Piston Slap: Droppin' a Dime on Quarter Panel Replacement?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap droppin a dime on quarter panel replacement
TTAC 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 sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. 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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2 of 55 comments
  • R Henry R Henry on Jun 03, 2019

    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.

  • DweezilSFV DweezilSFV on Jun 15, 2019

    '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.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?