Am I Getting Ripped Off? (Body Shop - Accident - Alignment)

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?

When a vehicle has uni-body construction such as yours, and it’s been in a severe accident, the first thing you do is check if the uni-body can be aligned.

If it can’t, you don’t proceed with the cosmetic body work.


How did you pay for this repair . . . credit card?

It seems to me, if you pay with a credit card, and don’t get what you paid for, you have some leverage

I’ve never done this myself, but I’ve heard of other people going this route, to get what they paid for, in the end

That is, if the vehicle even has a chance of being repaired

If, by some “lucky” coincidence, the steering knuckle and cradle are bent, but the unibody is not, the first body shop guy have seen this. I’m surprised and disappointed the guy took your money and didn’t see that the car is still buggered up afterwards

It sounds like he shouldn’t have taken on the job in the first place. Either because it’s a way bigger job than he thought it would be. Or he’s simply incapable of fixing the car. But somebody else might be. Hard to say

I don’t mean to sound insulting with my next comment . . . For an accident like this, I would have definitely gotten my insurance company involved. So that they’re in my corner, if things go wrong

If nothing else, keep that in mind, if there ever is another accident. Hopefully, there won’t be

Oncoming cars and passenger side fenders hit. Was someone on the wrong side of the road and what about the other car. This sounds like a lawyers dream.

This stuff happens in insurance. They realize there are more repairs then anticipated and the insurance company simply pays out more. Unfortunately you are the paying insurance company and took on the risk of this extensive body and now frame repair.

The best you can do is get it driveable and trade it in if it eats tires. At least the accident is not reported to carfax for a dealer to check up on.

In reply to Volvo V70 – The other driver was not injured. My kid says he fell asleep at the wheel. Maybe both cars slowed down before the collision. My kid was not cited, as far as i know. Can’t imagine why not.

This “Body Shop” sounds like a third-string back-yard shade-tree operation…Take it to a Ford Dealers body shop, tell them your tale of woe get an estimate for a proper repair, including an alignment, and make a decision as to whether to fix it or not…Get as much money as you can back from the first “Body Shop”…

Considering the type of impact and without even seeing the damage my opinion would have been that the car has some serious structural issues. It doesn’t take much of an impact to buckle floor pans, tweak subframes, bend suspension components and so therefore I agree with Tester.

I would also imagine that if you get into the suspension you’re going to find far more wrong with it than a bad ball joint.

Odds are if this had been handled by your insurance company they would have declared the car a total and sent you on your way with a check and the 4-wheeled headache to the crusher.

As to what to do at this point, I would hate to even say. Your son wrecked the car (thankfully without killing himself or anyone else), you chose to bypass the insurance company, and chose a body shop that apparently is not even equipped to do a basic wheel alignment.
Sometimes penny-pinching comes back to bite you.

There is also one other issue that has not reared its head yet and that is whether or not the other party may have suffered injuries and could possibly bring a lawsuit. I don’t know what state you’re in but most states have about a 2 year statute of limitations. Hopefully this will not happen.

Reasonable demands? Okay, here goes…

  1. your son should demand that you stop referring to him as an idiot, especially in public.
  2. your family should demand that you at least PRETEND to care about him.
  3. your insurance company should cancel you for failing to report a serious accident. I won’t even bother asking why. I can guess.
  4. the state should cancel your license for hiding a serious accident.

As regards the car, if you’d reported the crash to your insurance it would have been assessed and handled properly and repaired or, in not economically reasonable, totaled.

In short, you’re trying to hide this accident and now you want to use the state agencies to help you force whatever you want out of the repair shops?

Sorry, but you clearly have a very serious attitude problem. The car, well, from the sound of it the repairs would cost more than the value of the car. That’s the easy part. The hard part will be learning honesty and learning to care about others.

I never respond in this manner, but I cannot ignore a person verbally abusing his family in public forums. I also do not enable dishonesty. I cannot ignore this, so I’ve spoken my mind. And how about the owner of the car your son hit? If you’re not reporting this to your insurance, how do you plan to make him “whole”? Or do you just plan to “blow him off” hoping he doesn’t report this?

How is he trying to hide it? Its his choice to make a claim on his own car or not. My insurance adjuster told me I had 24 hours to decide if I wanted to proceed with a claim after he assessed the damage. They knew full well there had been an accident. If I withdrew my claim, it was on my dime. Of course I owned the vehicle outright but those details are not given here. I think you might be jumping the gun…

What disturbs me most about the original post is going onto a public forum and referring to your kid as an idiot and that the OP “should be happy” that the kid survived.
The OP should be dancing in the streets that the car is the only thing damaged.

Some years ago my oldest son was a college student and working a job. On his way home one night in miserable snowy and freezing rain conditions his car slid into a creek on a deserted highway and sunk to the door handles. Luckily the electric windows worked and he managed to wade out of icy freezing water. Not for one second did I think that he was an idiot over this; I was just glad that he was alive and uninjured.

TwinTurbo: “How is he trying to hide it? …” [he’s merely not filing a claim]

My insurance policy requires you to report accidents, even if you do not file a claim. Of course, I do not know if that is the case w/ OP, but I suspect the policy language is pretty common.

