Aluminum body repair

Aluminum body repair

I am ready to configure my new Tesla S on Monday and have been looking forward to this for months ! Besides the fear of running out of battery on a long trip, I have some concerns as to whether my local body shop will be able to repair my new car in case of a 'fender bender". Because of the aluminum body, repair facilities may be few and far between! Any thoughts?

riceuguy | February 2, 2013

You are correct, but use to search these forums as there has been some great discussion on this already....

gMS | February 2, 2013

I believe Model S is not the only car with aluminum body. There are several other cars that have at least partial aluminum bodies and many body shops have experience with it. You'll just have to find the right one if you ever need it. I also have no doubt Tesla Service will be very helpful guiding you in the right direction.

dbullard | February 2, 2013

The Porsche 928 had an aluminum body, so they've been out there quite a while...

Winnie796 | February 3, 2013

I had an Audi A8 which is all aluminium. Had to repair it twice and it was never a problem. As a former aircraft engineer, I think aluminium is easier to work with and repair than steel.

tysonfc | February 3, 2013

Had our Model S less than 3 weeks. Wife was driving in Costco parking lot. Lady in a Toyata Highlander backed into the passenger front door. Mirror colapsed in and contact was obviously made. When the SUV moved away the panel popped back into shape. The mirror was able to reopen and operate normally. After closer inspection there was a small crease in the body line under the mirror and minor scratches through the primer on the bottom of the door. Took the car to Tesla Tampa. They were able to get it fixed in about a week and a half. Excellent job. The repair was about $800. Insurance of course paid. I was amazed that the car could absorb so much energy and have so little damage but also at the quality of the repair.

Carefree | February 3, 2013

@Winnie796 - but much more expensive. Our body shop here in Scottsdale, AZ charges significantly higher hourly charges for Aluminum body work.

ColonyGolfer | February 3, 2013

Carefree: I understand that it would cost more for aluminum car work, but isn't the increase represented by more hours of work to complete the task? If it is a 10 hour job with steel and 12 with aluminum, why would you charge a higher hourly rate? Wouldn't you simply charge for the more hours?

Carefree | February 3, 2013

I don,t know the answer. There is an hourly rate chart prominently displayed at one of our high-end body shops and it shows a higher hourly rate foe aluminum than regular steel.

Brian H | February 3, 2013

More training, specialized equipment, market scarcity of both?

Superliner | February 3, 2013

No Worries, Aluminum body panels have been around for decades as have body shops that can handle them. It began happening in the early 90's in earnest at least among domestic offerings.

Oddly though it seems many U.S. residents here don't own and have not driven many if any domestic cars and are unaware that many of the tech marvels enjoyed in imports were first offered on domestic models and the technology behind them was pioneered right here, then copied abroad and sold back to us as the next big thing.

Welcome home! as Model S is considered a DOMESTIC car! Thanks for investing in the U.S.A. We need the work!

jat | February 3, 2013

Welding aluminum requires TIG welding, which has more expensive equipment, more expensive shielding gas, and is more difficult which requires more training and higher skill.

So, there are fewer places capable of doing it and they charge more for it, but it isn't something to worry about.

CPM | February 3, 2013

Had my car about 3 weeks and 700 miles and had a 17 year old change lanes and rupture driver door should get it back in about a week. Worse feeling in the world to have my first new car get hit . Gold Coast Auto in Chicago is the place to take it if needed, they had a couple other Model S there.

Winnie796 | February 4, 2013

I can understand the higher welding cost but everything else about aluminium is easier. So why do they charge more? I was never charged more in Norway. In fact, I was impressed how cheap it was to repair my aluminium car. I think you are being conned because it is different.

CollisionSam | December 9, 2013

To answer your questions, aluminum IS MUCH more expensive to work on than steel. Primarily cause it IS more difficult. Let me give a few examples:

* The MIG welding requires precision in the shielding gas mixture and travel speed. Tesla requires the shop to purchase a Fronius aluminum MIG welder because that's what they use in the factory.
* Aluminum is prone to galvanic corrosion so there must not be ANY steel that comes near the repairs (dust, debris, etc...)
* The tech/shop must purchase a duplicate set of tool to be used exclusively with aluminum panels (to prevent galvanic corrosion).
* Aluminum dust is explosive. So the shop must be equipped with extra safety equipment like the $9000 Ruwac explosion proof vacuum cleaner.
* Tesla provides repair specs exclusively to Carbench equipped frame shops. A complete Carbench setup will cost around $130K.
* Aluminum conducts heat much better than steel, which makes the process of heating for repairs very different. Also, aluminum does not turn red before reaching its melting or annealing points, so an untrained tech can easily turn a simple dent into a totaled car.

So as you can see, there is a valid reason for repair shops to charge much more for aluminum repairs. This does affect insurance rates in the long term, but when your car is in the shop, will you be more concerned with cost or quality?

For those who are wondering what qualifies me on the topic, I am factory trained and certified for steel and aluminum repairs by several manufacturers (Audi, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and Tesla). The shop I work at IS equipped and certified by Carbench and Fronius. More info available at: