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Can you replace half of a unibody car and it will still be safe?

My 2001 Subaru Outback was recently crushed by ice that fell from a roof at work. It’s a long story, but the short of it is that my insurance will cover damages, and the shop plans to cut off and replace the roof (!), replace the two passenger side doors, replace the rear quarter panel, install a recycled gate (hatch), replace all or part of the roof rack, a new side mirror, and then paint to match or paint the whole thing. I wondered about damage to the frame, then learned about unibody construction. Will this car still be safe after the work is done? Thanks.

Oh, and if you’re interested, you can see photos on my knitting blog, http://knitnzu.com/?p=381 and http://knitnzu.com/?p=382.

From the pictures it’s hard to see why they’d need to cut off the roof, but if that’s what they’re going to do I would not want the car after they are finished with it.

The roof is a major structural component of the vehicle, and I don’t believe you can cut it off and replace it without compromising the structural integrity of the car. I’m not a body repair expert, but if this car were mine I’d sell it or trade it as soon as it came out of the body shop.

It is very possible that the car will be safe afterward. It all depends on how “deep” the damage went.

Subaru uses what they call “ring” construction, which essentially means that the roof of their wagons contains 4 roll bars (one in back of windshield, one in back of drivers seat area, one in back of rear seat area, one in front of rear hatch), that are welded to the chassis in order to provide additional chassis stiffness and to provide protection in the event of a roll-over crash.

When the roof panel is cut away, if there is no indication of damage to any of these rings/roll bars, then the car should be safe. In order to be sure of whether there is damage to these structures or not, you should view them for yourself, so I suggest that you inform the body shop that you want to be summoned to their shop as soon as the roof panel is cut off.

The other parts (roof panel, doors, hatch, roof rack) are not structural, so if the underlying structure is intact with no deformation, the car should be safe after repair.

Thanks so much! They plan to have the roof off tomorrow, noonish, so I can go down and see it (camera in hand of course). The back of the roof was crumpled a bit from the ice, and there looked to be surficial damage along the passenger side. Here’s hoping it didn’t damage the roll bars… it’s the one furthest back I’m concerned about here.

You should be able to buy a 2001 Outback, undamaged, much cheaper than what this repair is going to cost…I bet the weight of all that ice crushed the cars suspension too…

Roof “panel.” The OP didn’t say that. I thought they were cutting the entire roof structure off the car, as in “cut the car in half.” Roof panel is different. That’s just sheet metal.

Since the car is going on 9 years old this is what I’m wondering about.

What is the cost of this repair weighed against the true value of the car?
Here in OK it’s generally if the repair costs meet or exceed 60% of the car’s value they simply total it out.

Properly repaired I don’t think there will be a problem; just wondering why this much effort on a 9 year old Subaru.

My brother had an oak tree that had a trunk that was more than 6 feet in diameter fall on his 1992 Chevrolet 3/4 ton van. The tree hit right behind the driver’s seat amd crushed the top and ruined the side doors. The insurance company called it a total. My brother bought it back from the insurance company, borrowed a hydraulic ram and popped the top back up. He got two side doors from a wrecking yard and got it back on the road. He said that it drives straight and apparently had no frame damage. It doesn’t look the greatest, but it all works. Now I don’t know about a unbody car, but if it seems to track correctly and doesn’t sag in any the the corners, it is probably o.k.

The retail value on the car is $10,150.

Repairs are 63% of car’s value of $10,150 or so. The shop called the insurer to find out to fix or to total. It’s my first new car, and I know its whole history. I doubt I’d get as good a car for the money. But maybe, who knows…