Bent Frame


I’ll try to keep this as simple as I can. My son has a 2003 Mazda Speed Protege Turbo 2003.5. A truck pulled out in front of him and damaged the front driver side of the car. A mechanic looked at it and found that the frame has been bent and pushed in 2 inches. The total cost, according to the

mechanic to fix everything is over $10,000. The other persons insurance company says they can do it for roughly $8000 and unbend the frame. My question is whether this (frame unbending) will work for a frame that has been pushed in 2 inches and will the car ever drive the same. Especially with such a badly bent frame. I was told (by the other insurance company) that the Mazda has a “double” frame type structure and because of this the frame is fixable. I have heard from many people who have had

a simular problem that their front ends were never the same.


Very few cars have “frames” these days. Most cars, including the Mazda Protege, are of “unibody” construction, which means the body and the frame are all one piece. There may be a front “sub frame,” which is replaceable, but the main structure of the car is still its unibody, not a separate frame.

In my opinion, once a unibody is substantially bent, it will never be “the same.” It may be straightened to “within specifications,” but it will never be as strong as it was when new, or exactly the same shape.

Think of any metal object you own, large or small. A frying pan. A metal sculpture. A soup can. Can you subject any of these to a large impact and then bend it back into EXACTLY the shape it was before the impact? No, of course you can’t. It’s no different with an automobile.


Mcparadise is 100% correct. That car has unibody construction, as do almost all cars today. While body shops do have equipment that can “stretch” a unibody back into its original shape (at least in theory), as was said, if it has sustained significant damage it will never be EXACTLY the same as it was originally.

For example, wheel alignment relies on extremely precise positioning of the related components, and even a slight difference in the shape of the unibody in that area is problematic. If it has sustained significant damage, doing an accurate wheel alignment on this car would be difficult and would likely require a technician to spend a lot of extra time and effort in order to do it properly. Many technicians may not be willing to spend the extra time needed, thus you would wind up with bad handling and poor tire wear.

And, as was also said, the structure will not react the same way to impact as it did originally–ergo–the car will not be as safe in the event of another accident.


The larger question then becomes, does it matter if it’s not exactly the same shape as before the damage. That’s a hotly debated topic! It takes some repetitive bending to work harden sheet metal. Of course, a channel with a bend feature is designed that way for strength and a deformation in it perpendicular to the direction of the rib/bend is going to lessen its strength. But when does that constitute a safety hazard? I’ll go out on a limb and say that the vast majority of minor->moderate unibody damage that is properly repaired is not compromised enough to worry about it. If it was, none of these type of repairs would be done today- the shops would have been sued out of existence long ago.

One thing is certain, it will never be the same. Properly repaired, you will never know the difference driving it and in the event of an accident, will not compromise the safety of the occupants. The operative wording is PROPERLY REPAIRED. This is where a reputable body shop is worth the extra money.


A 5 year old low end car like a Protege suffering either 8 or 10 grand in damage should be considered a total wreck and scrapped.
In OK if the repair costs meet or exceed 60% of the vehicle value the car is considered wiped, although some may be repairable. (for what that’s worth)

What I’m having a problem with is why anyone is even considering spending 8 grand repairing a car that is not even worth that much to begin with???
I would split the difference by telling them to give you 9 grand and they can have the wreck. If they won’t cooperate, then you might be surprised at how much the development of headaches and neck pains within the 2 year statute of limitations can affect their decision. :slight_smile:


While the other posters are correct about the facts of unibody construction, I’m going to respectfully disagree that the car can’t be repaired satisfactorily.

Because the hit was in the front, beyond where the car’s unibody shell exists (where the front subframe is the structural member), it’s possible that the shell of the car is fine and the only damage occurred to the front subframe.

Here is a pretty good method for “eye-balling” unibody damage: look at the gaps around the doors, particularly at the rear section of the door. If you see larger gaps at the rear of the doors, or if the doors look out of alignment, or [especially] if the doors do not open or close correctly, it’s a safe bet that the shell has buckled at some point and THAT is a nasty bit to repair.

You can straighten or replace a subframe pretty easily. You can straighten a unibody that is just a little “tweaked”. If the front subframe is 2 inches out of square, I don’t think that’s unreasonable to fix. If that 2 inches is coming from unibody damage, I would say that’s unreasonable and has probably compromised the structure of the car.

The Mazda Speed cars are very cool, and actually kind of rare, so it would be a shame to see it go to the crusher, but it IS kind of a crapshoot when you get in to the “is it repairable” arena. 2" is quite a bit to be out, but I don’t think it’s impossible (would be nice to know the difference between the 8000 and 10000 dollar estimates.)


You make a good point. I’d be interested to hear what the blue book is on the car and if the insurance has weighed in yet.


I had forgotten this car was a Mazda Speed so it is worth more than the ho-hum variety of Protege.
Still, the guide shows the clean trade-in value (which is what the ins. co. would probably use) at a shade over 10 grand.

It makes no sense to me to spend either 8 or 10 grand on the car since this amount is near the value of the vehicle before it was wrecked.

I agree that it can be fixed but the 2 problem areas might be in trying to sell the car later and getting much out of it or the fact that it could be repaired and problems still linger or may crop up later.
In OK anyway, that car would be crusher bait.


Crush a beer can. Try to make it “perfect” again, just like new. Good Luck.

$8000 is simply too much damage to repair on ANY car, even one worth $25,000.

That said, rebuilding these wrecks is a major industry in this country and MOST of them turn out satisfactorily.


A guy I work with bent the frame on a chevy 2500HD 4x4. The insurance company paid over 18k to have the frame replaced instead of totaling the truck. Even if it only saves the insurance company 1k, they will do it.


I believe you Loafer but I find that type of corporate attitude incredible! Rocketman


That doesn’t surprise me one bit. Sometimes, it’s hard to envision why things make sense when viewed from the ONE side. Some people go their entire lives without having an accident, let alone a major one. When it does happen, it’s a big deal and rightly so. Now look at it from GEICO’s perspective as one example. How many major wrecks do you think their customers have on a given day? 10? 100? More? Let’s say 100 people across the US that are GEICO customers have this type of accident. What company wouldn’t want to save $100,000 A DAY??? Heck, if they could shave $100 off the costs, that would still be some righteous change. VOLUME makes all the difference when it comes to costs…