Projects & Repairs --> Collision --> Side-Impact

Collision repair on a 2005 Chevy Equinox.

Professional Collision Repairs:

Fixing Side-Impact Collision Damage On A
2005 Chevy Equinox

In This Article:

  • The outer door skin is cut away so the doors can be opened.

  • The "B" pillar is pulled outward with frame straightening equipment.

  • Sheet metal is cut out of the rocker area.

  • The rocker area is pulled outward while the floor pan is flattened.

  • New sheet metal is cut out of another wrecked Equinox and welded onto the vehicle.

Related Articles:

Skill Level: 5+ (Experienced Professional)

Time Taken: About 40 Hours

By Jim Wilk, Licensed Auto Body Technician

Start:

This 2005 Chevrolet Equinox was purchased by the customer from a salvage yard.

The car had been involved in an accident and the insurance company "totalled it", meaning that the cost of repairs was greater than the value of the vehicle, so they just wrote a check to the owner and took ownership of the car.

Side impact crash damage to a 05 Chevy Equinox.

When an insurance company becomes the owner of a wrecked vehicle, they try to sell them for as much money as possible. In bigger cities there are auctions just for wrecked cars, but here in the hinterlands of Northern Michigan there are no salvage auctions. The nearest auction is probably a four-hour drive away.

 Side accident damage to a 05 Chevy Equinox.

The insurance companies often try to sell the wrecked cars on consignment at a local salvage yard (don't call it a junk yard!), to see if there are any buyers in our area. If they can find a local buyer, the insurance company can save a lot of money on shipping the car downstate to the salvage auction.

Some of these vehicles are waiting "in limbo" for a couple of months, until the title is clear. This is especially a problem when the car owner owed more than the vehicle was worth (which is called being upside-down on the loan), because the title can't be cleared until the owner pays off the remainder of the loan that the insurance payment didn't cover.

But anybody can still purchase a wrecked car that is in limbo, because when the title finally becomes cleared, they will receive the proper paperwork to own the vehicle.

There have been a few occasions where I have completely repaired wrecked cars before the owner even got a clear title. But I made sure I got paid promptly!

Some of these vehicles are repaired for people who will do some of the work themselves. These vehicles are either sold for profit or kept for personal use. Side impact collision damage on a 2005 Chevy Equinox.

There are many mechanics (body mechanics and general mechanics) who regularly buy wrecked cars, repair them and sell them for more money than they put into them. It's common for people in this business to supplement their income with a few project cars.

I call that the spirit of entrepreneurship... people turning their hard work into something of value.

 

Fixing Bent Metal:

Cutting out damaged door skin on wrecked car. First I cut the outer door skin off to get the door open.

 

Using the straightening equipment, I pulled on the lower hinge to relieve the pressure. Frame-straightening machine used to pull out dented side of car.

 

Door cut away to gain access for crash repair. That's when I realized this would be a tough repair job.

I had to cut away at the bottom of the front door just to open the back door.

 

Finally, after a lot of pulling on the center door post, I got the door open. Using frame straightening machine to pull out major dent in side of car.

 

Wrecked car after side doors have been removed. The left front and rear doors have been removed. The yellow "curtain" is the side air bag that was deployed in the accident.

The owner of the car is going to replace the air bags and interior trim.

 

View of floor and lower center post area.

It's bad.

Crash damage to sill area of back door, Chevy Equinox.

 

Cut out area on lower rocker panel on salvaged car. I cut off the outer rocker area, only to discover there was an inner rocker panel.

 

Drill and auger bit for drilling out spot welds. To cut the spot welds without making a huge hole in the inner layer of sheet metal, I used these drill bits.

The top bit is a 1/8 inch drill bit I used to drill a pilot hole in the center of each spot weld.

The bit on the bottom is an "auger" bit that I used to cut through just the first layer of sheet metal at each spot weld. This tool is similar to a carpenter's hole saw, but smaller.

 

After welding two pulling plates to the inner rocker, I started pulling with the "frame straightener".

Then I discovered why they call this "high strength steel"...

Frame straightener used to pull out lower area of wrecked car.

 

High-strength steel car body being repaired, welds broke. ...the metal never straightened... it just the broke the spot welds.

 

View of inner floor, which didn't move when I pulled on it. Collision damage being fixed.

 

Difficult crash damage in floor area. This photo is looking slightly down, towards the center post.

The floor next to the inner rocker panel (red arrow) rolled down and then up in the accident, like an accordion.

