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Frame Maintenance

Recently I was involved in a collision. The front end of my car was damaged and I was told the frame is bent beyond repair. My insurance company deemed it a “total loss” which, upon further questioning I learned meant that it was too expensive to repair based on the value of the car. I am interested in hearing from mechanics about the possibility of frame repair and the attendant safety issues involved if I were to spend the money to repair the car. The engine was not damaged at all. It is a 98 Toyota Rav 4 and I love it.

It wouldn’t take much of a collision to total out a ‘98 Rav 4 based on most insurance companies’ formulas.

A good shop with skilled technicians and the proper equipment can fix almost anything to almost like-new condition, but you can buy another identical vehicle for less.

Unibody’s can be repaired however success rates varies.

Do you really want your vehicle back after it has seen this machine and has been disassembled this much? Lastly your vehicle older and taking it apart will likely damage/wear brittle parts due to age.

Yes. I wondered about that insurance company assessment. But would it be safe?

I don’t know if I can find another vehicle with such low-tech appointments: no power windows, manual transmission, no power locks. All of which I dearly love.

I was told it would cost $5500 to repair. Seem reasonable?

Thank you so much for your reply.

Thank you for your reply. Yes. Brittle parts and rusty parts, too. Oh, I’m sad.

The RAV-4, like most other compact vehicles is of unitized construction, and as a result, it does not have a frame. This means that the vehicle has a very heavy floor pan which is welded to all of other high-strength components–firewall, door frames, crossmembers, etc. As a whole, they form a very strong structure.

The problems with straightening a unitized vehicle’s underlying structures are twofold:

*It is very difficult to ensure that the impacted structure will be “stretched” back to the exact, precise original shape that is required for all of the parts of the untized structure to conform to each other in the original fashion. If you want to see a graphic, albeit very simplified, example of what I am talking about, crush an aluminum can, and then try to get it back to its original shape without any evidence of the damage that had been done to it.

*Once the “crush zones” of a vehicle have been deformed by impact, they are weakened to some extent, and the rate at which they will absorb impact in the next crash is not predictable. If you want a vehicle to have the passenger impact protection that was carefully designed into it by the engineers, you DO NOT want a unitized vehicle that has been stretched back into shape.

ADDENDUM: Now that you have told us of the rust-damaged parts on your vehicle, I have to say that it absolutely would not be safe in a subsequent crash if you attempt to have the unitized structure stretched back into shape.

i Ask Us For Advice On Getting The Largest Settlement. (2.) Hang Your License Plate(s) On A Different Rav 4. (3.) Fall In Love All Over Again.[/i]

Without at least photos or some idea as to the estimated damage as written, people would only be making wild-a guesses. Since this vehicle is 10-11 years old, this would be a good exit point from an owner’s standpoint.

You probably could have it looked at by body shops who may be interested in “contracting” a repair for you, should you be able to “cash out” a settlement and buy the “salvage”.

Saying good-bye to a friend is never easy, but since this vehicle is 10-11 years old, this would be a good exit point from an owner’s standpoint. Buy one without a bent body/frame.

Rest assured, your RAV-4 will be sold at auction as a salvage vehicle and carted off and repaired by the automotive underground for a fraction of the mainstream repair estimate. It will be sold for a little more that half it’s “blue-book” value to someone who does not speak very good English or loaded into a container and shipped off to a 3rd world country… Did the airbags deploy? That almost guarantees the car being “totaled”. In Mexico or Guatemala, nobody cares about air bags…

That is actually what I was about to write. If the insurance company is totaling out the vehicle then they will probably take it as well.

I feel the OP’s pain for wanting a low tech vehicle. Keep looking, you will find one. They may be harder to find, but for someone with a manual everything vehicle, they are also harder to sell.

I’ve driven some of these vehicles that had been totalled and then “repaired” by the automotive underground. It won’t necessarily be sold to a third wordl country. We have a shop up here that has a lot full of these that he “repairs” and resells. Test driving cars from his shop is an experience that’s almost hellucinagenic. The vehicles seem to have minds of their own, they wander everywhere in every axis, and whether they’ll stop or not when you hit the brakes is always a question.

Properly done by skilled technicians on a good frame straighetener many vehicles can be salvaged. But the process is way too costly for an 11 year old Rav 4.

When the car is put back together, some electric stuff won’t work or the wires will be left hanging until the owner fixes it himself. Too much like work.