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A Vehicle Design Problem

oday’ vehicle designs, including off road and RV, are complex and can be difficult to diagnose collision suspension damage. Case in point. A call from an Insurance Company Adjuster; “Don, we have a vehicle that was repaired after a collision and the owner is complaining it does not steer properly. Several shop technicians have test driven it and said it is fine. The owner is still not satisfied. Would you test drive it and give us your opinion?” “No”, I said. “Another opinion based only on a test drive would probably just make the owner angrier. I want to gauge the vehicle, then I can speak facts, not opinion.” “But you don’t understand,” he said, it has been gauged. The last time I looked at the gauges myself and they were perfect.”

The owner delivered the vehicle and I asked him what symptoms he was experiencing while driving the vehicle. He mentioned several. This would give me a clue where to look. I did a quick visual check and could see another clue, which indicated something horribly wrong with the frame.

Finding problems on a vehicle that had been worked on is much like detective work. We have to find what is collision related and what is repair error. What was overlooked or what was altered to compensate for a problem that was not acknowledged, or appeared not repairable.

I placed the gauges on the frame in the most common positions expecting to see a severe misalignment. The gauges read perfect. I was surprised because my quick visual check revealed a problem. However the problem area did not have a gauge placed…yet.

These gauges would be my benchmark (an area proven to be accurate) for the search. I can use this area as a guide to double check measurements in the other areas of the frame.

Sometimes I wonder; does the designer of a vehicle give any thought to how difficult the vehicle would be to repair after it is involved in a collision. The problem area I suspected was alongside the engine. But the design prevented placing a gauge there, although the blue print gave a measurement. Steering components, engine components and frame brackets blocked the area for placement of the gauge.

Fortunatel,y we have seen design problems before and have developed other methods to secure gauges. In this case we selected our magnetic gauge (our own design). I placed the gauge and sighted the alignment. It was 1 1/2’” off center or 3” overall side to side. I called the adjuster to inspect the vehicle. Then I removed the magnetic gauge (so as not to influence him, giving him the original view he declared perfect.)

“Why, the gauges looks perfect,” he said. “Yes," I said, "but the problem is alongside the engine area. I want you to look at the access.”

“Why, we would have to pull the suspension or engine to get a measurement,” he said.

“Yes,” I agreed, “a conventional gauge will not attach and I believe this area was not measured and is the source of the owners steering complaint, because it is off center from the rest of the frame.”

“But, how can you tell if you can’t gauge it?”

“Well there are several clues,” I said. “First, I noticed the front wheels are to the left within the vehicle body. The rear wheels cannot track properly. This would cause the symptoms the owner described, namely, erratic steering.”

I said, “you read the gauges and said they looked perfect, now let’s put another gauge on. I have a gauge that is not affected by the lack of clearance.” I placed the magnetic gauge on. "Now tell me what you see.”

“Oh my gosh, It’s off an inch and a half,” he said.

“Yes,” I replied “or three inches overall, side to side.”

The owner’s complaint was justified. The insurance company authorized us to repair the frame and we saved them a lot of money by not having to remove the steering and engine components.

Coachmaster is equipped with the latest technology. We have laser beam measuring devices for frame and body work accuracy. Our Infra-Red 3-D imaging is used as a final check.

Note; this repair involved more measuring procedures and instruments than mentioned. Space limitations for the article do not allow further procedure discussions.

Coachmaster Collision repair* is a full service collision repair facility. We have repaired thousands of frames and vehicle bodies. Our staff and associates include certified technicians and a California State certified instructor. We are consulted by Insurance companies regularly. Contact Allan Gordon for an estimate on your collision repair needs. Call 530-243- 1310 or visit the business at 6851 Eastside Road, in Redding California. *Click here if you are using a smart phone or other mobile device.

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