How safe is my car after an accident?

by Tom Zoebelein - Fri, Aug 9, 2013 4:05 PM

How safe is my car after the accident?

You just got your car back from the shop,  the paint looks great, the car smells good, and in most cases it looks even better than before it was in the accident.  But how safe is it now?

A lot of people feel that a car can not be safe after an accident repair and many people will trade the car in for a new one after an accident, regardless of whether they loose money in the deal or not. The few accidents my parent’s vehicles were in, my father always took the car right from the body shop to the new car dealer, most of the time he lost money in the deal. But he always felt it was the safe thing to do.  That was in the 70′s and 80′s when you could just stretch a car back to shape, beat out the dents, paint it and send it on its way.

Modern cars are very different from those from even just a decade ago, and each individual make and model requires different knowledge and technology to make the repairs the safe way.

As a result, not every shop can fix modern cars properly, but most of them can. Here are a few areas to concern yourself with in making sure you choose the right shop to ensure the safety of your family in your car after an auto body repair job.

1. High Strength Steels

Starting in about 2004, automakers began using more advanced, higher strength steels to increase driver and passenger safety. Sometimes these materials are called Ultra High Strength steel or Boron steel. Working with these types of steels requires that the technicians get the proper training. For example, some ultra high-strength steels cannot be heated. If it is heated or welded incorrectly, it can diminish the safety of that structure in the event of anther collision. Some manufactures require that replacement frame rails are bonded in, or replaced much further back than what was standard procedure just five or ten years ago.

2. Specialized Training Required

You have to have a state license to cut hair, but you don’t have to be licensed to cut and repair a car. Consumers are not aware of this fact. Never assume that just because your car is at a body shop, that the person putting your car back together knows what the proper procedure is. Repair shops that only employ general technicians typically do not have the experience required to fix cars to the highest safety standard possible. This requires collision repair training (I-Car is the industry standard), frame and structural repair training, as well as refinishing training. Finally, the technicians should be ASE Certified Experts and have experience fixing your specific make of car.  A good shop employs I-Car certified and I-Car Gold certified technicians.

3. Specialized Equipment and Techniques

Tolerances have also changed in modern automobile manufacturing.  Back in the 1980’s through the late 1990’s a vehicles specs were allowed to be within a couple of millimeters. Now with computerized crash avoidance and crash safety equipment on board such as side and curtain airbags, allowable tolerances are extremely specific and much tighter. As such, some manufactures recommend or even require specific jigging and fixturing while safety items like frame rails are being repaired or replaced. To make safe repairs today, your shop must stay on top of modern equipment needs and must diligently make that investment. A ten-year-old frame rack is not enough anymore.

4. The Pitfalls to Improper Repair

Improper repair can mean a lower safety rating as well as a decrease of safety of family in car after auto body repair. For example, an improper repair can mean the timing of airbags is negatively affected, or that the structural integrity of the vehicle is compromised because of poor welding techniques. Choosing the right auto body repair shop does matter; your family’s well being might depend on it.

5. The Answer

Pick a good shop, with well-trained technicians and quality industry leading equipment, and your car can be put back on the road exactly to OEM specifications as if the accident never happened. So the answer is Yes, it can be just as safe as when you bought it, if it was repaired properly.