A little History

    In 2004 my daughter bought her "dream car" which at the time was a 1998 Dodge Intrepid ES. It was sporty and it was RED. It also had a lot of other good things going for it, like a 3.2 liter 24 valve engine, traction control, leather seats, super sound system, auto stick override transaxle, ----and more ---  . Overall it was a good car. She took very good care of it, always had the oil changed regularly, had all the maintenance done right. Just recently she spent a bunch to have the brakes all redone and a new radiator put in. So the car was well maintained. She did have a run in with a deer in 2008 but that was all repaired, or so we thought.

So when she called me and told me  (both angry and crying at the same time) that her car was ruined, it was not a good day for her. Someone ran a red light and went through the intersection right in front of her. She hit the brakes and then hit the car broadside. Long story short, the airbags did not deploy but the crash was consider a serious accident and the damage that was done and the age of the car made the insurance company decide to consider the car a total loss. They did not want to spend the money to fix it. Instead they told her they would give her a check for what the value of the car was at the time of the accident, which was around $3,000.

Not to long after the accident I went and visited and looked the car over and I thought they were wrong. I repaired my mini van after hitting a deer and that damage was worse than this. Of course I was figuring it as a DIY project in the true instructables spirit. I did not have to pay full dealer price for parts. So I told my daughter to tell the insurance company that we were keeping the car.  I paid her the $300.00 salvage that they wanted and I became the owner of the "rocket car" which is what we used to teasingly call it.

There is a  full cost breakdown of the total cost on the last page. it is fraction of the $3,000 that they said it would cost.

I rented a U Haul car dolly and we towed the car to its new home.  That cost me about $125.00 in rental fees and gas.

I spent another $70.00 to transfer the title and get  license plates. Yes, I was pretty sure it was going to be back on the road again.

We moved the car in the winter, and once it was  parked it sat there waiting for better weather, because one thing I don't have but really need is a garage. And you just can't work on cars outside in the winter in Montana.

Well I finally got around to fixing it and this Instructable will show you how to fix a crashed car for a reasonable cost.

Step 1: First Thing to Do Is to Carefully Dismantel the Damaged Areas.

Take Pictures!!

Take pictures of where stuff goes so you can use them for reference when it is time to put things back together.  Try not to cut any wires, wires can be difficult to splice back together so disconnect them when possible but don't cut them.

Remove the Battery

Make sure to remove the battery. It should be one of the first things you do. If it still has a charge then any of the wires could have power in them. You can't get a shock from them but they can short out and burn up an entire wire harnesses or even set the car on fire. Also, if the battery is still good you need to charge it up right away to keep it from sulfateing. If it sits in an uncharged condition for a length of time it will become nonchargeable and no good. If it is below freezing and the battery does not have a charge then it can freeze and the ice will warp the plates and cause physical damage and short it out permanently.

Get a Repair Manual on your Car

A good repair manual will help you a lot in a project like this. It is a reference for how things are supposed to be and it can have a lot of tips for dismantling and reassembling

Resist the temptation to just hammer things off.  Remove bolts whenever possible and put all of them in a safe place like a coffee can with a lid. As you remove parts you will get a better idea of just how deep the damage goes.

Don't throw parts out until its all finished

Keep track of the damaged parts, make a list if necessary because you will need to get replacements. Make a shopping list and it will be a lot easier when you go looking for parts.  Where will you get parts??? By far the very best place is an auto salvage yard more commonly known as a  junk yard, and this is why its important for you to remove your damaged parts because a lot of times you are going to be getting salvage parts from other cars and you will need to remove the replacement parts unless you want to pay a premium for someone else to do it for you. So make mental notes of what tools you will need and how to get those strange bolts loose and what you will need to do it.

