Truckmakers Put Focus on Ease of Repairs, Service

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By Tim Eshterdahl

Repairability long has been a big part of pickup truck ownership — so much so that all the truckmakers are more aware of its importance in pickup-buying decisions. While horsepower, torque and towing capacity still dominate the decision-making process, repairability, maintenance and collision repair are big parts of the equation. Our sister website Cars.com now offers Service & Repair, a new section dedicated to helping buyers and owners find the best repair shops in their area. With all this in mind, we're providing information about the repairability of the half-ton pickups on the market.

2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500

Recent repairability discussions have focused on the aluminum 2015 Ford F-150; however, the Chevrolet Silverado offers several new approaches to reducing repair costs, especially those related to collisions. The 2015 Silverado has six key features that help reduce collision repair costs:

Front frame rail section: Chevrolet designed this part of the frame so that it can be repaired rather than replacing the entire chassis — depending on the type of collision, of course. Repair technicians can simply cut off the damaged section and an entirely new section can be welded into place.

Structural front fenders: Quite often repairing damaged fenders requires fixing the outer and the inner structural workings. It is a two-step process with a price that can surprise owners since the inner damage is hidden from view. The new Silverado incorporates the inner and outer fender into one unit that can be swapped out by simply unbolting the assembly. This should save labor costs.

Bond-on-body panel procedures: In the past, replacing nonstructural parts like outer door panels and roof panels has meant welding the parts back on. This can lead to corrosion issues and takes additional shop time. Now repair technicians can use an ultra-strong structural adhesive to bond the panels back on, reducing labor costs and eliminating the chances of corrosion.

Pre-prepared roof panels: Chevy engineers designed the Silverado with pre-installed studs and pre-drilled holes for easy replacement of the roof panels. This allows the roof panel to be swapped out quickly.

One-piece bodyside outers: As with the roof panels, repair technicians can order a complete bodyside outer part to repair damage to the cab. This allows them to replace only the damaged area instead of the entire cab assembly.

Flexible bed repair options: One of the common places for damage is the bed, and Chevy engineers have designed the Silverado so that repair technicians can swap out the outer bedside or the bedside assembly from the bed floor out. This should avoid swapping out the entire bed and reduce the labor and parts costs when damage is minor.

While these features focus on collision repair, Chevy spends lots of time talking with dealers and service representatives to improve simple repair procedures.

2015 Ford F-150

One of the hot-button issues when the new 2015 Ford F-150 was revealed was repairability and the impact it would have on insurance premiums. Critics saw the massive use of aluminum as more expensive to repair, possibly causing an increase in insurance premiums. The topic was so hot that automotive journalists at Edmunds.com took a sledgehammer to a new F-150. While the resulting video showed the repair process and costs for that unique type of damage, it didn't completely answer the question of repair costs and instead raised questions about aluminum-versus-steel hourly repair rates and parts costs.

It turns out that hourly repair costs are quite diverse for aluminum, with some shops charging a premium while others have rates similar to standard steel repairs, but we also know Ford has done substantial work to reduce overall repair costs in the new F-150 by making much of the cab structure modular. This work involved:

  • Completely redesigning the truck's cab and frame parts to be easier to repair or replace.
  • Developing an extensive training program through I-CAR, an accredited automotive repair training company, during the design and development process for the new F-150. I-CAR usually develops repair training programs after a vehicle is launched. Bringing in I-CAR's team of experts during the design process was considered a "groundbreaking collaboration."

This extensive work on repairability are likely to keep insurance costs down; however, it might be too early to tell. Automotive News recently reported that insurance rates for the 2015 model are largely the same as the new 2014 model. How could that be? Insurance companies use long-range data analysis tracking to determine insurance rates, and there isn't enough data yet to properly predict the 2015 F-150 repair costs. The current insurance rates are simply based on the 2014 model and the fact it is a new vehicle.

While Ford has poured a lot of time and money into designing an easy-to-repair truck, the insurance companies and repair facilities will eventually have the final say on how much this improvement reduces costs.

