What Is Your Car Made Of?

Metals and Carbon Fiber used in Vehicle Manufacturing

materialsAs auto technology evolves, so does the materials from which vehicles are made. Many different metals, plastics, and carbon fiber are used to manufacture the various components of a car. Manufacturers may try different materials because each material can affect things like production cost, fuel efficiency, safety, and more.

In collision repair, sometimes, the parts of a vehicle need to be replaced. Regardless of what your vehicle is made from, it helps to know a little about auto manufacturing materials so that you can make an informed decision as to replacement parts.

Steel & Iron

Most antique vehicles are made from steel. Today, many vehicles are still made with steel and iron – but not nearly as much of it. Steel is still strong, durable, and readily available. Modern science and technology has led to new combinations of materials that allow the same durability and protection that steel can provide while increasing safety and fuel efficiency of a car.

While steel and iron provided a strong and sturdy vehicle, they did not necessarily provide a safe environment for a person in an accident. Today, the body of many cars is still built from steel because of its strength. However, many different kinds of steel are used, like steel that can crumple on impact to soften the force of the impact on a passenger.

Steel and iron are also extremely dense and heavy, which did not allow for maximum fuel efficiency. Today, most of the weight of a vehicle still comes from steel and iron but other materials have been substituted as well.


Aluminum is a relatively new material in the world of auto manufacturing. It is a very lightweight metal, and while not necessarily as durable as iron, it can be very beneficial in high performance vehicles. The light weight allows for faster acceleration and better fuel mileage. One of the biggest benefits of aluminum is that it is resistant to rust.


Titanium is strong, but not quite as strong as steel or iron. It is lightweight, but still heavier than aluminum. It is also resistant to corrosion, which is why it is a valuable metal to use in vehicle manufacturing.

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber is another modern material in the auto manufacturing world. It’s used mostly in high end vehicles, and is commonly used in brakes. It is much stronger and lighter than steel, but it is also many times more expensive. However, in modern cars, it is used increasingly to replace formerly metal parts.

Which Material is Best?

When it comes to collision repair, it might be best to use parts that are the same as your original vehicle parts. But what happens when original parts aren’t available? Using substitute materials on your vehicle is not necessarily bad, but it is a discussion you should have with your collision repair shop.

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OEM Certification for Auto Body Repair Shops

494059677-1-298x300When it comes to auto body repair shops, not all shops are created equally. Training, tools, parts suppliers, and equipment can vary from shop to shop. Choosing the right shop can make a difference in how your vehicle is repaired, and what tools and parts are used to repair it.

Different manufacturers build vehicles differently. In order to maintain original manufacturing quality, the repair shop you choose to work with needs to be up to Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) standards.

There are many different OEM certification programs in effect today. The requirements for certification in each program can vary. However, the result is the same: OEM certified shops will use repair parts made by the original manufacturer, not aftermarket parts.

Many OEM certification programs also require training on-site at the manufacturing property, or training with the tools that the manufacturer uses.

Why Should I Choose an OEM Certified Body Shop?

There are several reasons to choose an OEM certified body shop! These shops are guaranteed to use OEM certified parts, so your repaired vehicle will have the same exact parts as your original vehicle.

OEM certified shops have been through an OEM certification program.

While there are some differences between these certification programs, any certified shop has been through a program. These certifications can range from annual fees and a stipulation that all parts are purchased from an the manufacturer, or, they may require expensive training and on-site visits from a dealer or manufacturer.
These programs can be expensive, so any shop who has been through it has invested. The more thorough the program, the more the shop has invested in providing OEM parts to its customers.

The certifications also need to be renewed, so they aren’t something that new auto-body employees can get around, and they aren’t a one time thing. Shops need to commit and stay on top of renewals.

Original Parts mean Original Standards

The auto industry is under increasing pressure to meet higher and higher standards regarding safety, quality, environmentally friendly practices, and more. In order for your repaired vehicle to meet these same standards, it needs to be fixed with OEM parts.