<p>I think that people who are capable and motivated to fix up their own cars are truly commendable. Not everyone is so technically inclined despite their best intents. I personally have trouble swallowing the amount of finance that goes into regularly managing a car at a workshop, but for the safety and reliability of doing so, it's an necessary evil! To those people who are taking care of their cars themselves, kudos!</p>
<p>if you know what parts you need, go get them and use them as a reference to see where and the bolt holes are. They put them in the smallest hardest to get to places.</p>
I feel like you are my fellow kindred autobody repair diy spirit! I am going through almost the exact same repairs on my Toyota truck. Now I know I'm not crazy for using a come-a-long to straighten out the body parts! (I call it my dent time machine.) I'm only about 50% done and I'm happy to have come across this now as I'm sure heeding some of your advice will be saving me time. From my experience I found that the most time consuming (and tedious) part of this project is finding the best deals and correct fit on replacement parts. I want to be holding a wrench not a mouse! All told I will probably be saving around 3K by doing it myself. I know not everyone can find the time to tackle such a project but for me it was well worth it. Thanks for the fun read!
<p>I really enjoyed the depth you went into</p>
<p>please make more- I really enjoy your cantor and the engineering banter! Alot of this I already knew, but honestly this was 100x more entertaining than any magazine I've ever read! a quick trasliteration for the hipsters: &quot;you rocked my socks off&quot;</p>
<p>Great job but I doubt if could sustain in the long run. Well if you only what you are looking for, salvage cars be a good deal but safety might be at risks. See its vin history report if you want to know if it has a salvage title <a href="http://www.vinaudit.com/coupon=JJKL50OFF" rel="nofollow">http://www.vinaudit.com/coupon=JJKL50OFF</a></p>
Hello I have an Audi A6 2005 and I hit a deer on my way to work and it only messed up my side door and mirror and side window the insurance sent me to the Audis dealership shop! And the insurance paid for my rental! For a month now I haven't had my car and they finally called me to pick it up today and when I go there telling me it doesn't want to turn on. I told them that my car never had mechanical problems and they said they didn't have anything to do with that but they did change a few wires in my car that needed it supposedly my question is why are they even messing with my wires or telling me I need a oil change etc if all I did was sent the car to get the door and window and mirror fixed the guy said he spent $400 out of his pocket because he had messed something up which I think he jus messed up the car! Now there saying I have to pay for them messing it up basically because it's not turning on I didn't sign no paper work stating that I told them to tell me if I'm missing anything in my car or to touch any parts of those! They never called me to tell me what was wrong with my car! I'm so fed up it's not fair that I haven't seem my car over a month and when I get it back it doesn't wanna turn on when I drove it to them all beat up and it drives perfectly fine!!! I want it back the same way I took it to them! Can someone please help me out here! Thank you!
<p>Great job! TroyV is correct in why insurance companies often total cars that don't look that bad. Damaged items that aren't first apparent tend to be found along, so the estimate usually ends up a little low. Shop rates have to be taken into account also -- much higher than your labor rate! So yes, you can often repair a car yourself for under what you get from the insurance company, as long as you have the skills and find used parts. Inspect thoroughly -- if it has &quot;frame&quot; damage it's best to leave it alone. If you don't know what I mean it's best that YOU leave it alone... Note that some states will issue a &quot;salvage&quot; title to a car that has been totaled by the insurance company. That will reduce value if you have a wreck or go to sell the car later. Doesn't matter if you're going to drive it for a while, of course, but do take that into account when repairing. </p>
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<p><br> <br>Your article has<br> piqued my interest. This is definitely a thinker's article with great content<br> and interesting viewpoints. I agree in part with a lot of this content. Thank<br> you for sharing this informational material.</p>
<p>&quot;Not to long after the accident I went and visited and looked the car over and I thought they were wrong&quot;. </p><p>Insurance companies do this all day, every day. Now I'm not saying they are always right, but they are rarely wrong. Its the insurance companies job to put the insured back into the same &quot;position&quot; they were prior to the loss, either by repair or monetary (total). So, stating that with the photos you supplied of the damaged vehicle, the estimate with used parts would probably be about $2,600. That is an estimate. Probably hidden damage to the fan shroud, radiator &amp; inner structure. When you decide to retain a totaled vehicle, you take the risk, not the insurance company. Insurance company's don't nilly willy total vehicles on a whim. They are a business, just like any other business. They total vehicles because they need to be totaled, as the damages come close, meet or exceed the ACV (actual cash value) of a specific vehicle. They usually total vehicles because its cheaper to total a vehicle than repair or state law dictates a total. In your case lets say the ACV was $3,000 &amp; lets say the salvage value (value in post loss condition) was $600. If the insurance company totals your vehicle for $3000, they will buy the vehicle from you for that amount. The insurance company then sells the vehicle for $600 with a net loss of $2400. The insurance company is ahead $200 on a total ($2400), than a repair ($2600). BING... and the little light bulb goes on in your head.....</p><p>Simple eh? So in conclusion, the insurance company probably made the correct decision in totaling the vehicle. BTW I worked in the body shop for 20 years &amp; inmsurance 10 years. </p>