2015 Ram 1500

Ram is focusing on several key areas to improve the repairability on its pickups. Among them:

  • The service engineering team works with the product teams, including the truck teams, early in the design process to ensure serviceability, collision repair, etc., are designed into the products.
  • Ram tracks serviceability across 120 specific functional service objectives and monitors them during the product development/launch phases.
  • All service tools are created and information is shared with the Mopar technical service team and the engineering product teams to assist in the validation/verification process.
  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is standardizing its repair process across its entire vehicle lineup to streamline the process.

Keep in mind that while Ram's list doesn't have the "cool factor" of the others, this work is instrumental to creating a better product. Simply put, Ram is on the path to continually improving its products and services with a focus on repairability.

2015 Toyota Tundra

Much like other truckmakers, Toyota says it works with its engineering teams to design the Tundra with repairability in mind. One of the highlights of this focus is the new three-piece front and rear bumpers.

A three-piece front and rear bumper reduces repair costs when it is dented or dinged. Instead of ordering an entire new bumper, repair technicians can simply order the part that was damaged, saving money. We checked with a Toyota parts supplier and found a 2013 Toyota Tundra rear bumper cost nearly $400 with the park assist sensor. A 2014 Toyota Tundra with its three-piece bumper breaks down to $238 for the center section and from $132 to $202 for either side depending on finish/parking assists. For the owner who simply dinged a corner of the bumper, this represents real savings.

A complete bumper replacement will still carry a significant price tag with all the additional bolts, harnesses and other parts.

Another feature, the result of customer feedback, is the 2015 Tundra TRD Pro's oil-filter access panel. On older TRD Pros the entire skid plate had to be removed to access the oil filter for a routine oil change. For the 2015 TRD Pro, Toyota fabricated the skid plate with an access panel to replace the oil filter. It was a simple fix for what was a source of irritation among Tundra owners for some time. We expect this feature to filter into other Toyota products, and hopefully other manufacturers will implement similar changes as well.

2016 Nissan Titan

Nissan representatives declined to comment on the new 2016 Titan pickup for this article. However, we have heard they are looking closely at repairability for the new truck.

In the end, you won't hear repairability claims on TV commercials or see them on billboards, but it's a big issue for truck owners. Simply put, trucks get dinged and dented due to the work they do. Fixing them cheaply and easily is important to truck owners, and truckmakers get that. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

For repair information about your specific vehicle, check out Cars.com Service & Repair.

Editor's note: This post was updated May 6 to correct information about the cost of repairs for the 2015 Ford F-150.

Cars.com photos by Mark Williams

 

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Comments

I would have liked to have seen a direct cost comparison of repairs and maintenance.

I only had to replace one section of my rear bumper on my 07 Silverado. Found the part on craigslist from a guy who banged up the other sections. But getting them apart was not easy.

I can see the weight savings on that Ford in the picture, no doors, no drive train must get great mileage. And before long that is what the government will want. Maybe we should all go back to those simple days.

A large factor these articles seem to skip is that insurance costs are also based on accident rates. If a truck has more safety features to avoid accidents, it will reduce premiums. It's similar to homeowners insurance. Your premiums are less if you don't have a cedar roof, have security alarms, a pond or fire hydrant nearby, etc. The focus is on IF there will be a repair.

"Ease of repair and maintenance" - no, this article this is "ease of bodywork". Maintenance is another story... Ford Super Duty trucks that require the cab lifted to reach parts of the engine, Rams that are a 1-hour job to replace a simple headlight bulb, Chevy/GMC diesels that make you open the hood to fill DEF (and it's on the opposite side of the fuel filler)... and there are plenty more things like this. No one should have to take a truck to a shop and pay labor rates of $90-150 an hour to do something that used to be a 20-minute-or-less deal in the driveway 15 years ago. I used to be able to swap a headlight bulb in 60 seconds by opening the hood and the socket was right there, required no tools whatsoever. My current truck requires a 10mm socket wrench with an extension because the whole unit must be removed from the body first.

@RoadTrip Dodge head lights do suck for that. I feel your pain.

Ram headlights are a pain, at least they don't burn out as fast as GM trucks

Jake is right. A comparison would be great.

Take, for example, an impact with a deer that wipes out the passenger side headlight, fender, grille, bumper, and hood. Something that's really common. Then do a breakdown showing what it would cost to repair each truck at the same hourly labor rate.

That would be very interesting.

