One of the things we strive for in anything we post on our website or social media posts is to inform our customers about anything new relating to the safety of their vehicle. We are always looking at recalls, new repair procedures, and anything else so that we can pass it on to you. This is our way of showing we care and you’d be able to put your trust in an auto body repair that is constantly informed.
For us at Statesville Collision Center, we know that not every auto body shop is created equally…especially when it comes to staying current with the latest repair procedures and recalls for specific cars. These are always changing, which is why it’s important you are also informed about any recalls having to do with your car.
When it comes to automobile manufacturing, and in auto body repair, we use the same type of welder known as a “squeeze type resistance welder.” With this type of welder, we are able to replicate the factory spot welds exactly, but only when the welder is properly maintained and the tips are kept clean.
The welder can still be used with dirty tips, but the welds are not guaranteed to be structurally sound. In a high volume or high production body shop, these welders get used all day long every day. So you can imagine many shops may neglect to stop and perform maintenance on these welders, especially when under the gun to perform repairs as fast as possible.
How important is a clean weld tip? Well, just recently Subaru detected that it had a problem with one of its squeeze type resistance welders, and the welders were allowed to continue making bodies for a little over a week. As a result, close to 2,000 cars were affected to the point where their overall structure is compromised. We’ll get to that down below.
You’d think that this can be easily resolved with a re-weld at a nearby dealer. However, this is a much bigger issue, which is why Subaru is offering to buy back the car regardless of condition or mileage. It is almost unprecedented for a manufacturer to buy back a whole car rather than fix it, so that tells you just how important a proper structural weld is.
As someone who’s looking for an auto body shop in North Carolina, we at Statesville Collision Center want you to know that we are aware of the importance of an OEM structural weld. We follow the repair procedures set out by your car’s manufacturer to a T, and that includes proper cleaning of the squeeze type resistance welders prior to welding your vehicle.
As mentioned above, Subaru recently issued a recall affecting over 2,000 vehicles due to a faulty factory weld. This could cause the vehicles to not hold up as designed in the event of a crash since the overall structure is not as safe or strong as it should be. Think about that for a moment: your car is supposed to protect you from a car accident. But if the very structure surrounding you is compromised, then how will you be protected? This is why this recall is so serious for everybody involved, from the Subaru manufacturer to you, a Subaru owner.
Typically when a car manufacturer issues a recall, the dealer would repair the issue as the nearest dealership for free. However, because these poor welds were made by the robotic welder that wasn’t properly cleaned, it’s not as simple as taking it to a dealership for a quick fix. Subaru is actually offering to replace a vehicle instead of a repair it. According to Consumer Reports, “owners will have the option of exchanging their vehicle for a new one, having Subaru buy it back, or taking back their vehicle after it has been repaired at the factory.”
This problem, along with other Subaru recalls from 2018, has really stressed the importance of having clean and proper welding-related repairs. Subaru states that the spot-welder tip is cleaned and re-shaped by a dresser (grinding machine) during the manufacturing process. Subaru believes that what could have caused the affected parts is the dresser might have been blocked by excess metal chips/powder, “…thus reducing the effectiveness of the welder.” (Subaru) Because this happened, the factory weld tips weren’t as clean as they should be.
How Common Is It?
It might come as a surprise to you, but it’s actually rather common to see improperly prepared or selected welder tips being the reason why there are faulty squeeze-type resistance spot welds (such as the ones in the Subaru recall). What’s also incredibly common is just how many auto body repair shops used the welders on a daily basis but didn’t know how to properly maintain them. You would think with it being considered the “most abused” piece of equipment in a body shop that it would be treated with more care.
Here’s where it gets even more interesting: this is not an uncommon issue with welds. In fact, back in 2017, a panel of collision repair experts spoke about the importance of properly prepared welds in a Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) video. Despite the daily need for welders, panelist and former SCRS chairman Barry Dorn talked about how body shop managers aren’t regularly checking the condition of weld tips or are even aware of how frequently they should be replaced. In fact, welding courses held by I-CAR (where auto repair technicians get their training) had extremely low participation from technicians. Without proper training on not just the repair, but the tools used for the repair, more problems like the recent Subaru recall are bound to happen in auto body shops across the USA.
What Happens Next?
Although grinders are typically nicknamed the “grinding machine” as stated in the NHTSA recall, SCRS panelist Toby Chess stated that typical grinders aren’t enough to prepare tips. Simply checking to see if the tips are clean and there’s no build-up of excess metal chips or powder in the dresser also doesn’t suffice. An auto body shop will need to do more. Technicians are advised to use a fresh tip during any major repair and treat tips like they are any other consumable part in auto body repair. This keeps it clean and ensures the best quality repair every single time.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen as often as one would think. Many times, technicians will cut corners to perform faster repairs to meet insurance deadlines. It can also be because they’re not educated on the latest OEM repair procedures. These procedures are laid out by your car’s manufacturer to ensure your vehicle is being repaired exactly as the factory instructs. If some spot welds are missed by a body technician, the overall strength of the vehicle can be reduced. If this happens, your risk of injury in an accident significantly increases. This is why OEM procedures are laid out for technicians to follow so this doesn’t happen.
How Do You Know Your North Carolina Auto Body Shop Performed A Proper Weld On Your Vehicle?
We at Statesville Collision Center are always researching what’s happening in the auto repair world so that we know exactly what we need to do to properly repair your car. We are always looking out for any recalls that could affect your vehicle and are dedicated to informing you about them right when they happen.
We’re here to help you in North Carolina with any of your auto repair needs. We are in 10% of auto repair shops to achieve I-CAR Gold Class status. This means that our technicians have received the highest level of training and know what it means to repair your car the right way. We are always checking OEM repair procedures and know what it takes to give you the best possible repair out there!
We like to say, “we may not be related, but you’ll feel like we’re family!
We look forward to hearing from you!