By on May 31, 2019

Smashed Mustang Quarter Panel, Image: OPTTAC regular Mikey writes:

A lady backed into my Mustang a few weeks ago. She was cool and fessed up. I let the insurance companies figure it out. The Ford dealer says “we need to do a quarter panel replacement.” The body side is one stamping, so they need to cut into the roof and the door sill. They have a quarter of the car torn apart — deck lid off, interior trim, fascia, all in pieces .

I know the world has changed, but I’ve seen a lot worse banged out. I guess I should be happy that it’s not stuffed with body fill. I’m just a little worried about all the electrical, plugs, sensors and who knows what else? The damage didn’t look that bad.

Should I be confident that the Ford dealer can put it back together correctly?

Sajeev answers:

Be confident that any reputable body shop staffed with techs sporting certifications is very likely doing good work.

Most franchised dealers have body shops meeting industry-accepted standards and practices, so let’s hope that — from the experienced welder to the beginner body tech — they took pride in their work and weren’t looking for a new job. More so than any other part of the car business, the customer-facing Retail & Aftersales organizations live and die by workforce quality. 

Now onto the quarter panel issue: two bits in Ford’s Collision Position Statement tell the story:

“Ford Motor Company only approves repairs to structural components – (including frames, rails, aprons and body panels) – that are completed using Ford published repair procedures and Ford Original Equipment Parts. Failure to follow these instructions will adversely affect structural integrity and crash safety performance, which could result in serious personal injury to vehicle occupants in a crash.”

Ford isn’t the only OEM suggesting their body panels are a structural element, the reasons are likely between the lines of this article. While I have my theories (finite element analysis is so precise that even external body panels are now optimized to weight and safety perfection) we may never know.

But that’s not the point: OEMs scienced-out the chassis, crashed the damn thing eleventy-billion times both virtually and IRL, so they are the final word on collision repair techniques.

“Where no Ford supplied repair procedure is available, repairs must be made at factory joints or seams with Ford original replacement parts using procedures that duplicate factory assembly processes and techniques.”

I assume there’s no factory repair procedure involving panel beating/stretching and bondo, so that’s why you got a new one. Perhaps a non-approved repair may never affect the Mustang’s structural integrity, but this is one time where the slippery slope argument is valid.

Lives are at stake: I hope I never hear another heartbreaking story like Matthew and Marcia Seebachan. The pain and suffering caused by a truly deplorable repair (and subsequent $31.5m lawsuit) is precisely why the OEMs make the rules. I’m thrilled you got a new quarter panel, because you should never settle for less.

[Image: OP]

Send your queries to [email protected] Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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55 Comments on “Piston Slap: Droppin’ a Dime on Quarter Panel Replacement?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Hey, Mikey, sorry about your Mustang :( I hope it all gets worked out all right. I agree with Sajeev, if you have a reputable body shop doing the work it should be fine

  • avatar
    Hummer

    This is why steel bumpers should still be a thing. The wrapped around edge of a steel bumper would have absorbed this and been replaced for $250.

    All while looking eleventy billion times more sleek than plastic.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Think about the profit margin for the OEM on a fully painted plastic bumper vs a cheap steel bumper. The dealer’s probably happier too.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Oh I’m sure it’s massive. Steel OEM Bumpers for my H2 were about $220-$250 last a I looked, I think my 99 frontier rear bumper costed $110. And here we are talking about cars bumper replacement reaching the thousands.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          You’re making me think of “The Straight Pipes” on YouTube where the guy bought a one owner high mileage Raptor from an elderly gentleman.

          The truck came with a chrome rear bumper because the original was rusted and it was cheaper to buy a chrome replacement.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            In my cases the H1,2,3 all come painted from factory to match the removed one, so as long as you choose the correct year it will match.

            The frontier was just a cheap chrome bumper probably from Thailand.

            It’s meant to take a hit, and a nice steel bumper looks like light years better than a plastic bumper. Form and function, not to mention cost effective.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Honestly I miss the 5 mph bumpers, especially by the late 70s early 80s when they were actually well integrated.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            I’m all for 5 MPH bumpers

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    I’m not buying it. I could believe they just want to maximize the repair cost, though. Massive labor and whatnot. I am not that great at bodywork (have done some) but that is an incredibly minor bit of damage and would NOT require full panel replacement.

    • 0 avatar
      kyjosu

      There’s no way the at-fault party’s insurance company would be willing to pay for it if it weren’t industry best practice. If the Ford dealer is doing more than needed, the insurance will dispute.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    If you are dealer, and the insurance is paying it, sure as heck you gonna rip quarter of the car apart. Maybe even change the suspension, to make sure the structural integrity is maintained. Anyone else would just knock out and fix the insignificant dent.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I would HAVE ZERO FAITH in that post-repair vehicle, although it could have been even worse had the front end been hit encroaching on the engine, engine electronics, etc.

    Most new/newer vehicles are very unlikely to ever be “true” and reliable once suffering even modest collisions to the front or rear, or anywhere that affects the frame rails or chassis of whatever kind used.

    This is why even expensive and new vehicles are often just totalled by insurance companies post-collision for what appears to be moderate damage by the casual observer.

    There are more and more delicate, critically important and expensive components, many of them having to do with safety systems, engine, cooling and drivetrain management, electrical systems, etc,packed into less and less space, than ever before, not to mention the fact that many passive crash safety/occupant protection design systems (e.g. intentional accordion style collapse zones, good for one use only, even at low speed impacts), that new vehicles involved in collisions are essentially fundamentally ruined once moderately impacted.

    No matter what certifications the collision techs have, they’ll rarely get a vehicle back to true in terms of all systems go, anywhere near how the vehicle was, when it left the factory floor after factory fills, and after the marriage-carriage and other major processes took place during the factory build.

    THE PRICE OF PROGRESS?

    p.s. – Rumors swirling that Gary Busey has been hired to be Cadillac’s (aka Chevrillac, aka Cadrolet) new official spokesman.

    • 0 avatar
      chaparral

      Yes. We can total 100 cars for the cost of totaling one driver. If 100 cars are destroyed we’ll sell another 100 at a profit. If one driver is killed or permanently disabled we will never sell them another car.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “If one driver is killed or permanently disabled we will never sell them another car.”

        oh, and thousands of dollars will be spent on emergency medical care trying to save them, and then there’s the hundreds of thousands of dollars to come out of lawsuits/settlements.

        when it comes down to a person or a car, f**k the car.

    • 0 avatar
      CKNSLS Sierra SLT

      DeadWeight-

      I don’t think there is one sentence in your diatribe I agree with. A good body shop can make a car structurally sound with the “Industry Standards” as mentioned in the article.

      I am curious as to what your qualifications are to make such statements? Many repairs in body shops are routine and can be completed in confidence.

      • 0 avatar
        TotalNonStopCars

        Qualifications? He dont need no stinking qualifications.

        He has the biggest mouth here THAT’S his qualifications.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I have to agree with Sierra. If the car is not true, the fault is typically in the alignment, which can be adjusted even on the rear wheels. ESPECIALLY when the damage and panel replacement are so minimal compared to the kind of crash that would cause such a misalignment in the first place.

        If the alignment is that far off, the car should have never been repaired in the first place and the shop is a very poor one to even make the attempt.

  • avatar
    EGSE

    It was a dark and stormy night. Late 1998, not one of my best years. I stayed late to finish up and left in the Civic. A few miles later I was the meat in a sandwich. Three of us got together with me in the middle. I’ve been in this position before but this time it wasn’t by choice. At least I could get myself home later. The car was also driveable.

    The insurance agent told me to go to the body shop. I arrived at the appointed time. The adjuster was already there. She was packing a pair of 38s. She also had a gun.

    I was prepared and got down to business. She said we please our customers but first we take care of the car. To cut to the chase the negotiations went well. Services were rendered and I left satisfied. Or so I thought.

    Two years later trouble appeared. There were bubbles on the front of the hood. While my attention was focused elsewhere they slipped me a Mickey. I got a cheap aftermarket piece. The hood wasn’t original either. It rusted from the inside out.

    Ever since I’ve insisted on genuine OEM parts. It’s not just structural but fit and rustproofing too. Accept no substitutes. I wish I had.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    p.s. – This is why ANY vehicle with any hint of an accident on its title is dead in the water in terms of an unbelievablepy massive hit to its retail and even wholesale value, and one sees so many accident-damaged vehicles listed as is, for sale, branded title prominently displayed, rather than after post-operative corrective surgery.

    • 0 avatar
      CKNSLS Sierra SLT

      DeadWeight

      This is why ANY vehicle with any hint of an accident on its title is dead in the water in terms of an unbelievable massive hit to its retail and even wholesale value, and one sees so many accident-

      Again-you have two different points
      1) Been in accident-I have personal experience that says this isn’t true. I have received high Bluebook on a Toyota 4Runner where a fender has been replaced.

      2) Salvage Title-this is a vehicle where an insurance company has totaled it. Not one that’s been in a minor accident.

      Your mixing your points.

    • 0 avatar
      kyjosu

      An accident on the Carfax report is not the same as a branded title. You only get a branded title when the car has been totalled for some reason: flood damage, theft recovery, major collision, etc.

  • avatar

    Back when I was an adjuster about 10 years ago I would have written for a repair or a section (replacing only part of the panel). Looks repairable to me but there are things that could drive towards a replacement. If both insurance and the shop agree replacement is called for, that may be the case.

    • 0 avatar

      As an edit to this flipping thru some of the websites I used to use looks Like Ford views sectioning as a no-no so repair or full replace. As an aside if I know the guy doing the work I would actually prefer a section to a full swap on that damage but that’s me. When my Ramchanrger was backed into that’s what I had a body man guy I knew very well do.

      Also as mentioned above who does the work really matters more. Quality at Body shops is all over the map and it’s hard to figure out as I know some major dealers that use some really crappy shops (thou most have now brought in their own body shops). I have waked thru tons of shops over the years most were decent but a few I wouldn’t send anyone too. And some are surprisingly great. Size of the shop seems to have little to do with quality I have seen one guy shops and 50 guy shops turn out great stuff.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    This is exactly why insurance keeps going up and up, I once backed into a friends mailbox coming down his steep driveway at night with a car full of gifts and flowers blocking my view in a leased Cruze (rear camera useless at night) punctured a hole in area around the tail light and the bumper itself, didn’t hurt the mailbox as I was barely creeping, full bumper replacement and body repair, total cost $1400 including my $500 deductible! ;-(

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Was it a brick laid male box?

      This is what I hate about my SS and 4Runner, plastic bumper belong on little tikes not on cars, I’ve ran down 3-4 inch diameter trees in both my H1 and my first H2, both have some scratches in the bumper paint but absolutely no damage otherwise.

      • 0 avatar
        redgolf

        Hummer – No brick laid mailbox, one of fancy wrought iron design that sticks out, you know the one intended to do damage if barely bumped, the least you’re gonna get is a nice fat scratch, my older friend driving his brand new Toyota Camry also got attacked by this same beast, got away with just a long scratch, he though never got it repaired!

    • 0 avatar

      I once backed into a jelly bean f-150 with my ramcharger. I cracked my tailight and no other damage but it bent his bumper took out the headlight and did a little over a grand in damage.

      • 0 avatar
        redgolf

        A drunk woman with no license slammed into the rear of my 77 Ford Chateau Club wagon while I was stopped at a red light, she was driving a big Chrysler, lightly bent my rear doors and bumper, totaled her car, thanks to Michigan’s No Fault insurance she didn’t have to pay, I had just cancelled my full coverage a few months prior, front end damage is always worse!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Almost all of us resent government intervention/involvement, however in Canada body shop technicians are a ‘Red Seal’ trade meaning they must pass government approved training in to work Their official title is ‘Auto Body and Collision Technician’. Losing your Red Seal ‘licensing’ precludes you from operating. This is a ‘fail safe’ to provide a level of professionalism.

    As an aside, I agree 100% regarding the belief that the older style bumpers were better in every day life. A bumper should be able to withstand a ‘bump’ without receiving hundreds of dollars worth of damage. At the very least it should be easily and inexpensively repaired.

    • 0 avatar
      kyjosu

      I have only on one occasion sustained bumper fascia damage that required repair (not replacement), when someone rear-ended my Saturn Ion on the 101 freeway in California. It endured a number of minor bumps otherwise, the worst of which merely scraped the paint.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    In the late 70’s I owned a 70 Mustang coupe. The left rear quarter was hit in a parking lot incident and I needed to have it repaired. I took it to some body shops for estimates but none of them were able to source a new or NOS replacement. There were some 69’s available but those have a different taper with the faux vent scoops. The rear cap and valance was still available. This was before the Mustang restoration parts market was in its infancy so an aftermarket one was not available. I ended up having a shop pull it out and mig weld it and performing a great repair job with minimum bondo.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    Mikey, sorry about your Mustang. Living in a college town, my previous Audi took multiple hits, roughly once every six months. Someone backed into it in a parking lot (grille and bent hood). Some students broke the passenger mirror (heated memory auto folding mirror , not ye olde 30 bucks mirror). I started parking in the back… sure enough, one morning the hood was all messed up, and i could clearly make the b.tt cheeks (I hope it was consensual).

