2008 Kia Spectra damage to car from accident

Tiny
IRISHFF13
  • MEMBER
  • 2008 KIA SPECTRA
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 82,000 MILES
I was struck by a Jeep Cherokee (96-98 year roughly). I was stopped at a stop sign in a construction zone waiting to pull out onto interstate 81S, (foot on break and wheel turned to my right). As traffic passed, I was just beginning to take my foot off the brake and was looking to my left watching the flow of traffic when I was struck in the rear, I jerked my wheel to my right even more to avoid being pushed out into traffic and being struck and my foot remained on the brake peddle, with my weight on it (she hit me so hard, my car was pushed about 4ft forward, at least). Damage was pretty decent to my rear, trunk was pushed in from center to rear passenger side, bumper was pushed downward, rear passenger side quarter panel (hope I'm correct with the terminology)was bent, seam line was not symmetrical, tail lights were smashed. I had drove it home, and drove it back and forth to work for a week before the shop even got to look at the damage (as a state trooper said my car was drivable). The next day I noticed an intermittent noise coming from the front passenger side, which sounded so faint, it sounded like something was loose in my glove box. I told the shop about it, but they couldn't find the source of the noise and they didn't hear it when it was moved around the shop. It became louder and more frequent over time (3 months roughly), tires wore down fast on the front end, even more on the front passenger side and the cause was finally found to be my strut. I was told it was caused by a severe impact, like hitting a pothole really hard. I told the shop that I never hit a pothole really hard, as I drive on really good roads. I told them I was struck hard from behind (as I wrote above and showed them pictures of my car from the accident ). The shop said that definitely a possibility. I began to search to see if it was possible. I found forums that said it was possible, people shared their experiences. I found a textbook that stated you can't rule out damage to the front end due to a rear end collision damage. I was excited to see the information, as my appraiser and adjuster approved me to drop my car off twice (they put me in a rental the second time for 2 weeks so the repairs can be made). I found out yesterday that the repairs weren't made yet and now the insurance company denied the claim stating there is no written proof anywhere to back up front end damage (more specifically strut damge) from a rear end collision. I submitted what I had for them to review and was then emailed a reply that stated front end damage doesn't include struts, it means an alignment issue. They said a master mechanic would have to determine if it was possible. I was wondering two things, can strut damage to the front occur from a rear impact? If so can you please explain how/why this could occur? The second question is what is considered front end as far as a mechanics terms? I just wanted to understand this more. Thank you for your assistance regarding my questions!
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Thursday, January 29th, 2015 AT 3:17 PM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
There's too many variables to know for sure about the struts. First of all, to play devil's advocate, you must have noticed the poor handling immediately after the crash, and the car would have pulled to one side when you let go of the steering wheel. That pull will tell you right away one of the front wheels is out of alignment by a lot. It's never until much later that the tire wear shows up. The exception is when both front wheels are tipped in or out on top exactly an equal amount. Tires want to pull in the direction they're leaning, and if both are leaning the same amount in opposite directions, their pulls will counteract each other. The car may go fairly straight but the handling will be overly-exaggerated in wind and when one tire slips on snow or ice. The case could be made that you should have noticed the alignment problem right away. Most insurance adjusters would assume a problem reported a month or two later after you've been driving the car without complaint is caused by something other than the crash.

Okay, as for that strut, the mechanic needs to say exactly what is wrong with it. Every car must get a four-wheel alignment after crash damage is repaired, especially the kind of damage you described. If you received a printout of the alignment, post the "before" and "after" readings for front and rear camber and toe. I can interpret those with respect to tire wear, pulling, and centered steering wheel.

Your front struts look just like what is used on Chrysler products. Their struts have two lower mounting holes and one is slotted to make it adjustable. That is "camber". That is the inward or outward tilt of the wheel as you look at the car from in front or in back. You would think your wheels are supposed to be straight up and down, but in fact, on most cars, they're tipped out on top just a little. Straight up and down is 0.00 degrees. If you can imagine a wheel laying on its side, that would be 90.00 degrees. A typical camber specification might be 0.30 degrees. That's not enough of a tilt to see by eye, but we can get it that close with the alignment computer. On some cars, 0.10 degrees difference from side-to-side is enough to cause a slight pull when you let go of the steering wheel on straight and flat roads.