Rather than waiting on OEM parts at a shop that isn’t certified, choosing to work with an OEM certified shop means that they already have processes in place for obtaining OEM parts, using the right tools in the correct way, and repairing your vehicle to the same standards as the manufacturer.

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Staying Safe With Airbags

airbagsToday, airbags are required in every car sold in the United States as a safety precaution. In many cases, airbags do what they’re meant to do: they provide a cushion in the case of impact and minimize the injuries to passengers. However, when they aren’t installed correctly or passengers don’t use other safety measures, like seat belts, airbags can cause injuries.

Airbag Safety Requirements

Although front airbags have been required in all cars sold in the United States since the late 1990’s, they are still being improved upon. Many vehicles also include side airbags, rear-seat airbags, or front central airbags.

Airbags help to protect passengers in a crash by inflating on impact and preventing a person’s head or chest from contacting other passengers or the hard interior of the vehicle. One of the ways that airbags cause injuries is by inflating with too much force.

In 2001, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a rule that by 2007, all passenger vehicles would include more sophisticated airbags. These sophisticated airbags are supposed to have modified deployment patterns, so they will deploy with less force or not at all, depending on the weight of a passenger. This can help small children or infants, especially in the front seat, to decrease the chance of injury by an airbag. [Insurance Institute for Highway Safety]-

Avoiding Injuries from Airbags

In order to get the most protection from an airbag when it deploys and to minimize the likelihood of being injured from one, it’s important to take some safety precautions every time a person is in a car.

Wear a seatbelt. Airbags are a secondary form of protection in a crash, and they are less effective at preventing injuries and more likely to cause them if a passenger is not wearing a seatbelt. It’s important to wear the seatbelt correctly and keep it on.

Keep children in the back seat. Front airbags are designed for adults, and children are more likely to be injured when an airbag deploys. Children are safest in the back seat.

Sit back in your seat. The more advanced airbags that are currently required in passenger vehicles may inflate with less force or not at all if passengers are not wearing a seatbelt or are sitting too close to an airbag. However, when airbags don’t inflate, they cannot help cushion the impact in the case of a crash.

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OEM vs Aftermarket Parts

certified-partsThe debate between using Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts and aftermarket parts to repair vehicles post-collision has been going on since the states stopped requiring collision repair shops to use OEM parts. Most debaters are concerned about either the cost or the safety of using one over the other.

Insurance companies often push for non-OEM parts, which can cost half as much. Vehicle owners, on the other hand, are more concerned with safety and high quality parts, and may push for original equipment manufacturer parts. Just over half of states require the repair shop to disclose to the vehicle owner when the parts are non-OEM, but is one better than the other?

Aftermarket Parts

Aftermarket parts are parts that were not made by the vehicle’s manufacturer. Some manufacturers make replacement car parts that are as good as or better than the original parts, and some make low quality parts.

Federal administrations, like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have safety regulations for many aftermarket car parts, and states are free to create additional regulations.

A lot of collision repair shops use aftermarket parts. They can often be much less expensive than OEM parts, but in some cases, it’s important to inquire about the quality of the parts. It is in the best interest of a collision repair shop to provide good advice because unhappy customers and shoddy repairs and parts leads to bad reviews and is bad for business.

Although variety in prices and availability of parts is great, aftermarket parts may not include a warranty.

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Parts

OEM parts were made by a vehicle’s manufacturer, so they’re made to fit into a vehicle seamlessly. Dealerships are likely to use OEM parts, but collision repair shops may offer both, and it may take longer to get original equipment manufacturer parts.

While OEM parts are generally more expensive than aftermarket parts, they are also guaranteed to fit into a vehicle, including meeting the same safety standards as the original vehicle. That doesn’t mean they’re superior to aftermarket parts, they are simply the same as the original parts.

Which is Better, OEM or Aftermarket?

Ultimately, the choice is yours. If you have time for a little research, knowledge of your car, or you are on a budget, it’s best to speak with your collision repair shop and find a quality aftermarket part. When you’re simply looking for a part that fits your vehicle, you’re willing to spend a little more, or you want to maintain the value of your vehicle, an OEM part is likely better.

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