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How much will fixing my car cost? Is it safe to drive?
August 14, 2012 4:14 PM   Subscribe

My relative backed into my '09 Civic in the driveway. The front emblem and fender are bent; it appears that the radiator is bent as well. The car starts without problems. What am I looking at? Should I drive it into the shop, or have it towed? Relative doesn't have the wherewithal to fix this; should I make a claim against my own insurance?
posted by sonic meat machine to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total)
 
I very recently replaced the front bumper of my '07 Civic and had a dent in the fender fixed. There was no damage to the inside of the car. It was 1,200 bucks. I had them estimate the bumper and fender work separately, and the fender dent was 550 of the cost. (I didn't think the fender was that bad, but that's my I-can-live-with-it opinion.) I'm in Western Massachusetts.
posted by missmary6 at 4:29 PM on August 14, 2012


If you make a claim against your own insurance, your insurance will subrogate the claim to your relative since your relative, not your insurance company, is liable for the damages. In other words, you will cost your relative more time/money by filing a claim against your own insurance (which costs them the amount of the money plus the hassle of dealing with your insurance company) versus getting them to pay for it either through their insurance or from them out of pocket (which only costs them the amount of money one way or another).

Your essentially have five options:
  • Lie to your insurance company and claim the damage is your fault. This would, of course, be insurance fraud.
  • Have your relative pay for the damage via their insurance company.
  • Have your relative pay for the damage out of their pocket.
  • Ignore the damages.
  • Pay for the damages yourself.

posted by saeculorum at 4:32 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is unlikely that the radiator bent unless it was a very big hit indeed, or you're not talking about the radiator. Even if it is the radiator, then it is probably ok to drive if there is no fluid leak and the fan is still able to turn and nothing is touching anything else.

If the car starts, there are no problems or fluid leaks, it is probably safe to drive based on most descriptions of 'backed into my car'. If you'd posted a picture with the bonnet (hood closed) and one with it open from a few angles, I could give you a much more definitive answer on this, but it's a but vague based on your description.

Relative doesn't have the wherewithal to fix this; should I make a claim against my own insurance?

Get quotes first if you think you can avoid your insurance (based on it being a relative and a likely low speed incident) would be my suggestion, unless you don't have the cash to get this fixed.
posted by Brockles at 4:33 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is unlikely that the radiator bent unless it was a very big hit indeed, or you're not talking about the radiator.

Yeah, are you sure you're not talking about the grille? The radiator is pretty hard to damage unless you've basically bashed your bumper into it (Unless the other car was taller than yours so it passed over the bumper.

Brockles has it right.
posted by JauntyFedora at 4:38 PM on August 14, 2012


saeculorum - Wouldn't there be another option, to call the insurance company and say something along the lines of: "Someone backed into my car and did not leave a note." Technically true!
posted by rainbowbrite at 4:41 PM on August 14, 2012


rainbowbrite - If the OP did that, the OP's insurance company would likely require a police report (due to a hit and run), which would combine insurance fraud with lying to the police. I would not suggest that.
posted by saeculorum at 4:44 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


sadly, it's the radiator. The other vehicle was a pickup.

A gallery of carnage
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:54 PM on August 14, 2012


Looking at the damage you show, that might just be bent fins in the radiator and nothing else. It might be possible to carefully straighten them out with a flat screwdriver. If you're not seeing antifreeze on the ground you should be fine to drive it.

If you are seeing antifreeze on the ground, something has cracked and you'll probably need a new radiator. If it's only a little bit (say an ounce) you could probably get it to a nearby shop (say <10 min of engine run time) without much chance of running it dry. If you're seeing much more than that it will probably leak enthusiastically under pressure and I wouldn't drive it for more than two or three minutes and then, only after topping it up with water right before I started the engine. If it looks like someone spilled a couple pints on the ground, call a tow truck.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:47 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