<p>It's always interesting when some one quotes you to you. It's one of those &quot;did I say that moments&quot;. I suppose I might have sounded a little presumptuous, for me to say the damage didn't look that bad as opposed to what an expert thought. But I was not trying to second guess the insurance company, they were going to do what they were going to do no matter what my opinion. The fact is I was trying to decide if I wanted to try and do something with the car. I had the option to give it a shot. </p><p>I actually based my opinion on a previous experience. I hit a deer on the interstate in my Chrysler minivan. It made a pretty big mess of it. They say things appear to happen in slow motion when something like that happens. I remember that. I also remember thinking &quot;I didn't know deer could shatter that way.&quot; Then I realized that it was the front of the van I was seeing flying all over. I was able to finish driving it home because the cooling system was still intact and I had one headlight left. But the hood was stuck shut and the front support was pushed back a long way. So it was pretty bad. But it was also an old van. I didn't have collision or comprehensive insurance because it was not worth having it. I had full liability so anyone who's car got damaged in a collision would be covered but the van was not. That insurance would have cost almost as much as it was worth. So I opted to just take the loss if anything happened. </p><p>When I got the van home I pried the hood open and looked through the mess and I wondered what it would take to fix it. So I went to the junk yard and looked at others and decided to give it a try. It was a learning experience and a successful one. I fully repaired the van although now its a Dodge in the back and a Plymouth in the front. When I looked over the car it really didn't look as bad as the van had been. So if I could fix that then I felt confident that I could fix this one. I wasn't trying to say the insurance company was wrong, but rather that I could get a bargain out of the deal by doing my own repairs. </p><p>By the way, thanks for your comment and also welcome to instructables. </p>
<p>Just read your post, as I haven't been on Instructables in a while. You did a pretty job figuring out how to repair a damaged vehicle with limited tools &amp; knowledge of the industry. With that said, your quote of &quot;they (insurance company) were going to do what they were going to do no matter what my opinion.&quot;, may need a little discussion also. </p><p>Insurance companies will take your opinion into consideration at times. It depends on the situation. If the car had a tear-down (taken apart) prior to totaling &amp; the estimate was a tight estimate @, lets say $2400 as in my previous post was $2600. I will ask the owner what they would like to be done with the damaged vehicle. I would ask the owner if they would like a repair or a total. Most of the times the owner will elect for a repair, as they know that car &amp; its history. So, opinions DO matter. I try to do what is always best for all party's involved. </p><p>BTW, nice post!</p>
<p>Love your 'ible. The suggestion about using a piece of 1/4&quot; steel to spread the load when pulling out the frame occurred to me too. I &quot;rescued&quot; my Volvo 740 which suffered a side impact that bent the McPherson strut and displaced the top anchor point (shock tower) by one inch crosswise. Made an attachment yoke which fitted to the mounting studs and used a comealong with an extra pulley and cable to double the effective pulling power, which I estimated.at 4000 lb The opposite wheels of the car almost lifted off, however, the operation was a success!!</p>
Hello, My name is Alek. A little story about my accident. Yesterday i went out with my friend like we always do out of the city to enjoy the serenity of the nature and wild life. We where going east of Calgary Alberta and decited to stop for snacks and smokes. Long story short all the shop were closed and my friend needed to pee. I let him out and was doing doughnuts on the road. I wanted to just scare him a little bit by making it look like that i was leaving him there alone. i was turning to the left and when i tried to break the car kept picking up speed. It jumped onto the side walk beside an unoccupied business space and i knocked out a handycap pole. So in the end i totalled the right wing of my car and basically everything with it, and by everything i mean both front tires, right rim, wing, the signal light, window washing reservoir, possibly power steering box, on top of everything my car was designed so that the engine would drop in case of any accidents so that also means that my transmission is shot too because the gears do not grip onto the flywheel of the engine. so basically my car is done for. the car is not mine it belongs to my mom and my sister i am just their driver ( i just pay for the gas). the cop was nice enough to give me a ticket for speeding in the parking lot and not for drifting. It was a 2008 Mazda Axella (AKA: Mazda 3 sedan) . again the car is not mine but i would really like to restore the car in Legal order. I have almost no money and my family needs a car. please help<br>PS. the right wheel went back and i think the frame is shifted too. i really like the car
<p>Done the same for 40 years, Lucky have not done it the last 15 years. A properly spaced telephone pole, chain type come along (best) and wheel blocks are recommended tools. Nice details</p>
