February 24, 2018, Mechanicsville, VA

On an unseasonably warm Saturday in February, sixteen members of the Porsche Club of America’s Shenandoah chapter arrived at Dorn’s a little unsure what to expect. “Some members weren’t sure why we would hold a tech session at a body shop,” John Odden, Director of Member Services and the brains behind the tech session shared. “But they were singing a different tune after the tech session was over.”

Cars Are Getting Lighter

Members were treated to an extensive informational session that left them surprised at the requirements for maintenance and repair of not only their beloved Porsches but many other cars with similar features. Barry Dorn, Vice President of Dorn’s, led off the session with information about the prevalence of aluminum in today’s cars. “Lightweighting is a top priority for car manufacturers as they try and meet the strict 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 initiative the government is imposing and they are using aluminum to do it” he said.

Lightweighting is the common term used for reducing the overall weight of a car to improve the gas mileage. Replacing steel parts with aluminum is becoming a go-to way for manufacturers to lightweight their cars, but what is good for gas mileage presents challenges for the auto repairer.

Barry Dorn speaking at Porsche Tech Session

Working with Steel and Aluminum

Dorn showed the group a Range Rover sitting on a specialized frame jig. The Rover was in the shop due to front-end damage and needed a section of the aluminum frame rail replaced. Dorn explained each detail that goes into repairing aluminum parts. He covered welding of aluminum, factory-specific rivets, and specialized bonding materials to combine steel and aluminum parts without corrosion.

Having the specific equipment to repair a Porsche – or most vehicles on the road today – is another aspect of being up with repair processes. Touring the shop, attendees saw many of the tools, equipment and dedicated “booth”-style setups necessary for working with aluminum and mixed-material cars. Special curtains are used to separate a specialized vehicle from the rest of the shop, and potential contaminants while it is being repaired.

Calibrating Onboard Safety Systems

Another big topic of the tech session was the onboard safety systems. All of those little alarms on the car that tell you if you are drifting into another lane or about to back into a pole require recalibration when your car is repaired. Something as simple as the number of coats of paint can make a sensor inoperable. Dorn said, “Calibration of those sensors can take up to 12 hours, and once you start, you can’t stop.”

The group also covered interior system sensors like the steering angle inclination sensor. This sensor monitors your steering angle and can be affected by something as simple as a front end alignment. Dorn shared the scary reality that without proper calibration of this sensor, a roll-over could occur in a crash-avoidance maneuver, saying, “With only 1% of shops equipped to calibrate sensors, how many address this sensor when they perform a front end alignment?”

Keeping Up With Technology

Like the Shenandoah Region Porsche Club, Dorn’s is always on the cutting edge of the automotive industry. Dorn’s is factory certified to repair Porsche, Tesla, Jaguar, Maserati, and Audi just to name a few. This means keeping their equipment up to date and their techs trained to meet the strict standards set out by those manufacturers.

As the tech session wrapped up one of the participants approached John Odden and said, “I have driven by this place for years and had no idea what they were capable of.” Customers who see the difference are pleasantly surprised by the culture of Dorn’s technicians, and how committed they are to the training and repair processes that vehicles now require. It goes for Porsche owners and other vehicles alike.

Don’t be like that guy who had no idea. Stop by Dorn’s to get your vehicle repaired correctly so you and your family can be confident the car you drive out in, is just like the car you drove off the showroom floor.