When it comes to defining a “complete
wreck,” a vehicle involved in a rollover pretty much fits
I spoke with a few shop owners who detailed
their first experiences with rollovers – ones that didn’t quite
make the insurance company “totaled” list and, hence,
became the shops’ adopted projects.
Their experiences may prove helpful the next
time – or the first time – your shop works on a rollover.
More than Meets the Eye
Visualize a rollover. Now, answer this question:
Where’s the damage?
If you’re picturing the same rollover I’m
picturing, you’ll agree that a substantial amount of primary damage
would be incurred by the roof, the support pillars, the windshield,
the window enclosures, the sunroof or moonroof (if there was one)
and to other areas that shared the actual impact of the accident.
But there’s more damage than meets the eye.
Norm Anderson, owner and lead technician of
The Tin Bender in Reeds Spring, Mo., says the secondary effects
of a rollover are always the hardest to deal with. He can recall
many difficult repair jobs, but the one that sticks out in his
mind is a later-model GM S-class truck that had the floor pan
buckled from the effects of a light hit and rollover.
It seemed, says Anderson, like the transfer
of energy from the crash was reversed, causing the floor to buckle.
Instead of energy being transferred around the passenger compartment
to the crush zones as it is in a front or side impact, it seemed
to start at the crush zones. “We had to replace the floor
pan and most of the interior structure, as well as the complete
firewall,” he says.
The good news: The estimate Anderson did took
the additional damage into consideration, and the shop made money
on the job.
The ideal situation, he says, is to clean
up and evaluate a rollover job right away. Broken glass, spillage
and other preliminary hassles can pretty much be taken care of
in a couple of hours of determined work.
The ardent task of looking for buckles along
energy-transition routes as specified by the manufacturer’s repair
manual is easy when you have the experience, he says. This is
where the training and technical background of shop owners and
technicians is really put to the test.
Dealing with Insurance
Most of the shop owners I spoke with agree
that many insurance companies assign a “total” status
to rollovers because of the high degree of secondary damage that’s
often impossible to catch on the initial estimate. Complications
with rollovers seem to begin after a shop has accepted the job
and begun the repairs.
When working on a rollover, Bob Hamlin of
Corradino’s Auto Body in Trinidad, Colo., keeps the insurance
company advised of the repair’s progress. In a rollover, engine,
transmission or drive-train damage can cause headaches for insurance
adjusters and shops – and can mean expensive and complicated repairs.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that
many shops won’t take on a rollover job that may have related
mechanical damage, especially when the vehicle shows extreme wear
and has very high mileage. Other shops will take the job, but
not without the stipulation that the engine and power train be
left “open” by the insurance company for a predetermined
length of time.
A few repair tips from the shop owners I spoke
- First and foremost, be sure the vehicle isn’t the victim of
a second or third rollover. At least one shop owner I spoke with
was the unfortunate repairer of such a vehicle. He found that
a poor job on a roof repair from a previous rollover complicated
the second repair to the tune of an extra $1,000 or more.
- The vehicle he encountered was a Jeep Wrangler with a hardtop
and a tendency to end up upside down more than right side up.
- Insist on using OE sheet metal when possible. Things are bad
enough without the chance of a poor fittment due to manufacturing
error, and the time you’re bidding for the job won’t allow for
reshaping or other extra cosmetic work.
- Simple items such as door fittment can send your profit right
out the window, says Corradino’s Hamlin. It’s possible, he says,
to get everything as straight as an arrow and still have problems
with fittment. “Rollovers aren’t the kind of job you want
to see every day, but, from time to time, they seem to comprise
a great deal of any large shop’s volume.”
- Roof pillars and sheet metal aside, it’s tough to scrape up
enough usable pieces of a sunroof assembly on jobs of this sort.
Most of the shop owners I spoke with say it’s best to take the
labor costs of salvage into consideration before choosing that
repair route. Welding in a new roof and sunroof enclosure is more
often the right repair on these jobs.
- With a rollover, it’s common to find a twist in the frame
of a full-frame or perimeter-frame equipped vehicle, so set the
vehicle on the bench and measure and manage control points before
moving on to the roof-pillar and outer-skin repairs.
Jim Story, owner of Jim’s Auto Body in Forsyth, Mo., says that
once the roof metal is finally cut away, serious pulling and bench
work can then begin.
Rollovers: Friend or Foe?
Anderson says he’s seen a trend in newer unibody and perimeter-frame
construction: The support patterns and energy transfer are designed
to protect the occupants.
“A Ford Bronco II involved in a rollover and moderate hit
was one of the easiest [we’ve had to] fix,” he says. “Surprisingly,
even though the roof was buckled, the structure held up well,
and the vehicle had no real damage – except roof and odds-and-ends
stuff. It was easy to estimate and repair.”
Hamlin agrees with Anderson and adds that door beams as well as
stronger, better materials in vehicle construction are proving
to be an ally to the body and repair industry.
When asked which manufacturers’ vehicles they’d rather repair
after a rollover incident, all three shop owners voted for Chrysler.
Anderson commented that every aspect of the engineering – from
the door handles to the substructure – “is easy to live with.”
All three also agreed that along with the new technology must
come a commitment toward new equipment and training.
A final word on estimating rollovers should include the axiom
that the best of body men adhere to: There can be no effect without
When estimating and looking for the final repairs on a tough rollover,
remember, there’s more than meets the eye.
Writer Bob Leone, a retired shop owner, is ASE Three-Way Master
Certified and is completing qualifications as a post-secondary
automotive instructor in the vocational school system in Missouri.