9817 E Burnside St Portland, OR 97216     Ph. 503.255.2921     Fax 503.252.3344

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The Frame’s Bent; Is It A Total Loss?

There were two things you could count on when Uncle Charlie came to visit; him crawling on the floor to show how his ’72 Galaxy would “dog track” after a wreck and his chasing you around with his glass eye…in the palm of his hand.

Uncle Charlie was hilarious on his hands and knees swinging his rear end around, but frame damage on your car isn’t something to laugh at. However that doesn’t mean that it’s a total loss either.

“If the frame’s bent, it’s a total” is an “old wives’ tale,” as long as your auto body shop has the know-how and equipment, like the experts at Portland’s International Collision Repair.

Things have changed since Uncle Charlie’s accident; both the cars and the auto body repair shops.

Your car probably doesn’t have an actual “frame.” Full-framed cars were phased out in the 1980’s and replaced by “unibody” vehicles. On older cars, the body was bolted down to a heavy, rigid, steel-rail structure, similar in appearance to a ladder. That was the car’s “frame.”

For many of the old shops, frames were difficult to repair and admittedly, sometimes the results weren’t pretty. They’d heat on it and beat on it to at least give the appearance it was fixed. They’d chain it down and then push, pull, sweat and swear until the body parts appeared to fit.

If it “eye-balled” okay and was “close enough” with a tape measure, they called it “good.” But sometimes the rear end wanted to go southwest while the front of the car would go south. That’s “dog tracking,” and that’s one sign that a frame might not be repaired properly.

In defense of the old body men, they did the best they could with the technology at the time. Think of it like doctors using only leeches and hot water. There’s only so much you could do.

With today’s “unibody” construction, heavy frame rails have been replaced with multiple layers of sheet metal built into the car’s body. The lighter weight design also incorporates “crumple zones” that absorb an impact instead of transferring it to the car’s occupants.

Modern auto body repair shops (have I mentioned Portland’s International Collision Repair?) use state-of-the-art, computerized laser measurement systems that compare the specs of a damaged car to those of an undamaged car, showing the exact location and extent of the damage. The days of fixing cars using only tape measures and “eye balling” are long gone

A well-equipped auto body shop can repair unibody and frame damage to not only have the same appearance, but more importantly, the same structural integrity as it had before. In another accident, every part needs to do exactly what it was designed to do; your car needs to be safe.

A straight frame and unibody is the starting point for you car’s drivability as well. With the suspension, steering, drive train and other systems attached or directly related to the unibody, it has to be straight. It has to be right.

Be careful of any shop that can’t provide you with a “before & after” print-out of your car’s measurements. It could mean that they’re under-equipped and probably under-trained. You could have a “dog tracking” story of your own to tell.

As always, if there’s anything we can do for you or your car, please give John or Marty a call at International Collision Repair at 503.255.2921.

Really, you’ve got to admit; Uncle Charlie’s glass eye thing was pretty cool. Huh?

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The Pole Jumped Out And Got Me!

That pole in the parking lot jumped out and snagged your fender while you were backing up. (Maybe that’s not exactly the way it happened.) You might not be a body man, but you know enough to know that your car needs a new fender.

You swing by your favorite auto body shop (Yes! ICR! International Collision Repair!) and get an estimate. The bottom line of the estimate prompts you to start going through your pockets looking for nitroglycerine pills…and you’ve never even taken nitroglycerine pills.

Here are a few reasons the estimate is so much higher than you thought it would be;

  • More Damages – It does need a new fender. But the estimator also saw that your bumper cover was torn, the headlamp is cracked, the fender liner is squashed and your wheel is scraped. Experienced, professional estimators look beyond the obvious and attempt to access all of the damage. They know what to look for and what it will take to put your car back together before the pole got it.
  • Blend Panels – Chances are that if the shop installed and painted just the new fender, it would stick out like a “sore thumb.” Their goal is to repair the car in a way that it won’t look like it’s been repaired. A shiny, newly-painted fender adjacent to the five year old paint on the door or the hood is a dead giveaway. To get around that, the shop will often estimate blending the paint into the adjacent panels to lessen the appearance of new paint next to old paint.
  • R&Is – “R&I” stands for “remove and install.” Sometimes the auto body shop will have to remove a part or parts to do the job properly. You’ll often see it on estimates where blending the paint is needed. On a door, the mirror, handle, lock cylinder, trim panel and other pieces should come off before blending. Very few parts can be “masked off” without leaving ugly tape edges that could eventually peel.

Keep in mind the possibility of hidden damages. It’s not unusual that after damaged parts are removed, additional damage is discovered. Even the best estimators can only really estimate what they can see.

If you have an estimate that’s increased your blood pressure, stop by ICR, International Collision Repair. They’ll be glad to take the time to explain it to you and even discuss alternative ways of repair that might save some money. Doesn’t hurt to ask!

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Hidden Damage: What The Auto Body Shop Can’t Tell You

Mrs. Hanson, a nice elderly woman, bumped into your back bumper.

After admitting that she looked down for a moment, she was terribly embarrassed and very apologetic. She doesn’t want to go through her insurance company because “they might still be upset about that expensive ‘fender bender’ last year.”

And your bumper doesn’t look THAT bad.

She asked that you get an estimate from your favorite auto body shop (what a surprise! International Collision Repair!) She assured you that she would gladly pay the amount of the estimate.

Sounds easy enough; quick, no hassles, no insurance paperwork, your car gets fixed and Mrs. Hanson’s insurance company won’t raise her premiums.

A word of warning: BE CAREFUL.

We know that Mrs. Hanson wants to “make it right” after the accident and you don’t want to “stick her” with higher premiums. You just want your car fixed, right?

What we DON’T KNOW though is how much it’ll cost to fix your car when all is said and done.

An “estimate” is often only a starting point. Even experienced estimators like those at International Collision Repair can only “estimate” what they can see. They might suspect more damage underneath, but won’t know for sure until all the damaged parts are removed to reveal what’s going on inside. Body shops call this part of the process the “tear down.”

Let’s look at your bumper assembly; it includes the painted cover, usually the only part that is visible, as well as absorbers, reinforcements, assorted brackets, guides, clips, retainers and more.

With all those hidden parts, it’s not unusual to discover a bent bracket, broken clip or something else. Additional damages mean additional money.

So if Mrs. Hanson gave you a check for $700, the amount of the shop’s original estimate, and now the shop has called to tell you that they discovered another $350 in “hidden damages,” things could get a little “sticky” with Mrs. Hanson.

Had an insurance company been involved from the beginning, it’d be a different story. They realize that you can’t estimate what you can’t see and that it’s not unusual to discover additional damaged items. They know that often the “Final Bill” is different from the “Original Estimate.”

Depending on the type of working relationship between the auto body shop and the insurance company, an adjuster will often authorize additional repairs over the phone or email and the shop then completes the work.

A word of caution; be wary of any shop that offers to write a “worst case” estimate. If they’re willing to “fudge” the estimate, what would they be willing to do to your car?

At International Collision Repair we understand the repair process and are happy to explain your options to you. Stop by ICR any time with your car, an insurance estimate and even another shop’s estimate and we’ll be glad to go over them with you.

We can make the process a bit less painful for both you and Mrs. Hanson.

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