    I learned three things from these incidents. First, I learned not to sweat it. Second, I vowed to never buy new cars. I happen not to have a garage, but even if I did, sweating too much over a car is not something I’d like to add to the long list of things that keep me up at night. Third, I changed my deductible from 0 to $1,000, and developed a relationship with a local body shop whose owner I knew personally. Every single one of the incidents mentioned about was sub-500 to take care on my own, none triggered a “reported damage” on the car’s Autocheck.

    Cutting the roof for that minor damage?!? No way in my world. A used bumper and some quality work on the sheetmetal should take care of it.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I had a 3 people back into my vehicles in an 18 month period. The most important thing I learned, avoid reporting it to the police if you can. All those police reports get hoovered up by a company that Carfax owns, and your vehicle will be branded.

      This is to be avoided because Carfax has no qualms about misbranding a vehicle or what happened to it, and the appeals process is a nightmare. They labeled my Mustang as having an airbag deployed, despite a minor bump that only resulted in the replacement of a front fender. The officer marked “airbag deployed – unknown” from a dropdown menu, where every option begins with “airbag deployed”. Those two words are all it took for Carfax to cost me thousands of dollars. I eventually got it sorted out after multiple trips to the police station, but it took about a month. Trade-in value was DOA until I had that brand removed.

      Basically, what happened to this guy is what happened to me, though I succeeded in overturning it:

      https://www.wbaltv.com/article/man-disputes-carfax-claims-over-air-bag-deployment/9611829

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        TMA, yes, this is one of the reasons why I shifted strategy. Carfax will now have “damage reported” for simple insurance claims. Obviously insurance is there for a reason, but I basically try to avoid minor things now, especially of a non-moving nature (such as “found the car with some damage” type).

        Glad you straightened it out – my bank won’t loan me money for an airbag-deployed car, no matter how new, low-mileage etc. Simply no.

      • 0 avatar
        N8iveVA

        “All those police reports get hoovered up by a company that Carfax owns, and your vehicle will be branded.”

        YES YES YES. My bf got bumped when the car behind him got rear ended. Barely touched his car and hardly left a scuff mark. He stayed to talk to the cops in case a witness was needed. In 2017 he goes to trade in his 2012 Versa and they see it on the Carfax and offer him $900 for his 5 year old car!!!!

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        BTW, “Crashdocs” is the website I was talking about. The people from Carfax linked me to my accident report from there. A website that they also own, and from which you can download (for a price) pretty much any accident report.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          Might as well throw this out there as well, since all three of those hits were covered by the other party’s insurance. State Farm is trash. Two people had insurance from that company. They were so slow to respond to anything, I ended up going through my own insurance, paying a deductible, so that I could get the car repaired. I was reimbursed when State Farm eventually paid my insurer.

          The other person had USAA. Top notch company, they paid right away.

          • 0 avatar
            kyjosu

            I used to be a claim handler for State Farm; on average I looked at about 50 claims and made or received about 70 phone calls each day. It’s really a thankless job, not that it justifies your experiences. I remember many times getting a customer on the line who’d been in the hold queue for 20 minutes or more and still needed to be transferred to a different department. Awful, and often there really was nothing I could do about it other than apologize and patch them through.

            USAA is a really good insurer, but that’s in large part because they only provide policies to US armed services members and their families.

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      ‘Cutting the roof for that minor damage?!? No way in my world. A used bumper and some quality work on the sheetmetal should take care of it’.

      Amen. That alone sounds invasive and potentially a weakening of the structure. And wholly dependent on the people working on it. Too many things could go wrong.

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    I recently got rear-ended in my 2009 Silverado. A lady didn’t quite stop when I stopped at a yield sign. My bumper was bent and there was a scratch in the paint where the corner of the bumper was pushed into the quarter panel. No dent in the sheet metal, just the scratch.

    Her insurance agreed to the claim on the spot and sent me to their shop for the estimate. I figured a new rear bumper and some touch-up paint for the scratch should do it.

    When the guy figured it up I could not believe it. he said the entire quarter panel of the bed needed to be painted. That would require removing of the bed from the frame so that they could get to the area between the cab and bed. The tailgate also had a scratch so that too would require a complete painting. Then all emblems would be replaced. In total it was over $2000 worth of work.

    They cut me a check on the spot for that amount. I took the truck to the Chevy dealer body shop and told them all I wanted was a new bumper. I had a bottle of factory touch up paint to take care of the scratch. The body shop manager said oh no we must do everything on that estimate. I thanked him and left.

    I then went to a small body shop in my town and told them what I wanted. I got a new GM bumper and they touched up the scratch as part of the service. I pocketed the rest of the insurance money.