As pointed out earlier, what happened to the other car?

Who is paying for that?

There are many unanswered questions . . .

db4690 Senior Grease Monkey

12:25PM edited 12:26PM

"As pointed out earlier, what happened to the other car?

Who is paying for that?

There are many unanswered questions . . . "

As always there are variations from state to state. In mine if damages to your vehicle exceed $1500 you are required to file an accident report with DMV within 72 hours. Failure to file a required report may result in fines and/or suspension of driving privileges. If the OP reported the accident to their insurance carrier and were given the option of not filing a claim against their collision policy they will only suffer monetary loss for their vehicle. If the other involved driver’s claim is a surprise for OP’s insurance carrier things will be very different and I would not want to be the OP. Agreed. There are far to many unanswered questions.

Agree with Sarge. The rules will vary from state to state and policy to policy. In Minnesota you need to file a state accident report within a limited amount of time if damages are over something like $1500 or an injury results. Not a clue whether or not I would need to inform my agent but I was told once that “if you have a fender bender and wake me up I’ll kill you, but if you have an injury and don’t wake me up I’ll kill you”. They’ve always been in the loop except for a couple times where it made no difference at all. They’re paid to represent and protect me as part of the premium, not just repair the car.

At any rate, the only thing that bothers me a little is how a teenager fell asleep at the wheel. I guess it just wasn’t something in my DNA to fall asleep unless there were other circumstances. Now that you’re into the whole thing that far, there’s not much else to do except follow what Caddy said and get a full report on what now needs to be done. Then decide whether to keep putting more money into it or cut your losses and dump the car. Vehicle losses are at least deductible on taxes.

The same mountain bike wrote:

Reasonable demands? Okay, here goes…

1) your son should demand that you stop referring to him as an idiot, especially in public.

You’re probably right.

2) your family should demand that you at least PRETEND to care about him.

Misguided sarcasm that flies past its target and lands in some random location.

3) your insurance company should cancel you for failing to report a serious accident. I won't even bother asking why. I can guess.

Failed mind reading. The police came to the scene of the accident and investigated. There was a police report. I decided to pay for the repairs myself because I knew the insurance company would declare the car totaled. I thought it was worth saving. It’s a legitimate body shop that has a good reputation. In business for 25 years, same owner. Many high end cars in the bays, getting major repairs.

The body shop assured it could be repaired, for $2500. The damage didn’t look that bad. Mostly a crumpled fender and a bent door. $2500 is a bit more than the insurance company would pay, but it was a good car. I thought that fixing it out of pocket would be cheaper than replacing it with an equally good car. I also thought that the insurance company would raise my rates if I made a claim for the damages. I told my adjustor I preferred to pay for the repairs myself. That was fine with her.

It never occurred to me that the body shop would fail to fix it properly. I’ve spent about $3400 so far. If the car were actually fixed, $3400 would be an acceptable price, though more than I wanted to pay.

That’s why I’m trying to figure out how this job went so wrong.

This mess is turning out badly for me. Does that cheer you up, same mountain bike?

4) the state should cancel your license for hiding a serious accident.

See item 3.

I’m new to Seems like a harsh place, so far. There was no need for so many people to jump to such nasty conclusions about me.

ok4450 wrote:

There is also one other issue that has not reared its head yet and that is whether or not the other party may have suffered injuries and could possibly bring a lawsuit. I don't know what state you're in but most states have about a 2 year statute of limitations. Hopefully this will not happen.

We have insurance. The accident was properly reported to the police and both insurance companies.

Several people have reacted to “I guess I should be happy,” as if I don’t love my son. I have been annoyed with him, for good reasons, which I have not mentioned.

Now everyone is piling on. I meant, “My idiot son,” in the sense that Ray might have said, “My idiot brother,” about Tom, or vice versa. My son would understand that. He likes Car Talk, and he has a sense of humor.

“I guess I should be happy,” was a poor choice of words. As I was typing my original message, it struck me that I’ve been too stressed out about the headaches and expense, and haven’t given enough thought to what might have happened to my son. I didn’t find out about the accident for several days after it happened, when I viewed the damage to the car, by chance. That got me off on the wrong foot.

Your son actively tried to hide the accident . . . or he merely failed to mention it, and you saw it, before he “had a chance” to tell you

Actually, that sounds like something a teenager would do . . . mess up, and be scared to tell his parents about it

With the wheel pushed back 3/4 of an inch I would suspect that the control arm, sway bar, strut, and possibly the steering knuckle/wheel bearing is likely damaged to some extent and worse; possibly a tweaked strut tower.

The strut tower is the fixed part of the floor pan/chassis and any distortion is that generally means a good enough reason to scrap the car.
Sometimes that can be determined by eyeballing the tower and surrounding area very closely for cracked paint if it’s bad enough.

The body shop not noticing the wheel offset would really make me question their competency and the assumption should be made then and there that the car may have very serious issues underneath which makes any repair at all unjustifiable.

Why they would hand the car back, when it’s so obvious their job wasn’t done, is quite beyond me