How possible is it for professionals in a collision shop to miss a compromised axle beam before it breaks

  • 2011 DODGE
  • V6
  • RWD
  • 80,000 MILES
My van was hit while parked on a street. Guy busted his front tire on my rear drivers rim, shredding my tire, and the wheel on that side was sitting at a weird angle along with damage to the sliding door and panels. The van was pushed into the curb in the hit as well and the other rim was damaged. We had to give them the van after getting it back the first time because the rim that seamed minimally scraped, at first was bent, and the doors were reinstalled missing latching mechanisms that keep them from freely sliding. Then we had to take it back again because the brakes they put on were defective, but fortunately they noticed our bearings were bad so they threw that in for our trouble. But now we have had our van back two weeks after about a month on and off of this back and forth, and today the axle beam broke on the left side by the wheel, while I was on the highway.

I am looking at this flimsy (what is it a 1/2" thick?) Metal band with a nearly clean cut looking break in it, and the designed bends and curves in it, however subtle and functional, and I can see a possibility of it not showing before it goes, but I am not an expert, so I am here. My wife was already understandably upset with the shop, so I am trying to be sure I am the voice of reason here, and if this could happen to anyone, or happens all the time, then I can calm her down more about it? But I do not want to be calming her when we should be upset too. Thanks
Do you
have the same problem?
Saturday, April 29th, 2017 AT 11:14 AM

1 Reply

Any chance you could post a photo of the broken part? You didn't list any model, and I'm not aware of any rear-wheel-drive vans with sliding doors.

I have a friend with a body shop who specializes in rebuilding smashed one and two-year-old Chrysler products. Every one is a request from his extensive group of regular customers. They tell him what they want, then he goes out and finds them, then rebuilds them. I consulted with him, and he is not aware of any issues. There are a lot of things purposely designed-in to collapse or break slowly in a crash to absorb the impact, but that doesn't extend to suspension parts. Even when hit directly, axle tubes will bend before they break. We find that during the alignment. All vehicles today get a four-wheel alignment, and the alignment computers show adjustment errors down to 0.01 degree. Many years ago the best we could do was to read to within about 1/16" degree. What I would question here is if you received a printout of the alignment. Many shops don't bother with that, but I always gave a copy to my customers. If you did get that, post the "before" and "after" readings for rear camber and toe. I can tell by those "before" readings, meaning before any adjustments were made, how badly the axle was damaged.

You can also look at the tire wear patterns, but that only has validity if you've put on enough miles to cause the telltale wear. If a wheel is tipped in too much on top, you'll see accelerated wear on the inner edge of the tread. That always applies to just that wheel, but the other one can have the same problem.

"Toe" is a little more tricky. That is the direction the wheel is steering, but as far as tire wear is concerned, any significant error on EITHER wheel will show up as a wear pattern on BOTH wheels. That wear pattern consists of each block of rubber tread has a high side and a low side. If you run your hand over the tread, either across the tire or around it, your fingers will slide smoothly in one direction, (it will feel like little ramps), and catch on the high spots when going the other way. From my perspective, that always comes down to figuring out if that wear occurred previously, over as much as a couple of years, or just recently after crash damage occurred.

Even once all the problems are solved, it would be a good idea to visit a tire and alignment shop maybe two to six months later to have them "read" the tire wear patterns. Some brands and models of tires inherently develop some unusual wear patterns even when the alignment is perfect, so don't get excited over anything less than perfect. It's the obnoxious chewed-up tread we want to watch for for the next few months.
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Monday, May 1st, 2017 AT 6:05 PM

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