    I didn’t intend to take advantage of the situation, but I didn’t think a 10 year old truck needed all that work just to fix a bent steel bumper. I would have been happy if the insurance had just paid for that.

  • avatar
    Weltron

    This is not as uncommon as it seems, especially with newer Fords. A few years ago, my neighbors 2015 Fusion was left outside, and then a massive hailstorm hit. The body shop ended up replacing the entire roof panel, which on the Fusion, was bonded to the car with a high strength adhesive. Although it sounds extreme, I would not be surprised if it is the accepted repair.

  • avatar
    mikey

    North of $5,000 CAD ($3,700 USD) not including the rental . “Dead Weight” is right . Punch the VIN number in and that “5K hit” knocks anywhere from $1500 to $2K of my resale. Not a huge impact to me, cause I’m planning to keep the car. That being said ,it still pi$$es me off.

    I will say the dealer did a great job. I can’t see the seam, but with cotton gloves on you can feel it. I agree with Sajeev . I can see Ford stressing structural integrity, and the ever present fear of litigation . I’ve had the car back since Christmas . I get it Known rust proofed every fall. This year I had Known soak that new quarter ..

    So far …No electrical, or trim fit issues. Time will tell…? Thanks for the input guys.

    • 0 avatar
      kyjosu

      I recommend you talk to the insurance about making a diminished value claim. You’ll probably have to do a little leg work, but you may be able to get some additional payment from them.

      • 0 avatar
        kyjosu

        When I worked for State Farm, it wasn’t unusual to see diminished value claims for expensive repairs. However, quick Internet research suggests that diminished value claims are substantially less likely to be successful in Canada than in many US states, so my recommendation might not actually be useful. Sorry about that!

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    If you ask me, it’s an insurance scam; a regular body shop would have been much less expensive, I’m sure. That is, unless that body panel is aluminum, not steel. I’ve seen rear quarters with visible tears get welded and re-formed to look factory perfect without replacement and only minimal filler (one of my own cars, in fact.)

    The cut and replace certainly means no filler at the point of damage but it also means welds and probable fillers at the welds. BUT… such a replacement is more expensive because it requires a body part of considerable size and probably excessive cost.

    • 0 avatar
      MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

      Mustang quarters are steel not alum. I did have a Jag XJ8 that was all-Alum. and man I would not have wanted to pay for any bodywork on that.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      It’s possible the quarter panels are made of high-strength steel. With special steel alloys, the heat from welding in a section repair can permanently reduce the strength of the panel. In many cases, that is why an entire panel gets replaced.

      In this case, I am surprised that the panel wasn’t left in place and just refinished. Again, it may be due to the alloy. Or maybe there is a certain tolerance (1.00″?) indentation, beyond which Ford advises replacement.

    • 0 avatar
      kyjosu

      If you mean the dealer’s shop is scamming the insurance, it’s possible, but for something like this it seems unlikely. In any case, the insurance isn’t looking for the least expensive repair, but the least expensive repair they can reasonably prove meets industry standards in case they get sued.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Reading about the Fit roof-glue linked gives me pause, but I am not a structural engineer so I will not get into my thoughts.

    I will, however, relate a story from my time as an insurance adjuster. Our company had approved shops that we worked with where we would basically rubber stamp whatever estimate they came up with. Allegedly there was oversight that would ensure repairs were done to corporate standards.

    One of the shops was caught replacing the inner door structure – crash bar – of a customer’s car with a wooden 2×4 and securing it in place with expanding foam from a can. I’m not sure how it was discovered but I do know that the incident occurred before I started and they were still a shop when I was there. I’m sure the shop porter got fired over it.
    I didn’t refer my customers to that shop.

  • avatar
    RSF

    Replace that quarter and see what happens. Any dealer appraising it will call Frame/ Structural damage on it and it will be worth several thousands less. Most dealers won’t re-sell a vehicle with previous structural repairs. In other words, it gets sent to the show (wholesaled).

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Worst case, a bad Bondo job on a small dent I can deal with.

  • avatar
    tommytipover

    Coming from a dealership parts department background, I can tell you how this goes. Bodyshop orders the panel, knocks out the dent, then returns the unused panel for credit. If the insurance company ever has a question, they can show the receipt where they purchased a panel. Of course they file the credit memo receipts somewhere else.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I don’t accept that sheet metal skin provides enough structural support to be meaningful. If it was my car, I would be fully satisfied with some ordinary metal straightening, a few dabs of Bondo, and spot paint/feathering–car back in a few days.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    ‘Ford isn’t the only OEM suggesting their body panels are a structural element,’

    Uhmmm, this has been true since unit body construction first came into use.


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