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 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.