Cars. They just don’t make’em like they used to. Literally. (And that includes trucks, too.) More and more manufacturers are moving away from body-on-frame designs and moving toward unibody designs.
There are a few reasons for this shift in engineering, but there’s one main motivation: making vehicles lighter in order to meet the ever-increasing demands of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Ensuring that you can work on these unibody designs will become more and more important in the coming years as we make our way toward 2025—the year when all OEMs will need to meet the full fuel efficiency regulations.
Generally, repair benches are a good fit for the newer unibody designs. But before we talk about repairs, let’s quickly define “unibody,” so that we’re on the same page. A unibody design is simply a type of vehicle construction where the body and the chassis of a vehicle form a single unit. That’s it. Pretty simple. Most unibodies have reinforced areas where there’s more than a single layer of material. But at they’re core, they’re just one piece.
Because of this, it makes repairs a lot different than older models with a body-on-frame design. After all, you could pull a damaged frame on an older model without worrying too much about its effects on the body. But because every section of a unibody is connected to every other section, it’s easy to affect a part of the body unintentionally.
That’s why your bench needs both power and precision—and why your techs need more training.
Your choice of equipment is very important. You need a bench that will allow you to only affect the area that needs repair. That requires precision that older frame racks and benches simply can’t offer. On the other hand, you still need the power to make those repairs.
A main reason precision is so important: on unibody vehicles made with high-strength steel or aluminum, the force of a collision is directed into specific areas outside of the passenger compartment. If the repairs on these areas are anything less than perfect, the vehicle could be compromised in any impacts after the repair. That means you need to fully measure a vehicle before and during a repair, hold it securely during the repair and pull it in multiple strategic areas if necessary.
So take all of this into consideration as you think about your next big equipment purchase. Brute strength is no longer the only consideration in buying a bench. You need a bench that can provide exact repairs down to the millimeter, as well. And there are only so many benches that can provide that kind of power and precision.