Body, Frame and Structure Repairs

A quality collision repair facility will communicate with you about the status of your vehicle’s repair. Someone from the office should go over your vehicle with you and show you exactly what is being done or what might be causing a delay, etc. Some of the insurance company recommended shops, or “direct repair facilities’ as they’re known, will not contact you in the event that additional hidden damages were discovered. Some insurance companies with “direct repair’ shops do not allow those shops to discuss details with customers until they receive the insurance company’s approval. By establishing communication between you and your chosen repair facility, you can help reduce delays in the repair process. By checking back with the shop every 2-3 days you can keep yourself posted on the status of the repair.

Another reason to check back with the repair facility is to see exactly how your vehicle is being repaired. It’s a good idea to look your vehicle over in mid-repair to see that it is being properly returned to the manufacturer-s specifications. By checking over your vehicle in mid repair, you can see areas that are ordinarily hidden from view. Watch for unusual buckles or kinks in the metal of the vehicle’s structure. When bolt on parts such as doors, fenders or headlight mounting panels are installed, there should be no loose or missing bolts and all bolts should go into their original holes (in most cases, fender bolts will be in symmetrical positions).

Parts should fit together neatly and evenly and the gaps between adjacent parts should be parallel. When you check the bolts, you should also watch for an excessive use of shims. Shims are small, flat, metal spacers used between a part and the vehicle’s structure to change the position of the part. If more than one or two shims are used to make one part align to another, this is a definite indicator that the vehicle’s structure was not properly repaired.

If parts of your vehicle were welded, welds should be neat and clean and should appear as though they are part of the metal. Welded areas should be sanded smooth and properly treated to protect them from corrosion. Replacement parts should be welded in the same places (no more, no less) as the original factory parts. The best quality repair facilities use spot welders much like the spot welders used on the manufacturer’s assembly lines.

Seam sealer should be neatly applied at factory seams and should be a reasonably close match to factory seam sealers in texture and application. Excessive use of caulking and seam sealers may sometimes be hiding a sloppy welding job, or it could be hiding separated panels or structural parts which were not properly welded. Auto manufacturers use a lot of caulk and seam sealer and if it appears to you that the repairman is using even more than the factory, there’s a strong possibility that he’s got something to hide.

When you check on your vehicle’s repair progress, it’s also a good idea to inform the staff that you are not rushing them, but you do want to see exactly what’s being done to your car. Remember that pressure to perform quickly may prompt a technician to cut corners while pressure to perform properly will often get you better results. Another thing to remember when checking back is that as soon as you notice anything leading you to believe that your vehicle is being improperly repaired, contact the body shop manager immediately and confront him or her with the problem.

When your car or truck is in the body shop, one of the main questions on your mind is, “Will the frame be properly repaired”? The answer is, “That depends on who repaired the frame”. No matter who repairs your vehicle, it should not be repaired without the use of a PROPER measuring system. Many shops will have some sort of measuring system; a true QUALITY shop will USE the measuring system. Use of the measuring system helps the technician determine the nature and extent of the damage to your vehicle’s frame. As well, the measuring system assures the technician that he has fully returned the vehicle to factory specifications.

There are many types of measuring systems available to the collision repair industry these days and most all of them will accurately measure a vehicle’s frame and structure. The most modern shops are now using digital measuring systems which will accurately measure your vehicle’s frame and structure, compare the measurements to factory specifications, store the measurements in a database, and print a report of the measurements.

After your vehicle’s frame has been damaged and repaired, you may feel the urge to check the frame out yourself, but maybe you’re not sure what you’re looking for. First, you’ll need to park on a smooth, level surface and wear some old clothes because you’ll have to lie on the ground. Visually inspect the frame (especially near the damage area) for unnatural looking buckles or kinks in the frame rails. Find symmetrically located rivets, bolts, or holes on the bottoms of the frame rails and use them as measuring points that you can access with a measuring tape and measure the “square” formed by the four measuring points. First measure from one “corner” to its opposite “corner” and then measure the distance between the other two corners. If the two measurements are the same, the “square” is square, but if one measurement is longer than another, then the “square” is diamond. Although this test is not guaranteed reliable, it is a good starting point.

You might also check the heights of the measuring points to see if they are consistent from side to side. Don’t panic if the heights are a little bit different as these measurements may vary due to an uneven parking surface, uneven tire pressure, a bent suspension spring, etc.

Remember that even though your vehicle may look good when you pick it up after the repair, there is still a chance it may have a bent frame. An improperly repaired frame can jeopardize the safety of the passengers as well as cause steering problems and excessive tier wear on two of your tires. Also remember that many unibody frame rails can be repaired, but it is very important that LITTLE OR NO HEAT should be used in the process. Excessive heat weakens the high strength steel used in unibody rails, reducing the amount of impact that the rail will absorb in the event of another accident.