What do LUMINA™, the Corvette Stingray, and NASA have in common?
Written by: Adrian J. Long
Perhaps you’ve heard this rumor: steel chassis are preferred to aluminum ones because aluminum is vulnerable to stress fractures. Really? Let’s review this thought. In some aspects, steel is technically stronger than aluminum. For example, more force has to be applied to steel before it will bend. But once it is bent, it is more likely to stay that way. Aluminum, on the other hand, flexes far more than steel. As a result, aluminum is much more likely to return to its original shape after being stressed. Moreover, aluminum’s flexibility helps dampen the feel of the bumps in the road, allowing for a smoother ride.
Steel will corrode. Even galvanized and galvanealed steel will eventually rust. Located on the underside of the trailer, this is especially true of the chassis. There, it is blasted every mile with dirt, sand, salt, and road debris that chip away at the protective layer – assuming that the chassis is galvanized. As the process is expensive, some trailer manufactures don’t use galvanized steel to create the chassis. Therefore, to help prevent corrosion and rust, steel trailer owners must conduct time consuming inspections of their trailers: top, bottom, and underneath.
Aluminum allows you to spend your time more wisely. Consider this statement from Featherlite Trailers, manufacturers of aluminum trailers since 1973: “You may save money initially [on a steel trailer], but after watching your trailer eventually wear down to rust and getting a replacement while your friends are still using an all-aluminum trailer, you’ll know why so many people consider an all-aluminum trailer a superior value.”
After years of research, General Motors began equipping its Corvette Stingray with an all-aluminum chassis starting with the 2014 model year. They stated that the frame was 57% stiffer than its steel predecessor. In addition to being stiffer, the lightweight chassis helped improve fuel efficiency and performance.
Met with positive reviews, it was apparently successful. General Motors will continue to use the aluminum chassis on the Corvette Stingray in the upcoming model year as well. Even more impressive is that NASA also used aluminum to build most of its fleet of space shuttles. If aluminum can survive the stresses of a space shuttle liftoff, orbit, and re-entry, surely it can survive I-95.
The USA Trailer Store has known the benefits of aluminum for years and has used the metal where feasible. The chassis on their Lumina line of trailers has always been aluminum, and according to the president of the company, they have no plans of changing that.
Featherlite Trailers, makers of aluminum trailers since the 1970’s. Aluminum trailers vs. steel trailers [Web Blog]. Retrieved from http://www.fthr.com/owner-support/trailer-use-and-care/aluminum-trailers-vs-steel-trailers
Ashley, S. (2013). All-aluminum frame of GM’s 2014 Corvette saves 99 lb. SAE International. Retrieved from http://articles.sae.org/11744/