A lot of GM front-wheel-drive cars use the same style struts as are on Chryslers, but they don't come with one slotted hole. One of them has to be ground out to make it adjustable when adjustment is needed. Your car uses this same design but I don't know if they come with a slotted hole. If they do, there's three things that could have happened. The first is that adjustment slipped from the shock of the crash, but most of the time that requires sliding into something like a curb. The fix for that is during the alignment to simply readjust it back to where it was and is supposed to be. The second is nothing happened during the crash, but as part of the alignment, the mechanic saw it needed some adjustment to be perfect, (which can be expected on any car, especially at the age and mileage you listed), and he didn't tighten the bolts enough, and the adjustment slipped after you got the car back. Very often it doesn't slip until you hit a normal bump in the road. Even hard braking can do it. The fix for that is to have the alignment rechecked by the same shop. They deserve the chance to correct their mistake, and typically you won't be charged again, normally up to about three months. The third thing is one of the alignment projectors could have slipped on the wheel. The computer is showing numbers related to the projector which is supposed to be perfectly parallel to the wheel. If the projector slips, THAT is what is going to be correct when the alignment is finished, not the wheel. The mechanic should have noticed the resulting pull and / or off-center steering wheel on the test drive. If he didn't notice anything unusual, it's unlikely you would either.

There is a fourth thing that can happen. Struts are like giant shock absorbers, but they are also a structural part of the suspension system. They hold the wheel straight, but the tube they're made from is somewhat weak on purpose. That tube will bend from a severe impact to help absorb some of the force rather than transfer it into the rest of the car. It is very common to find that tube bent at the bottom right above those two mounting bolts. The only fix for that is to replace the strut, (both should be replaced as a pair), then realign the car. A strut on the front is not going to be bent from an impact in the rear unless the tire gets pushed into something like that curb. Simply getting hit and shoved forward when the brakes are applied won't do it either. If it could, we'd see bent struts all the time after someone skidded the tires. Locking the brakes, sliding sideways, and hard acceleration won't bend a strut. In some cases it might be possible to bend one from sliding sideways on ice, then the tire suddenly hits dry pavement. Even that would be very uncommon, but if it did occur, almost surely you wouldn't be able to see the damage by eye. You'd need the alignment computer to pick that up.

When talking about front and rear, it's just like front and rear tires. There's struts on the front and on the rear of most front-wheel-drive cars. A part on the left always refers to the driver's side, (as left is seen from the driver's seat).

What you need to do is go back to the mechanic who did the previous alignment and find out exactly what is wrong with the strut. I'm very skeptical it was damaged in the crash, and unless someone can tell me why, it's highly unlikely the insurance company should have to pay for it. The second thing is to request a copy of the printout from the alignment computer so I can see what they are. I always put a copy on the passenger front seat, and I used a highlighter to show which adjustments is changed.
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Thursday, January 29th, 2015 AT 4:52 PM
Tiny
IRISHFF13
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I may have experienced it on the drive home after the accident, but with everything that happened, I was a bit overwhelmed. I noticed that the car favored pulling to the passenger side slightly immediately after the accident and it continued after it was repaired. I looked over the bill from the company that repaired my vehicle and saw no charge or mention of an alignment being done. I'll contact the company tomorrow and inquire if an alignment was done. I'm honestly, not sure if it was done at this point. If it wasn't done, is it possible it would have put the strain on the front end? I can tell you that it hasn't been the same since it was hit. Thank you for answering my questions! I greatly appreciate it!
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Thursday, January 29th, 2015 AT 5:05 PM
Tiny
IRISHFF13
  • MEMBER
I was told initially by Firestone that my top strut mount was snapped. The body shop found that my strut was bent. Yesterday the shop said that a bearing was popped. I don't know if that helps or not. When looking at the strut on the front passenger side, it was bent toward the left. Hope that helps. Also my car was inspected 2 months before the accident and everything was great.
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Thursday, January 29th, 2015 AT 5:14 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Well, that has to be the front strut they're referring to. The rear ones don't have bearings in the upper mount. The front ones do because they're holding up the weight of the car and without bearings, you'd have a real hard time turning the steering wheel.

I would be real surprised to find a front strut or upper mount damaged in any way, but without seeing it for myself, I can't argue with what someone else found. I still think there should have been symptoms after the body damage was repaired, and I can't imagine anyone doing all this repair work and not aligning the car at the end.

What I can suggest, to reduce the pain a little, is you're at the point where the struts are ready to be replaced as a regular maintenance item anyway. There are a number of ways the upper mounts can fail that can't be detected until they're removed and disassembled during strut replacement. Mechanics hate having to find you and tell you more parts are needed than were first included in a repair estimate, so now a lot of shops just include new mounts in their estimates. Also, to save time and money, some really high-quality aftermarket parts suppliers are making "Quick Struts" available. Those are a complete strut, upper mount, and coil spring assembly, ready to install. Replacing struts normally requires taking off the springs which requires special tools and is fairly dangerous and time-consuming. With these Quick Struts, you get new springs which restore ride height which is critical and goes down as cars age, and there's no disassembling of individual components. You pay a little extra for the parts but you save a lot on labor cost.
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Thursday, January 29th, 2015 AT 5:52 PM

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