Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.Henry Ford
First manufactured in 1948, Ford Motor Company’s F-Series of light- and medium-duty trucks has been the best-selling pickup in the United States since 1977 and, indeed, the best-selling vehicle overall since 1986. This popularity is a testament to the quality of construction, engineering, and durability built into these vehicles.
With the 2015 introduction of the F-150 (the 13th generation of the F-series), Ford engineers sought to increase fuel economy by dramatically reducing the weight of the vehicle while at the same time retaining its exterior design footprint. To achieve this goal, they switched the material of the bed and nearly every body panel from heavy steel to substantially lighter aluminum (though high-strength steel was retained for the makeup of the frame itself). Among the compounded benefits of this change, F-150 trucks can run with a smaller powertrain and other similarly downsized components, further reducing weight and increasing fuel efficiency.
But no matter how well built the truck—even with high-tech extras like adaptive cruise control and a 360°—view camera for better maneuverability—sometimes accidents do happen, requiring a visit to your friendly local body shop. With the F-150, however, there’s a catch. True, the use of aluminum parts shaved some 700 pounds off the truck’s total curb weight, resulting in significantly better performance, operating efficiency, and fuel economy savings. Yet, those savings come at a logistical cost. Ford truck owners can’t go to just any body shop in the event of a collision: they have to be choosy and pick one that has invested in the right equipment and with technicians trained and certified in working with aluminum specifically used in Ford vehicles.
A: There isn’t just one reason, but many—starting with the vehicle’s longstanding legacy and reputation. After all, this has been one of the most popular vehicles since 1986. And with good reason! Most notably, the F-150 is truly American made, since it is built at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan (with some additional assembly done Missouri and Kentucky).
A: For one thing, they’re rugged, to say the least. With so many F-150s still on the road boasting over 250,000 miles on the odometer—more than any other brand—ruggedness alone would explain their popularity. Implicit in this proven track record for ruggedness is the relatively lower cost of maintenance for the vehicle. Add to that its exceptional fuel economy, remarkable hauling and towing capacity, and high safety ratings year after year, the perennial popularity of the F-150 should be no mystery at all.
A: The thirteenth-generation design of the F-150 was introduced in 2015 and featured for the first time auto body panels made of aluminum. All models of the vehicle since then have aluminum construction.
A: Because aluminum is both strong and lightweight, Ford was able to shave off about 750 pounds from the total weight of the vehicle. This material design change resulted in significantly improved fuel efficiency. While aluminum is indeed strong, it is not as strong as steel, which is why Ford still utilizes steel in the frame of the F-150.
A: Not necessarily. While welding and repairing aluminum parts is more difficult than with steel, Ford simplified the repair process for its aluminum-intensive trucks by designing a modular architecture, allowing for easier access to remove and replace components in some areas of the vehicle, thus reducing labor hours. In fact, according to Automotive News, auto body damage repair costs for the aluminum-intensive Ford F-150 trucks are often actually less than their steel-bodied predecessors.
A: Yes. And no. Rust is merely a process of metallic oxidization. Though aluminum does “rust,” it doesn’t do so like steel, which turns orange and flakes off, exposing more steel and eventually creating rust holes. When aluminum oxidizes, however, it creates a whitish layer that actually protects the metal underneath it. Thus, unlike steel, aluminum does not lose its integrity or strength by being exposed to the elements over time.
For starters, aluminum in and of itself tends to be a more “finicky” material to work with than steel. For example, heat is frequently used to soften aluminum in a damaged panel before re-forming it; but the heat must be carefully regulated so as not to destroy the aluminum in the process, weaken adhesive joints, or damage any of the surrounding parts. According to Doug Richman, Vice President of Engineering & Technology for Kaiser Aluminum:
The procedures to repair aluminum body panels are very different from the procedures that are used for steel. To do the proper repair, it’s very different techniques, but the same skill sets, from the technician’s standpoint, are used. It’s just understanding the differences in the materials, and working them appropriately for the specific material they’re working on. They’re not more difficult, they’re just different.
Moreover, different manufacturers use different alloys of aluminum in their vehicles’ construction. Since aluminum alloys are not all the same, it really matters what kind of welding wire is used in making a repair. It goes without saying, then, that each aluminum alloy part is designed and engineered specifically for your vehicle; and so only authorized OEM replacement parts are guaranteed to maintain the vehicle quality, safety, and engineering integrity you’ve come to expect as a Ford truck owner.
For that reason, the company has gone to great lengths to train and certify its Ford-affiliated body shops to perform any necessary repairs on Ford F-150 trucks. Keri Coach Works is proud to be a member in good standing in that exclusive network of body shops certified to work on Ford’s aluminum-intensive F-Series vehicles. To achieve that status, we have invested many thousands of dollars in acquiring the equipment needed to make those kinds of repairs, including:
More importantly, our skilled team of technicians has been trained and certified to use the tools properly and according to spec. From the smallest ding, dent, or scratch to major collision damage, you can rely on Keri Coach Works to restore your damaged Ford F-150 truck to factory condition!
Aluminum Body Work and Repair Methods for the Ford F-150 Truck
Doug Richman, Chairman of the Aluminum Association’s Automotive Truck Group Committee, explains in this interview that while the basic skill sets needed to repair aluminum-intensive vehicles such as the F-150 are similar to those needed to repair steel components, the procedures are quite different and require special training and equipment.