<p>Nice work! I wish I had seen this when I rear ended someone in my little ford escort. I knew it *could* be fixed, but wasn't sure where to start. This might give someone the confidence to give it a shot. </p>
<p>You did a great job! I am reminded of my Dad, who would have tackled a project like this in the same way. </p>
<p>Not a bad instructable, this from a guy who built classic cars to customer spec. Since this is a subframe car and it's tracking right I wouldn't think there was frame damage but even it there was it's a snap to change out since you had the front end apart (twice! Don't worry, we've all been there). </p><p>For my two cents, for a throw away car like this you did pretty well. But I feel I must point out that a proper shop with the right equipment and doing the job right is not going to be cheap. I've done some insurance work and from what I saw 3 grand wasn't bad, really good if it included paint matching and not using pre painted factory replacements. Considering my shop rate was $75 and hour for labor and $85 for fabrication I could eat up 3k in half a week. But I digress, two things that might help you in the future. When you were straightening out the sides of the supports, a body hammer and dolly can make things alot easier and you can get an el cheapo hammer and dolly from Harbor Freight. If you happen to have a hydraulic floor jack that's small or a bottle jack, those can come in really handy as they give you more control and you can jerry rig all manner of clamps to straighten out any kind of bash, even thicker frame metal if you're careful. Speaking of safety, I know the come along is a standby but I cannot stress enough that if you recommend someone use one that they inspect the cable for the slightest bit of fraying, that they pay it out all the way and look for sharp bends and they inspect the detent pin for any sign of deformation. I almost lost both hands helping my dad put in a 351 Cleveland and I've seen steel line cut people in half from snapping. Also, I would also recommend you use pieces of plate steel, 1/4&quot; would be fine, when you're running a bolt through the panel to be pulled and of course washers. If you can get a piece as big as possible you will also reduce the fatigue on the body steel and that makes it less prone to breakage from fatigue. Keep it up and have fun! </p>
<p>Nice instructable and really good job.</p>
<p>Nice instructable here is an instructable I found that could be useful for the paint job!</p><p><a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Paint-your-own-car-for-under-200-or-how-I-learne/" rel="nofollow">https://www.instructables.com/id/Paint-your-own-car-for-under-200-or-how-I-learne/</a></p>
<p>in some poor countries repairing such damage is mandatory, and u should be very cautious the repair shop have the knowledge required. very good tools u used to do the job and thank u for posting this. </p>
<p>They also make a special comb that will straighten the fins out, so if you're short on time or have no patience, you can go find it online or at most auto parts stores.</p>
<p>So you &quot;fixed&quot; a totaled car from a head on collision and never checked the alignment, and the hood was 1/2&quot; off the fender.... no wonder it was &quot;cheap&quot;.</p><p>Wasn't there part where you were bagging the other repairer for not checking all the damage. Also most totaled cars require an inspection + fees to re-register them.</p>
<p>From your profile it looks like you joined mostly so you could comment on this. I am glad you felt motivated enough to do so, we always appreciate input. No ones see's things the same and different points of view are always helpful. I am guessing you are somehow involved in repair work because your comments appear to reflect that experience. </p><p>As to the alignment, I did get it checked. We have a lot of gravel roads here and that is always an issue so not wanting to chew up the tires I did check it. It was still in good alignment and I have since put about 20,000 miles on the car and the tires have shown no unusual wear. I do have a front CV joint going bad now though but that is from miles and not the accident. </p><p>As far as the hood, it has worked its way back to being where it should be. I am guessing all the gravel roads helped with that. Probably not a normal thing but a car is made to flex and likely once the bent parts were removed it went back to its original position. I will likely replace the hood anyway. It was repainted poorly by someone and the paint has been chipping off. So I am keeping an eye out for a better hood and likely when I find one I will repaint the car so it all matches. You have to keep in mind that paint jobs here are not considered as important as they are in other places. Our weather is pretty rough on finishes. In fact a lot of vehicles have paint that is peeling. In the extreme cold the metal shrinks more than the paint does and it literally pops off the metal. Some models are a lot worse for this than others. </p>
I really like it keep up the good work
Outstanding!!!!!! You have done a wonderful job both in the body work, but the instructable as well. Thanks you.
Awesome story with epic photos, like watching a movie. <br> <br>If you dont want to consider the expense and labour of respraying the bonnet, maybe consider vinyl wrap instead. Matt black bonnet with black bumper... might look abit too &quot;Fast and Furious&quot; for your tastes but it should be a lot cheaper than spraying.
Great 'ible! <br><br> <br> <br>I'm a long-time engine tinkerer, so when I saw all that engine exposed after you removed the damaged stuff, my only thought was, &quot;Oh boy! Let's do engine stuff!&quot; My daddy always told me to never let slip an opportunity to get at the engine. <br><br><br> <br>The warped/bent balancer might have been too subtle to see with the naked eye, but with everything open and exposed you likely might have been able to get a straight edge, or some other reference in there for comparison before you went to all the trouble with the radiator. Also, had there been oil seepage there, there wouldn't have been any better time to replace the front seal. Ooh, and what about the timing belt? <br><br><br> <br>Other than that, I'm now giving thought to a little salvage job to get something fun that I otherwise wouldn't. Thanks!