Why they didn't just crash the trucks into a tree at 10 mph. Send them in to same shop. Don't let shop know anything. Get the bill and post it?

Most people have collision insurance that pays for a wreck and you don't that's your own fault. All you have to do is compare insurance rates. I keep my collision even when the truck gets 10 years old as its only like 12 dollars a month on an old truck.

I also agree with Jake
Also the 5 year cost of ownership by taking out fuel costs would work.
I would also love to see the percentage of warranty no-cost repairs with the out of the pocket repairs paid.

I am very happy with my local Ford Service, they honor all of my warranty requests, basic service on my F-150 only costs me $35, that's less if I would buy the oil and filter and did it myself.

I did an insurance price quote on a new 2015 F-150 it's $80 for 6 months more. (compaired to my 2013 F-150 )

I am in love with my Ford Service Department
But......
I am NOT in love with my F-150

They treat me good, I trust them when they tell me the eco-boost is a POS

The job I'm in, access is crucial and can create unnecessarily expensive maintain due to poor design and engineering.

I do know when I do an oil change in my BT50 I have to remove the front skid plate to gain access to my oil filter. This is a pain in the butt as the filter can only be access from under the vehicle.

I also think as time goes by the body shops that perform repairs on aluminium will find alternative methods that are more effective in the use of manhours.

The cost of aluminium repair will reduce. But it will take time to reach the same level traditional steel body vehicles with efficient techniques and tooling.

Steel body vehicles have many decades of time to develop efficient techniques.

Ford uses bonding with aluminum and somehow that is a problem but GM bonds steel and that is all right with the world?

@Lou_BC,
The cost of the physical remove/install of an item irrespective of what material it is constructed from will have little impact on costs.

Take for example a gearbox. The old steel gearboxes even though they had 3 speeds weighed a significant amount.

Whether it is made from an aluminium alloy cast or a steel cast will not affect the cost of replacement.

The same can be said for replacing a hood whether steel or aluminium, the cost of labour shouldn't be different, or much different.

The cost of surface finishing or dent removal could change that.

This will change once you need to effect a physical repair when materials are different.

I will even go as far a composties. I do know the time involved in removing installing aluminium alloy or composite aircraft panels is no different.

Much of the cost in repair will come down to good design and engineering.

Aluminium will cost more for physical damage repair. The item will either need to be replaced if it was structural as with aluminium stress on the metal is more limiting than with steel.

But, then again a high tensile steel can be just as bad in some instances.

Pop the hood; if you can't see the spark plugs, just close it and walk away. Current Ford V8 I can now see the plugs, same with most Chevy's.

One thing I noticed is all the GM info is about designing to make it easy to replacing and not repair the steel body panels. I would assume in most cases it is cheaper to replace with a OEM part then try to repair a piece such as a fender or bed side other then something like a small ding or something other minor.

Gm's with adhesives would be easier and cheaper to replace a panel and maintain excellent results and corrosion resistant not achievable in repairing without great time investment.

@Scott,
Bonding repairs take longer. They make sense on a production line.

Sort of like a dashboard. Easy to install at the factory, but try and replace a dash in your garage.

AL
As GM has stated welding a panel will not produce corrosion resistant compared to bonding a new panel. So on edmunds test on the f150 it would have probably been quicker to get a new panel, cheaper, and bond and rivet it back in place.... You could do a mock install on a new OEM panel, paint it to match, and then install it by bonding and riveting with no need to tape or repair.

You can argue with GM Al as this is what they say concerning bonding vs welding


"Bond-on-body panel procedures: In the past, replacing nonstructural parts like outer door panels and roof panels has meant welding the parts back on. This can lead to corrosion issues and takes additional shop time. Now repair technicians can use an ultra-strong structural adhesive to bond the panels back on, reducing labor costs and eliminating the chances of corrosion."

@marc

Where are you getting your collision coverage for only $10 dollars a month?

The insurance on my '05 Titan, now 10 years old, is nearly $80 a month and that includes basic liability, collision, theft and non insured motorist coverage with a $500 deductible.

And from what people tell me, that's a pretty good deal on a vehicle like that.

A comparison test would have been very cool. Same impact same place on each truck sent to the same bodyshop and see the bills.

Never nearly enough of this from any manufacturer.



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