Aluminum is a different beast. Different from steel, that is. For one thing, it has significantly less “metal memory” than steel, meaning once it’s damaged, it’s more difficult to coax it back to its original shape. That’s why working with aluminum takes practice and a certain amount of finesse. But getting the hang of it is worth the effort. Because of its weight-saving benefits, the vehicle manufacturing industry is using it more and more. As a result, aluminum repairs, put bluntly, could bring in some serious cash. In order to successfully repair aluminum dents, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind:
Use Dedicated Tools
If aluminum and steel come in direct contact with each other, galvanic corrosion can occur. That’s why it’s important to have separate dent repair tools for steel and aluminum. Using a repair kit specifically for fixing aluminum dents will prevent contamination through shavings and ensure you have everything you need to perform the repairs in one spot.
Try Heat Shrinking
If you’re working with a dent, try heating the area. As the metal around the dent expands, it pushes the dent out. This process might remove the dent completely or make it significantly smaller.
Stay Within the Recommended Heat Limits
Aluminum heats up more quickly than steel, and it won’t change color as it gets hotter. That’s why it’s important to pay close attention to your thermometer as you complete the repair and make sure you’re within the recommended range. It’s also a good idea to use heat shield gel to protect any surrounding metals you don’t want to heat up.
Consider Surface Oxidation
Aluminum has a naturally forming aluminum oxide layer on its surface. This helps protect it from corrosion, but you’ll also need to take it into consideration in your repairs. Specifically, you’ll need to ensure your stud welder is capable of breaking through that surface oxidation and making a solid bond.
Work Quickly and Carefully
While aluminum heats up rapidly, it also cools quickly. Once you’ve added the stud and have started to heat again, act fast. But you’ll also need to be relatively gentle with the aluminum, so don’t get too hasty. (See why we said it takes some finesse?)
With some practice, you’ll become accustomed to the differences involved in working with aluminum, and you’ll be well-prepared to handle any job that comes your way.