New I-CAR Courses Explain Impact of New and Stronger Materials on Measuring, Anchoring and Pulling

12/01/2023 by Scott Kaboos and Jeff Poole, experts on I-CAR’s Technical Team

Like everything else in collision repair, the structural technician’s job has become a lot more complex, requiring new knowledge and procedures. The old rules – remember if it’s bent, fix it; if it’s a kink, junk it – have been tossed out. If you don’t understand how new materials in vehicle builds affect repairability, don’t look up OEM data for every single job, or try to get by with minimal anchors and measurements, the result is likely to be improper structural repairs. But don’t feel overwhelmed by how radically structural repairs are changing. We cover the gamut of what you most need to know by looking at the overall structural repair work flow in Unibody Measuring, Anchoring, and Pulling and Full-Frame Measuring, Anchoring and Pulling.

Take the Wheel of Your Learning Experience

These two new web-based, interactive courses are an important resource to update structural technicians and also have relevance for other roles, particularly production managers, estimators and appraisers. Delivered in an all new I-CAR learning format, the full-frame version of the course runs about two hours in duration, while the unibody version runs about one hour and 45 minutes. The new courses engage technicians with real-time decision making and possible outcomes while watching us work with common repair scenarios that occur at a shop location. It takes the “choose your own adventure” format to a whole new level for collision repairers. 

Both courses are accessible to everyone covered by an I-CAR subscription plan, and in 2025, will be required for Gold Class® achievement for shops and Platinum™ recognition for structural technicians.

New Materials; an Unprecedented Challenge

As always, one of the first steps a structural technician needs to take is a visual inspection. What appears dimensionally correct on the damaged vehicle and what doesn’t is the starting place to plan measurements. But even highly skilled technicians cannot simply dive in from there and disassemble a vehicle and intuitively proceed through each step of the repair. That may have worked when vehicles were constructed primarily of mild steel, but today’s vehicles are constructed with a blend of materials, which may include many different steel types, aluminum alloys, magnesium and a variety of composites. 

Visible damage is one indicator of repairability, but how do you make an informed decision when there’s no strong visual evidence of damage? It’s now necessary to turn to other means and perform proper measurements to identify damage. You also must reference OEM service information to determine repairability. The increased use of higher-strength materials means you’ll probably be replacing rather than repairing parts you may have been permitted in the past to straighten. Parts made from ultra-high-strength metals better hold up without crumbling but have less ductility, reducing repairability. Ongoing advancements in the vehicle build are driven by the priority to keep vehicle occupants safe during a subsequent collision. 

The new construction materials in vehicles all behave differently, so structural repair techniques must be adapted for each material type. In the past, regardless of the make or model of a vehicle primarily constructed of mild steel, the process of pulling and straightening did not vary much. Today, technicians need to verify what materials are present in every vehicle they repair since there are variances in construction materials in different models by the same manufacturer and sometimes even in different years of the same model. OEM data also must be consulted for repair tolerances and updates to repair procedures. Pulling may be prohibited. Structural aluminum parts, for example, have limited repair options and generally need to be replaced. 

The standards of the past simply do not measure up to the task of detecting hidden damage lurking behind panels manufactured from new, stronger materials. Yet another consideration: the location of ADAS sensors. Only with sufficient measurements will you know where damage is and where it isn’t and subsequently, how to plan an anchoring strategy. If anchoring is insufficient, parts not affected by the collision may become damaged during pulling. 

From our research, we know mistakes are being made. We’ve observed in the field cases of when assumptions are followed instead of OEM procedures, especially when a vehicle is very similar to others a tech has recently worked on. We’ve heard from shops that have nearly stopped pulling. While this procedure is not appropriate for some vehicle models, it still will be necessary to verify the extent of damage, determine replacement part requirements, and remove and replace, which involves accurately locating and holding new part(s) in place during installation. Where pulling is not prohibited by the vehicle maker, it can be a key preparation step when parts are being replaced to ensure adjacent areas are properly positioned. 

Never before has the evolution of the vehicle build presented such a great challenge, and ongoing advancements will require structural technicians to continually update their knowledge and skills. Completing our new courses is a big step in that direction.

A Start to Finish Approach 

We’ve combined measuring, anchoring and pulling in the new courses as a sequence of inter-related steps in a structural repair. These topics have been covered in other I-CAR courses, but this is the first time we’ve linked them together to show a complete work flow process. Within the broader context of a structural technician’s journey, each step’s importance can be better understood. For example, the learner will see how just a minor error in measuring gets magnified and adversely affects anchoring and pulling, derailing the structural repair. The new courses also present information on the workability of new materials in vehicle construction, tips on researching OEM data, and other topics to address modern vehicle designs.

As the featured experts in the two new courses, we invite you to join us as we look at challenges, common mistakes and proper repair techniques from the reference point of several vehicles with different amounts and types of damage. This allows us to cover different scenarios to raise your awareness of why and how structural repair procedures are changing. It would not be possible to cover every scenario you’ll encounter on the job, but our courses are designed to help you understand the considerations and research that goes into a proper repair. Your education will continue with every vehicle you work on, because vehicle builds will keep evolving. 

We encourage you to take both of our new courses; because while there’s some overlap of information, there are a number of unique considerations for full-frame and unitized vehicles. With the prevalence of new materials in vehicle builds, you may be able to apply something you learn from the courses to the very next vehicle you work on. Most importantly, you’ll be better equipped to return vehicles to your customers that perform as engineered and protect them in the event of another collision.

About the Authors

Jeff Poole, Manager and Lead Subject Matter Expert on I-CAR’s curriculum and product development team, began his I-CAR career as a part-time instructor in 1995 and joined full time in 2006. He draws on over 35 years of industry experience to develop technical training materials for the collision repair industry. Scott Kaboos joined I-CAR in 2020 as Principal, OEM Technical Lead, and Subject Matter Expert, with responsibility for I-CAR’s technical collaboration with vehicle manufacturers. His more than 20 years experience includes development of collision repair training for American Honda Motor.

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