shops need to prepare themselves for the influx of trucks and SUVs. As mentioned, the trend isn’t a random blip but rather a sustained pattern and not one that’s likely to end. Drivers have been turning to larger vehicles for some time now.
For those collision repair centers that fail to recognize and adjust to this trend, the future will be one of losses. These body shops won’t necessarily go out of business, but their efficiencies will decrease because they won’t have the frame machines that are needed to efficiently work on the vehicles people are driving. The shops will need to increase their labor costs for repairs, which will turn some potential customers away. The shops may also have to turn away some customers, which could lead to fewer referrals and even less business.
For those collision repair centers that recognize the trend and adjust, opportunity awaits. Investing in frame machines and training now will set body shops ahead of their competition, and the customers that come in now will lead to more and more referrals in the future.
Providing Frame and Bodywork for Trucks and SUVs
If you’re looking for a company that’s already providing high-quality frame and bodywork for trucks and SUVs in Delaware and Chester Counties, contact us at Badell’s Collision. With locations in Aston and Malvern, we’re prepared to provide you with exceptional service no matter what kind of damage your car has endured. Stop by one of our shops or use our simple online estimate form. Whether you need a vehicle repaired or are interested in working with local leaders in the industry, we’d love to talk with you about what we do and how we might help you!