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Changes to vehicle structures means changes for the dismantler

The structural revolution
Sixty percent of the 2012 Chevrolet Aveo Body Structure above is made from high-strength steel (yellow). Ultra-high Strength Steel (red) is strategically integrated.
Vehicle manufacturers only change their vehicles for one reason, to sell more cars and there are two drivers for change – what the customer wants and what manufacturers are forced to do by legislators. Here we take a look at the effect of the structural chances on the auto recycler.


One thing that has remained constant over the years is the crash tests that are completed on cars, and these are repeatable time and again (assuming you can afford the vehicles), 40mph into deformable barrier that is offset towards the driver. Over 12 years there has been a major improvement in occupant protection. Drivers in vehicles tested in the late 90’s would have been killed or seriously injured, where drivers of vehicles designed and built since 2010 would have been able to walk away from the accident, and in many cases these newer cars are stronger, bigger and only marginally heavier than vehicles from the late 90’s.

How have vehicle manufacturers achieved this?

A lot of vehicles are now designed and built using advanced materials including Aluminium and Ultra High Strength Steel (UHSS), and vehicle designers understand how accident energy can be dissipated through the vehicle keeping the occupant safety cell intact. Audi have, for example used 5 different types of metal in the 2012 A6, including Aluminium and Ultra High Strength Steel. The new Porsche 911, again 5 different types of metal, bigger than the last model, lighter and stronger.

UHSS requires specialist work – heat (i.e. when welding) makes the metal brittle, it loses strength and will not perform as designed to in the event of another incident with risks to the occupants of the vehicle.

This is very Important:

  • Repair of this type of steel is not recommended.
  • This type of steel should be replaced only, at factory joints. Sectioning or partial replacement is not recommended.
  • The use of heat to repair damage is not recommended for this type of steel.
  • Stitch Welding is not recommended for this type of steel.
  • This type of steel cannot be used as a backing reinforcement or a sleeve for a sectioning joint.

Recommended Repairs:

  • Squeeze Resistance Spot Welding can be used to replace factory spot welds, where applicable.
  • MIG plug welding can be used to replace factory spot welds.
  • MIG Brazing can be used to replace factory spot welds

Lets take a look at the BMW E36 and E90 models, I have deliberately missed out the E46 model that sits between these versions of the 3-series
E36 – 54% mild steel and no UHSS
E90 – 32% mild steel, 26% UHSS
E36 bodyshell, smaller than the E90 and 17KG heavier




Andy Latham
The writer of the this article is Andy Latham, Compliance Manager for Bluecycle, one of the UK’s leading online car salvage auction sites and online auction technology specialists. They have been trading for over 10 years and specialise in car salvage, end of fleet, motorcycle, plant, equipment and commercial salvage, selling hundreds of vehicles each week to customers throughout the UK and Europe. Andy is a motor vehicle engineer with over 30 years experience in automotive retail, motor insurance and vehicle salvage markets, he is married with 2 teenage children and supports Southampton Football Club.
Just to put this into perspective, the new Range Rover was announced in September. Bigger in almost every dimension than the last model, stronger, weighs 180kg less (the bare bodyshell is only 12kg heavier than Mini Countryman bodyshell). Mk7 Golf, again bigger, stronger and better equipped, 100kg lighter than the Mk6 model and the list goes on and on. You only need to read the latest motoring magazines to realise the immense amount of work that vehicle designers and manufacturers are putting into their vehicles.

Why are they doing this? Customers want stronger cars but they also ask for better fuel consumption and the only way they can have both is advanced lightweight design – lighter vehicles use less fuel, lighter vehicles can also have lighter/smaller brakes and suspension components, they don’t require big wheels and tyres, they perform better and customer satisfaction is greater because they are getting better fuel economy.

The structural revolution will impact auto recyclers


Because of the more advanced techniques required for repair, there will be less body sections being purchased by our current customers who are not prepared to invest in the training and equipment required for the latest structural technology.

This applies to trucks and trailers as well


And it is not just car manufacturers who are looking to reduce weight, truck and trailer manufacturers are exploring many alternatives including plastic tipper bodies, as well as UHSS and Aluminium, reducing the weight of chassis, axles, wheels, tyres, bodies, all contributes to greater carrying capacity at a lower overall weight that means better fuel economy.

Edbro recently introduced their CX14 tipping gear that is designed for tipping trailers, and this new design cut 60KG from its predecessor – again, reducing weight for the same, or better, performance giving benefits for carrying capacity and fuel economy.

So that’s the structural revolution. In the next issue of atfPro we shall take a look at pedestrian protection and the impacts this has for the auto recycler as manufacturers are forced to change vehicles to suit new legislation.


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