Sunday, July 21, 2024 Detailed Auto Topics
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An automobile accident can be traumatic, but living with the vehicle after repair does not need to be. Understanding the things to check, before they deliver the vehicle, can head off many problems.

Repairing a wrecked vehicle, to a pre accident condition, is as much an art as a science. Art concerns the outward appearance and science is the mechanical aspect of the damage. Most body shops are very good at the art side, but sometimes miss the mark on the mechanical side. This is understandable as the fields are vastly different. Many times problems are avoided by having a mechanical specialist inspect the vehicle, after a collision.

Post repair mechanical inspection

The average person can walk around a vehicle and easily spot most cosmetic defects. Recognizing paint that is a shade off or a door that is difficult to close is obvious.

Cosmetic problems are easy to spot, not so with mechanical issues

Spotting mechanical problems and potential future issues is not easy. These may be things missed by the collision shop or worse, caused by the repair. After they repair a vehicle, having a trusted mechanical shop inspect it is wise.

This need not be an adversarial relationship with the body shop. Have an understanding, before authorizing repair, that we will inspect the vehicle. Such an understanding prevents hard feelings and may encourage closer attention to detail by the body shop. It is not at all unreasonable, to ask for verification, after spending thousands on collision repair.

Insurance companies will not normally pay such inspections but will cover claims for damage that occurs in the accident. The mechanical shop selected should have no relationship with the body shop or insurance company. Paying for an unbiased evaluation is the point and this is a very small investment.

Hidden collision damage

A mechanical shop will raise the vehicle and closely inspect the underside. Damage under a vehicle is easiest to spot, with it lifted to walk-under height. The shop is looking for things that have shifted and components out of position.

Kinked cooler line can burn up a transmission

For instance, a transmission failure could occur a year or more after repair, caused by a restricted cooler hose. Transmissions and body panels may shift during a collision. Rubber hoses transport fluid to the radiator for cooling. If these or kinked or restricted, the transmission could fail.

Wheel alignment check

Checking dynamic wheel alignment is a wise precaution after a collision. Most tire wear will only be obvious after several months and handling problems may not be noticed right away. Once discovered, it may be too late to have the insurance company or shop pay. Wheel alignment problems also point to a variety of other issues. Wheels, tires and suspension components are also checked for damage.

Air conditioner system leaks

Air conditioner efficiency should be checked on any vehicle damaged in the front. An electronic leak detector may discover slight leaks, which may not have been found until the unit quit cooling. Without inspection, heating system problems may not be found until the next cool weather. Having the system inspected may prevent an unpleasant surprise.

Diagnostic trouble codes

Diagnostic trouble codes may point to pending problemsA full review of diagnostic trouble codes and pending codes can also point to problems. Even if the check engine light is not on, manufacturers’ codes can be in memory. Manufacturers' codes give information on things that may be a problem in the future.  Things such as too much pressure in a transmission or excess fuel trim may be indicated. When these conditions occur, a pending problem may be indicated, even though symptoms are not yet noticed by the driver.

Codes may also be present in the body control module, chassis control module or on the network.  Often these point to pending problems.  Most later model vehicles store a reference to the number of key-cycles, since the code set.  This helps determine if the code occurred before or after the accident.  A list of all codes can be presented to the insurance company, as evidence that problems may still exist. This can save expensive future repairs that should be covered as part of the collision.

Exterior lighting

Verifying the aim of headlights reveals much about the quality of a collision repair.

Aiming headlights is part of any quality collision repair

The better repair shops will have headlight-aiming equipment and know how to use it. Damage to the front of the vehicle will often affect headlamp aim and make driving at night difficult.

All other lights, including turn signals, emergency flashers, brake lights and marker lights need to be checked. A voltage-drop test, of system grounds, is also in order. Ground wires, not properly attached, can cause many preventable problems.

What to do if problems are found

Ask the mechanical inspector what to look for when they resolve the problems and get a list of what is wrong. We should give a copy of this list to the collision repair shop. Sometimes they may wish to sublet these repairs to the mechanical shop. Other times, the collision shop may make the repairs themselves. If we know what to look for, we can save paying for a second inspection.

Trust is great and we should have confidence in people with whom we do business. Verification is simply, added insurance and not a lack of trust. Repairing collision damage is not easy. Having multiple eyes on the job just makes good sense.

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