Rise of the Phoenix: Part 4 – The Repair Process – Tear Down & Structural Repairs

We’ve settled with the insurance company & decided to rebuild. Or, the vehicle was repairable to begin with. Either way, the next step (or should be) is to do a “Tear Down.” A tear down is simply taking the damaged parts off the car to see if there is any hidden damage. Additional structural damage or additional parts that need to be replaced. An accurate list of everything, especially parts wise, that the car needs to be repaired correctly. An accurate tear down is vitally important if the shop, or repairer, whats to avoid the dreaded “Oh Crap! We’re almost done putting the car back together, but we need this one part and can’t go any further without it. Now we have to order it & hope it’s not on back order so we can finish the car tomorrow, or the day after, instead of having it done today like we, or the customer wanted.

This process should not be rushed. If it is, then the above “Oh Crap” moment will likely occur. If the body man & estimator/production manager handling the file work together and take the time to make sure every part & clip needed for the repairs are on the list, then the back end, or rebuild process will go much smoother, saving time & frustration for everybody.

Here’s a picture of my car after a partial tear down.DSC01808

I say “partial” because you can still see the cooling assy is still in place, as is the hood latch & front bumper reinforcement bar. After the tear down list is complete, it’s now time to add the additional items to the repair estimate using the software shown in the last post. The estimator will first “lock” or “commit” the original estimate BEFORE adding the additional items found during the tear down. The main reason for this is, if the repairs are going thru  insurance, then likely the insurance company has already issued a check for the original amount of the estimate to either the owner, or the repair shop. Once the original estimate is locked/committed, and the additional items are added to the estimate, the software identifies these new items as “supplemental” repair lines. They are added to the estimate as a whole, but can be separated out in a supplemental report to help keep the money straight.

For example, lets say we have $3000 on our original estimate & after tear down we find an additional $500 in hidden damages, and are added to the original estimate as a supplement. At this point the estimator can contact the insurance company, or owner paying out of pocket, and easily show the new items & the costs involved in covering these additional repairs. As you can imagine, an owner paying out of pocket will be very interested in exactly why he’s having to cough up yet another $500 for repairs. If the estimator did his job in explaining the process to the owner, the owner will be expecting this call, vs the estimator trying to assure the vehicle owner that the car really does need this additional work for correct repairs & that he is not trying to rip him off by adding another $500 out of the blue.

Body shops in general have an undeserved bad reputation as being “rip off artists” or always “padding the repair bill” because they simply fail to explain the tear down & supplemental process to vehicle owners. Again, a little extra time up front saves a whole lot of headache on the back end. Insurance companies already know the process, but are just as keen as to why they are spending more money on repairs. A supplement report easily does this for them.

Now that the supplement parts are now ordered and on their way, the actual repairs can finally begin. The next step is addressing any structural damage. On my car, it was the Upper Tie Bar & Side Supports. During the second video of the last post you can see some additional pictures I use as reference in putting together the estimate. Like I discussed, the front inner structure needs to be realigned before we can cut out the old damaged parts. DSC00807To do this, the tech will use some sort of frame machine to accomplish this step. DSC00805You can see the chains attached to the upper tie bar and pulls being made. DSC00804

The tech will pull from several different points to assure that everything is lined up properly. You’ll notice the new hood is already on the car & is being used as a reference during pulls to make sure all the body panel gaps are where they should be.DSC00805

Tah-Dah! Pulls are complete & everything lines up nicely!DSC00809Now it’s time to cut out the damaged inner structure…DSC00812

The tech will come back and get the horns & the hood prop off this old piece when he’s ready for the rebuild. So here she is, fully exposed. Ready & waiting for the new inner structure she’d been promised. DSC00813So now that we have a clean & square platform to weld the new inner structure to, it’s now time to get some other parts for reference, the headlights. Instead of ordering the entire core support & cutting off the lower tie bar as I discussed in the part 2 video, they opted to get the upper tie bar and the side supports separate, which was more work for the tech, but saved me a little money. So the tech needed the headlights to make sure everything lined up correctly before doing any actual welding. Here you can see he was using some pinch grips to hold the structural parts in place with the headlights bolted in as he made minor adjustments to line everything up correctly.DSC00815Once the everything is just right, the welds are done. Then it’s time for the next step, Jambing the inner structure. This step requires the “Preppers” (painters assistants) to get the car ready. This involves sanding down the structural pieces, cleaning them. pulling back all wires & hoses or anything else that may be in the way (anything bolt on that is in the way will have been removed) & finally masking the engine bay for overspray. DSC00818

The painter shoots the structure with a low air pressure gun so as not to blow material all over the place. Most shops do not shoot the inner structure inside a spray booth as in the majority of cases it is not needed. Plus the finish on the inner structure is not nearly as important as on the outer panels. Jambing is usually done at the end of the work day so it can dry overnight. DSC00817And there you have it! Now all that’s left are exterior panel repairs, paint & reassembly! I’ll cover these last steps in the last part of this little mini series.DSC00819

Some cars really are total losses, regardless of how much they are worth. These cars are called “Structural Total Losses”.  Meaning they should NOT be rebuilt. I bring this up because I recently saw one at CoPart this week. Take a look at this 2nd Gen TL!DSC02283

Holy stretched wheelbase Batman!DSC02284DSC02285DSC02286DSC02287

I have no idea what happened to her, but I sure am glad that I wasn’t anywhere near this thing when it did! Be safe out there people! See you again in a few days for the next segment! Thanks for stopping by!








About clymerdude

A Property Damage Appraiser in the State of Idaho.
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6 Responses to Rise of the Phoenix: Part 4 – The Repair Process – Tear Down & Structural Repairs

  1. tysonhugie says:

    Coming together nicely!! The “chain” technique would be tough for me to watch, not sure why. Haha.

  2. Eric E says:

    I can’t even imagine how the TL ended up like that!

  3. Carlos says:

    The second picture from the top shows the car with the hood closed. The outside is black. Is the whole hood brand new or was it the old hood sanded down?

  4. clymerdude says:

    There you are Carlos! (I was expecting a lot more comments & questions from you during this series). Good question. You are looking at the new hood. Typically the painter will jamb everything at once so he only has to clean his gun once. But apparently, the painter was bored & decided to jamb the hood earlier than normal in the repair process. Good eye!

  5. Carlos says:

    Lol. Sorry for late response. I took some time off recently but I am back now. I also noticed in that second picture that in the background to the right, there appears to be a Datzun 240 or 260z waiting for repairs. I sat in one one those cars a couple of times. Really nice instrument panels with separate pods for tach, speedometer, fuel gauge, and temperature gauge.

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