I had not realized that the impact had push things back as far as the balancer. Nothing was close to it when I was taking parts apart. SO it must have pushed everything in and then sprung back. <br>I agree with taking advantage of having things open. I did check all the gaskets and seals for any leaks. I did change the serpentine belts and associated pulleys. Its a way easier thing to do when you have room. In general the engine was/is in excellent shape with no leaks or problems. After I had been driving for a while it did develop a transmission fluid leak. But that came from one of the hoses in the radiator. I cranked it down a little tighter and that fixed it. <br>I have sometimes wondered if mechanics were allowed to give input during the design process if cars would look a lot different. Little things like &quot;do you really think my arm has an extra joint in it that I can reach in there and torque that bolt?&quot; They should put the entire radiator assembly on a sliding support so you could just move it back from the engine and actually get a hand in there when you need to. <br> I have a Dodge minivan and it has a bad oil leak in the main bearing seal between the engine and transmission. To fix that I am going to have to pull the engine out because there is just no room to separate them while in the engine compartment and there is no provision for taking the bearing out of the bottom. A lot of engines allow you to do that but not this one. What were they thinking?
Aack! The review button lied! Sorry about the extra line spaces.
Rebuilt many a crashed car and your documentation is great. Please remove any info that the EPA could use against you, they are a sorry lot.
totally awesome instructable. so many instructables in one. bookmarked it as a favourite. cheers
Nice. Thank you for taking the time. I learned a lot. Particularly the usefulness of a come-along as a must have tool.
Muito bom, é uma bela máquina!
Excellent Job and Instructable. Thanks for sharing.
I loved this instructs me, it was like reading a story, I wish I knew how to do stuff like this. Sally
I have a 1998 jeep that got rear ended. I loved that car but it had a lot of problems I couldn't afford to fix. Insurance gave me $1800 and i managed to fix all the problems and the bumper! a few dents and scratches but nothing major!
This looks very familiar. We had a totaled GEO in 2000, most of the damage was also in the front. The Insurance paid close to $5000, the repair cost me about $1100. The car is still running strong and will turn 20 next year. <br> <br>Stuff like that makes a car part of the family ;)
!!!!! <br>You should probably black-out the license plate numbers, the internet has no shortage of crazies.
Very ambitious project!..Very good job with a lot of patience on your part..
Great documentation and a good read! Tons of pictures and videos too, bravo sir!
Better than a Haynes manual !! <br> <br>I wonder where you can access all the magic numbers, when you straighten the car out ?
lucky daughter !!!!&acirc;€&brvbar; <br>not only does she have a father who wants to make her happy, but he can do ti too &acirc;€&brvbar;and very efficiently !&acirc;€&brvbar; <br>Nice inst' : it tells that basic mechanics can be done by most &acirc;€&brvbar; <br> <br>Beautiful scenery too in the last images &acirc;€&brvbar; <br> <br>Thank you so much !
<strong>Congrats, Vyger!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!</strong>
<strong>Congratulations on FIRST PRIZE ! !</strong><br> <br> But still not featured ? ? ?<br> <br> How does it figure........................................<br> <br> A
Thanks, I was really happy to get that notification from them. There were a lot of good projects in that contest so to come out on the top was really encouraging. <br> <br>Yes, the not being featured thing is a little puzzling. I guess it was just overlooked. They have been pretty busy lately. <br> <br>
great instructable thanks for sharing. Here in Oz insurance company's also own finance company's so what they do is tell you our car is unrepairable and call it a statuary write off which means it cannot be repaired and put back on the road. here is the pittance we are going to give you, which just happens to be the exact same amount for a down payment on an over priced high interest loan on a new car. But its just got a broken headlight! tough it cant be put back on the road! see the photo stat write offs have a yellow sticker on the windscreen <br>
Can the &quot;totaled&quot; cars be exported and sold that way with a new title? <br>If so it could become a pretty lucrative business. What I mean is, a minor bit of damage to a vehicle in another country is not a big deal. So if you could export them to a country where they can do the repairs for a reasonable amount, assign new titles to them and then resell them as damaged but completely repaired vehicles but for a cheap price it could be a big business. And you undercut the people that are trying to cheat you which could be the best reason for doing it.
That's a great idea,The problem is, that Australia, is so far away from everybody and the steering wheel is on the right (wrong) side of the car which limits the country's it can be exported to. NZ wont let them in and cars are cheap there. That pretty much leaves Indonesia, which may be possible, but there is a language barrier and I don't know enough about the place. The cost freight will be the biggest hurdle.

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Bio: The name comes from the First Star Trek movie, that pretty much says it all.
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