- Buying & Selling New & Used Cars
How to Spot a Car That's Been in a Major Collision
Spotting a Vehicle That's Been in a Major Collision
It takes years of experience to learn what to look for, to spot a car that's been in a major collision. With the shape that the economy is in these days, a lot of people are opting to buy a used car, rather than to get buried under the burden of a long term payment book. Just as the present state of the economy is effecting consumers, it has an ill effect on retailers and wholesalers as well. When sales are down, this is when the unscrupulous bottom feeders turn up. For those without respectable business ethics, there is a wide variety of ways to profit from an unsuspecting consumer with an untrained eye for spotting the details that make previously damaged vehicles stand out, to those of us who know what to look for. There is a variety of ways to tell if a used vehicle has been in a serious wreck. There are just as many reasons that you don't want to own one of these cars.
Spending many years hanging around my father's auto garages, where I saw a lot of cars that had been in a major collision. As I got older, my father began teaching me to fix cars and how to diagnose technical issues with them. Being that my father's garages were small, he would often pick up work from a couple of different smaller auto dealerships. Quite often these car dealers would attend auto auctions, where they would frequently purchase wrecked vehicles being sold by insurance companies. Now, as you can imagine, cars that are being auctioned off by insurance companies aren't in the best shape.
Now, don't get me wrong, with the shape that the economy is in, there is nothing wrong with buying a used car. However, there is a lot of things to know before you jump into buying any used car. After reading this article, if you are considering buying a used car, I strongly suggest that you read another article that I wrote called, “Best Tips to Buy a Used Car.”
Many unsavory used car dealers will employ various underhanded tactics to make a less than stellar vehicle appear to be in much better shape than it is.
Used car that's been in a major collision
Body Work- There are many ways to hide minor body damage to cars, but when you are buying a used car, if the body damage is so minor that you can't notice it, then I wouldn't worry too much about it. Major collision damage is where the problems lie and what you need to look for. If you have a suspicion that a car has been involved in a major accident the things to look for are;
Orange Peel- Orange peel is when a car has been repainted and there is a noticeable flaw in the paint's surface. Just as the name implies, the surface of the paint share a similarity with the texture of the surface of an orange. This is one of many signs that a vehicle has been repainted. If you find that there is no major damage to the vehicle other than this flaw in the paint, it can usually be fixed fairly easily by being wet-sanded and buffed. I wouldn't recommend trying to fix this yourself, unless you have experience with body prep and paint work. If you can get the car at a low enough price, that you could afford to have this fixed and still come in at, or below the car's Kelly Blue Book value, it's up to you.
Frame Damage- This is a major problem with cars that have been in a major collision and often times is quite hard to notice. A lot of times you can't tell if a car's frame is bent or twisted and taking it in to a body shop where they have special equipment just for this purpose will be the only way to tell. However, one telltale sign that a car's frame is damaged, is that the steering wheel will pull to one side or the other when driving in a straight line. Although this is often a sign of a bent frame, not every car that “pulls” has a bent frame. Another sign of a bent frame, when approaching the car from the rear, you will notice that the rear wheels aren't parallel with the front wheels. This is called dog tracking and it's much more obvious when you are behind the car as it is driving.
Repaint- A sure sign that a car has been in an accident is when it has been repainted. Things to look for when you suspect that a car has been repainted include mismatched shades of paint. When you observe the vehicle from different angles in different light, you will notice that the color of one body panel won't quite match the one next to it. They might only be off by a shade, so you'll have to pay close attention to notice this. Another thing to keep an eye out for spots where the vehicle didn't get painted. As unlikely as this sounds, it does happen. Sometimes in their rush to make a profit, a car dealer will cut corners and rather than disassembling major components of the vehicle to paint hard to reach places, they'll leave the vehicle assembled painting around these areas. Usually, with all of the new technology at their disposal, they will be able to pretty closely match the original paint color. This makes it difficult to notice. The most common places to look to find mismatched paint is anywhere that it would be hard to get at with a paint gun, like along the firewall behind the engine, in the door jambs, on the rocker panels where the carpet meets the trim and around the edges of tail and head lights.
Body Filler- When a car is in a major collision , rather than spend the extra money that it would cost to purchase aftermarket replacement body panels, many body shops will opt to pull out the dents as much as they can, fixing the remaining dents and holes with body filler or Bondo. To find these areas where body filler has been used, takes somewhat of a trained ear. All that you need to do is, walk along the car tapping on the body with your knuckles. While you are tapping on the body, you should be listening very closely for a difference in the sound that the tapping makes. Body filler will sound slightly more hollow. Also, when tapping on a metal body panel, it will make a distinct sound when compared to the areas that were repaired with body filler. Another way that you'll notice areas repaired with body filler, if you look very closely, you'll see that the area has been repainted. When trying to spot repainted areas, you'll notice that they'll look just slightly different from the rest of the car, shinier, duller, smoother, rougher or else the color may be slightly off.
As always, this is just a guide to help you out. However, I still recommend that you take any used car to a qualified mechanic for a second opinion before making your final decision.