The green arrow points to the lip on the edge of the floor pan (which extends up the center pillar a few inches), which had separated from the post and been pushed back more than an inch.

 

I used a hydraulic jack to push up on the floor as I pulled outward. Then I used a 5 lb. sledge hammer to flatten the floor pan.

Note: To prevent the top of the jack from punching through the floor pan, I put a heavy steel place between the top of the jack and the underside of the floor. This spreads the force over a wider area. I used a piece of 1/4" steel that would fit into that area of the floor pan. The scrap of steel I grabbed was about 3" x 8".

Pulling frame of Chevy Equinox while flattening floor pan.

 

Broken spot welds caused during collision repair process. The rocker panel spot welds broke as the floor straightened.

 

So I decided to cut off the damaged inner rocker panel area. Cutting off damaged sheet metal on wrecked car.

 

Collision damage being fixed with frame straightener. I pulled on the floor at the bottom of the center door post and kept working on the waviness in the floor with the hydraulic jack and hammer.

All this time I made frequent measurements to compare the bad side of the car to the good side. There are many places to measure between, such as the seat mounting bolt holes and the bends in the rocker sheet metal. I just used an ordinary tape measure.

I kept pulling and jacking/hammering the floor while progressing towards the rear wheel area. Car crash damage being fixed with frame straightener.

 

Pulling floor pan outward with straightener. In this photo the floor started to rip at the clamp.

 

After a lot of persuasion the floor was finally flat and the lip of the floor pan (which the inner rocker is welded to) was straight. Car wreck being repaired, floor hammered flat.

 

Installing "New" Metal:

Section of car from junk yard, to be used for crash repair. To save money the car owner bought a section cut from another wrecked 2005 Equinox.

 

The guy that bought the wrecked Equinox in this article also bought a pair of doors (the same color, luckily) and this slice of body from the same salvage yard. One nice package deal, labor not included. Side of car cut from salvaged vehicle at junk yard.

 

Body section to be used for collision repair. The section I need is between the green lines.

He did purchase more than needed, but that's the way it goes when buying slices of cars.

When salvaging a "totalled" vehicle, there is a lot of financial mathematics involved. You need to be sure the amount of money spent on the wrecked car, the repair parts, and the labor don't exceed the price you can get for a repaired vehicle of that year.

Usually it's a body mechanic that buys these cars and fixes them, so their investment is limited to the vehicle and the parts. Their profits give them a decent wage for their efforts, but not much more.

 

Masking tape used to lay out cut lines on section of car body. I applied masking tape so I could see the cut lines while cutting the sheet metal.

I cut the sheet metal with a 4-inch angle grinder and an abrasive cutting wheel.

 

Cutting Out The Spot Welds:

I needed to dis-assemble the new body section without damaging it. The body sections are made from several steel stampings that are spot-welded together, so I needed to drill out the spot welds.

Tools used: a 1/8 inch drill bit to make a pilot hole in the center of the spot welds (red arrow), and a Unibit to drill through the entire spot weld. Drill and Unibit used to cut out spot welds on car body.

 

Drilling pilot holes in spot welds. I drilled pilot holes in all the spot welds...

 

Then I used the Unibit to completely drill out the spot weld. Drilling out spot welds on car body with Unibit.

 

Drilling out spot welds on car body. The Unibit lets you drill many different sizes of holes with one bit. You just stop drilling when you've reached the desired hole size.

 

Since I only needed certain layers of metal from the "new" body parts, I had to separate the inner sheet metal from the outer layer.

I used a thin flat cold chisel (which is extra hard and designed for cutting steel) to pry apart the layers of sheet metal.

Remember... I've already drilled out all the spot welds on this section of car body.

Separating layers of metal on new section of car body for repair.

 

Removing outer layer of sheet metal on salvaged section of car body. Then I pulled the layers apart, being careful not to bend or damage the outer layer.

 

Now the inner layer is exposed.

That's not bare metal behind the outer layer... the steel has been given a protective coating.

Multiple layers of sheet metal in car body.

 

Piece of car body to be used as patch for crash repair. I will also need to cut a section of the inner layer for my repair job, but I will cut the inner layer shorter that the outer.

I cut that center post at a higher point than I really needed to. Where I cut this metal is not quite as curved as the area below, so there will be less work when I need to sand and finish the joint.

 

Then I cut out a section of the inner panel.

Since there is no finishing required on the inner layer, I only needed to cut out a replacement piece that was as big as the actual damaged area.

Segment of inner body metal being cut for repair patch.

