Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Another Repair vs. Selling question

Seems there should be a formula created for this question, no?
My 2002 Sebring was hit at about 5-10 mph in a parking lot around 5 years ago; I was moving forward at about 15 mph, and a little old lady drove into my front left wheel (smack dab in the middle). We exchanged details because all that appear wrong was a small crack in my plastic wheel cover - then went on our merry way. About 10 minutes into my drive (just around town), I could tell something was wrong. Well, long story short, my struts and control arm assemblies have both been replaced twice, and nobody can completely align the front end anymore. Now it is time to do it again! The diving board sound i hear when going over the slightest bump in the road is actually frightning - like the whole thing is just going to fall apart. I’ve been told this is very dangerous; my mechanic said he has never seen so much motion in a strut mount before (is that the right way to say it?). I have been quoted about a $1200 for the work (not by a big box tire place like I’ve used before). This guy is reasonably priced, and trustworthy. But seriously, there is clearly something wrong with the frame of the car, if this keeps happening, right? I only have 74,500 miles on it (honest). It seems stupid to have to put $1500 into a car every 2 years just for this problem, doesn’t it? Not to mention the safety factor. But I can’t sell it for anything more than parts in the condition it is in, and I really cannot afford a new car. Thoughts? Suggestions? Ideas on where to go to get the frame straightened out?!

I’m confused. Why isn’t this repair being paid for by the insurance company?

It’s unfortunate that you chose not to pursue this 5 years ago when the accident occured. Unfortunately, the chances of getting the other party’s insurance to accept liability 5 years later is pretty much zero. You can try if you still have the peperwork, by filing a claim adjustment, but you’ve really waited way too long to succeed.

I haet to say it, but I think you’re stuck with this until you can afford to trade it. Sorry.

I’d be inclined to get this car fixed. That fact that the repair is more than the car is worth is not relevant. What matters is what’s the best way to spend the money you can afford to spend. I think the best way is probably to simply get this car repaired. Properly repaired. A proper repair doesn’t need to be re-repaired later.There’s no fundamental reason this car can’t be repaired practically as good as new.

You need to find a shop that specializes in front end work. Front end work requires specialized tools and lots of experience. Usually there is one front-end shop in town all the mechanics recommend to each other. It’s the shop they’d use if it were their car. Ask your friends, relatives, co-workers for their mechanic’s names, then go visit those mechanics (be sure to mentiony our friend’s name who recommended them) and ask them which local front end shop is the best. I think you’ll get a consensus. Then go to that shop, and be sure to mention the mechanic’s names that referred you. You want to make sure everyone understand there’s a chain of recommendations going on. So if they don’t do a good job, or overcharge, etc, you’ll tell the person who recommended them to you, they’ll lose established business, etc. It’s the way of the world I’m talking about here, you need some leverage to get them to quote their best price and deliver good value to you.

And be sure to listen to this past weekend’s CarTalk podcast. There’s a caller with this same problem. She drove her bf’s TransAm over a speedbump too fast, and the car is making a hee-haw sound now as it goes over bumps. Tom and Ray offer-up some good advice.

After 5 years I think you’re clean out of options in regards to the other party. Considering the story and length of time involved it’s possible that an original alignment problem could have morphed into something not even related to the accident and may involve multiple issues.

Maybe some of this prior work was a misdiagnosis on the part of the big box tire store that you refer to.

I could throw wild guesses out there all day long but I think that I’ll just sit this one out on any diagnosis and offer one bit of advice; NEVER assume that any minor incident is harmless.