My idiot kid had a near head-on collision in our 2007 Ford Taurus. It just occurred to me it’s a miracle he survived, so I should be happy. The front fender on his passenger side clipped the front passenger side fender of an ONCOMING vehicle! OMG!
We decided to keep the car, if possible because we know its history and we’ve always taken good care of it.
I talked to a small but reputable body shop. Can he make it drivable and safe? I decided to pay out of pocket, not to claim it on my insurance. He said $2500 to replace front fender, door, repaint and make miscellaneous repairs. He said he would “give me a deal.” The bill came out to $2800, but oh well. When we got it back, we took it to the tire shop to get it aligned. (The body shop guy said he doesn’t do alignments.) Tire shop says, "This car can’t be aligned. Bent parts in the steering mechanism, maybe a bent frame. The tire shop mentioned that the front wheel on the collision side is 3/4 inch too far back. That seems kinda bad.
So, we shlep back to the body shop. "Oh gosh, the frame might be bent. Well, we fix bent frames all the time. No problem!) We spend $500 more, take it back to the tire shop. “This car can’t be aligned.”
We shlep back to the body shop. “Gee whiz, the cradle is probably bent. I know where I can get a used one, cheap. I’ll give you a deal on the labor.” $500 more.
Now, we’re back at a different alignment shop - a Midas Muffler shop. “This car can’t be aligned.”
This time I discuss the details with the alignment guy. He says he didn’t need to put it on the alignment rack. A visual inspection of the wheels and wiggling the steering wheel shows him it can’t be aligned. I paid for an additional inspection. The alignment guy showed me the trouble. The main problem seems to involve the bolt that sticks down from the the bottom of the lower ball joint, on the collision side. It’s cockeyed, suggesting that the thing the ball joint connects to (is that the steering knuckle?) is bent.
I’m trying to decide what to do next. I’ve got to decide if the body shop guy is competent and honest. It’s possible he’s been unlucky, signed up for a headache job he wishes he’d never taken.
On the other hand, if the tire shop guys can see the car can’t be aligned, with just a visual inspection, shouldn’t the body shop guy see that, too? And if I can see the lower ball joint is cockeyed on the collision side, shouldn’t that be obvious to the body shop guy?
It seems like the body shop might be replacing parts somewhat haphazardly, hoping it will replace the bent one. Is there a more precise way to diagnose the problem?
Do I talk tough with the body shop guy, mention the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Small Claims Court, and his local reputation? Or do I take a more conciliatory tone? What are reasonable demands at this point?