 

Auto body repair methods used to repair totalled car. The inner layer of replacement metal after I cut it from the salvaged body section.

What you are seeing is the BACK side of the piece I just cut out.

Note that yellow stuff inside the center post at the bottom. That is sound-deadening foam installed when the car is built.

 

Back To The Damaged Car:

Body sheet metal after being primed with weld-through primer. At this point I've cut out all the damaged sheet metal on the Equinox and I've straightened the floor pan in the back seat area.

Wherever I will need to weld, I have ground down all the spot welds and smoothed out the edges of the sheet metal.

To flatten the edges of the sheet metal, I used a hammer and a dolly, which is basically a hand-held anvil that you pound against.

While doing this work, I occasionally pre-fitted the "new" sheet metal to make the two pieces fit as perfectly as possible.

This is a meticulous and time-consuming task, but it's necessary for a proper fit and a good-quality repair job.

When the metal was ready for the new parts, I sprayed etch-weld primer on all the edges that will get welded, and any other areas where the factory coating may have been nicked.

This is a corrosion-resistant primer that can be welded over.

Etch-weld primer for auto body repair.

 

Auto body patch after being painted with weld-thru primer. I applied the etch-weld primer to the replacement sheet metal.

 

Here I've MIG-welded the inner panel to the car.

Remember how I had drilled out all the spot welds on the "new" section of sheet metal? While welding, I filled each spot weld hole with weld metal.

Patch after welding onto collision damaged car.

 

Crash damage during repair, after being primed with anti-corrosion primer. After welding, I ground down all the weld beads until they were flush with the sheet metal.

Then I applied the anti-corrosion primer again.

 

I set the outer panel in place, but it's not yet welded, just clamped.

Then I bolted the rear door hinges to the center post, to make sure everything will fit properly.

Collision repair, fitting doors into openings before welding new metal in place.

 

Temporarily installing doors into openings before welding new metal in place. Then I installed the new front door to check the fit of both doors.

 

After fitting the doors to the repair area, I clamped the "new" outer layer of sheet metal to the inner layer using every pair of Vise-Grips in the shop... I used about 10 pairs.

Note the orange "stick"-like thing across the back door opening. That is a hydraulic ram (like a jack) that I needed so I could push on the center post to maintain the proper position during welding.

Using porta-power hyraulic ram to force door opening to required dimension.

When I had the doors temporarily in place, I reached inside the car and measured the back door opening (from the center post to the back door post) using a tape measure.

From my years of experience, I know that the center post is going to move a bit when I take the doors off.

After I removed the doors, I used the hydraulic ram to push on the center post until I achieved the measurement I got with the doors in place.

Center post or B-pillar during crash repair. Then I used the MIG welder to weld the new outer layer to the inner layer. As before, I filled in each spot-weld hole with weld bead.

Then I used a grinder to grind all the weld beads smooth and flush with the surface of the outer layer.

 

Then I applied plastic body filler to the joint areas to create a smooth surface.

Note the upper joint area (which has a light blue color). By making this joint higher up than the actual damage, I had less finishing work to do, and I could make sure that the upper and lower hinge mounting holes were the proper distance apart, because they were both on the same piece of metal.

Center post after welding and filling with plastic body filler or Bondo.

Next the shop owner primed and painted the repair area with Matrix Systems paint that was perfectly color-matched to the original paint. The doors were painted at the same time, even though they were off the vehicle.

Collision repair almost done, new doors being installed. At this point, the paint has dried and I'm about to install the back door.

 

I installed the back door. It got kinda dusty from being handled.

The new coat of Matrix paint and clear-coat is so shiny that it reflects everything, even when the car is a little dirty.

Wrecked car after repairs.

 

Car was once totalled out, now repaired like new. After washing the car, we turned it over the owner, who will be installing all the other parts, such as the interior trim and running boards.

The repair work on this car was done at R-Tech Auto Body in Traverse City, Michigan.

More Info:

Tools Used:

  • Frame Straightener
  • MIG Welder
  • Die Grinder
  • Air Chisel
  • Grinder
  • Drill
  • Unibit Step Drill Bit
  • Vise-Grips
  • Porta-Power Hydraulic Ram
  • Hammers
  • Auto Body Dollies
  • Tape Measure
  • Basic Mechanic's Tools

Materials Used:

  • Section Of Car Body
  • Used Car Doors
  • Etch-Weld Primer
  • Plastic Body Filler
  • Automotive Primer
  • Automotive Paint

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Written April 21, 2009