Doctor Diesel

Making good? Maybe not

Web02Due to combination of poor weather and even worse TV over the summer, I have sadly taken to watching YouTube videos, mostly from Eastern Europe; not the obvious ones that might come to mind though, but vehicle body/chassis repair videos. Very educational in many ways; the skill of some of the technicians in reshaping body panels is quite remarkable, with few replacement panels being required in many instances. This included, in some instances, realignment of chassis legs, called longerons in the videos. I noted that badly damaged chassis legs would in some instances be cut from the vehicles, split on the bench, straightened and then re-welded to the car, sometimes in two or three sections. Again, some of this work was remarkable and, after refinishing, I doubt that many people could tell that the vehicle had been damaged in the first place. Whilst I suspect some of the badly damaged vehicles which are being reborn, so to speak, might be deemed crusher fodder in the UK, the quality of the repairs in all of the videos I have viewed would be hard to better in any major body repair establishment. These technicians are using the best professional equipment and body jigs and appear to have the skills to totally reconstruct a full body shell if necessary. I wondered, however, if some of these such repairs could compromise the safety of a vehicle in any subsequent heavy or even light frontal impacts, and specifically, could it reduce the effectiveness of the in-built factory safety cell? I also watched a few Russian in car videos, by the way, and I have never witnessed worse driving – little wonder so many accidents occur.
Eddie M

Whilst this sort of craftsmanship is admirable in terms of appearances, when something like a car body has to be able to withstand potential collisions, I fear that the crush strength is very much reduced when a piece of structural metal has been reshaped and welded as you are describing. It’s fair enough with non-structural stuff, like body panels, but when you mention chassis legs, then we’re on very dangerous ground indeed. These items are often made of pre-shaped high-strength steel blanks that are heat-treated for strength. Any welding and re-shaping is bound to weaken them significantly, I would feel. That’s why so many cars are scrapped as Cat D in the UK, when visually they may not look that bad. But the amount of work in replacing such things as chassis legs to the required standard of “as new” is just too much to justify. It’s only the low labour rates in Eastern Europe and elsewhere that make it worth doing these sorts of repairs – and anyway they have to re-build them like that because they can’t afford or can’t even get the proper replacement parts. I wonder how many UK cars are being sent abroad for such repairs? Added to this, I would say that re-painting is another weak area, making such repairs distinctly corrosion-prone. It’s almost impossible to repair bodywork to manufactured standards, which is the reason why most warranty claims for bodywork corrosion turns out to be repaired bodywork that hasn’t been properly done, not failure of original paintwork.

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