My experience has been that it's hard to escape a body shop for less than four figures (I've never done so). If this was my car, I would pay for it myself, out-of-pocket, and then do what I could to get it from the person who damaged the car. Even if that just meant "hey, dude, that cost me $1,000. What have you got--nice TV, sports equipment, motorcycle, whatever--that's worth that?" If they brush you off on that, well, they have a pickup. Maybe they can sell it and drive a slightly shittier one and give you your cash.
posted by maxwelton at 6:08 PM on August 14, 2012


You sure that's not the a/c condenser? They're usually in front of the radiator due to the operating temperature of modern refrigerants. And yeah, that looks like bent fins (no big deal) not a ruined...whatever it is.
posted by notsnot at 6:39 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


it looks like most of the this could be fixed by just replacing the plastic grill. You might get lucky and be able to find one on in a local junkyard or on ebay pretty cheap. Even if you need a new, Rockauto.com probably has one. The angle of the pictures might be bad though and so not showing everything. IF the plastic cover of the bumper is just scratched, well that is cosmetic and the car can function just fine with it. If the radiator isn't spilling green fluid it is probably fine, although straightening fins isn't hard just use a screwdriver as Kid Charlemagne says. If you do have to replace the radiator it usually isn't that bad, the typically run about 300 and probably another 1 or 2 hundred to change. So to fix the major damage might well be less than 4 figures and maybe less than 5 if you can do it yourself or find a mechanically gifted friend.

Of course if you can drive it you can just have the relative make payments until you have enough to pay the estimate. Kind of a screw up layaway plan.

To do a quick test on drivability just let it idle for a while and watch for any steam, fluid leaks or overheating. If the tempature gauge (assuming you have one) starts to go up you need to immediatly turn it off to avoid damage and while it is idling leave the hood up and make sure the fan comes on. Also turn on the air conditioner and make sure that fan comes on (both are on the engine side of the radiator).
posted by bartonlong at 6:42 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I let it idle for about 15 minutes. I didn't see fluid leaks or steam; the temperature gauge got to about the normal operating temperature and stopped, and the AC seemed to be working. Both fans came on. I did hear a very high pitched, faint whistling while the car was idling and the hood was up, but that could be a normal engine noise I'm just not aware of... the most worrisome thing is the black plastic bit sticking through the (ac coil? radiator?), and the fact that the "nose" of the car seems stubbed in. The plastic grill is behind the bumper, but this isn't due to a deformation of the bumper... the bar to which the grill is mounted seems bent...
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:58 PM on August 14, 2012


Uh, is your car a turbocharged model? If so, I'm betting that what we're looking at is an intercooler and the high pitched whistling you're hearing is air that was destined for your engine.

If you're not seeing some kind of fluid on the ground it's probably safe for reasonable distances.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:12 PM on August 14, 2012


No, not turbocharged. Just a stock 2009 Honda Civic LX.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:14 PM on August 14, 2012


I'm seeing nothing major there. Bent radiator (which may or may not be AC radiator - hard to tell).

Let the engine cool, check the coolant level and check for leaks. No leaks? It's perfectly fine to drive.

I did hear a very high pitched, faint whistling while the car was idling and the hood was up, but that could be a normal engine noise I'm just not aware of

That'd be my guess completely.

Drive it. I'd pay for the repairs myself (if it were me) and then get money back as I could.
posted by Brockles at 7:36 PM on August 14, 2012


You should make a claim on the insurance. That is what it is for. If the auto insurer makes a subrogated claim against your relative and he cannot pay, it gets no money. The financial risk is on the company, not on you. That is what it is for.
posted by yclipse at 4:44 AM on August 15, 2012


When I rear-ended a pickup with my Civic at <5 mph, their rear bumper passed over the top of my front bumper. It ruined my hood and radiator, in addition to the bumper cover. The total repair cost was over $4000, though I could have been taken for a ride by the shop I used.
posted by TooQuiet at 5:22 AM on August 15, 2012


I would get it fixed and work out a payment plan with the relative. At least get an estimate before you get the insurance companies involved.
posted by BostonEnginerd at 5:30 AM on August 15, 2012


You definitely need to get the car in and inspected. There are all manner of inter-connected parts, mounts, connections, etc. in this area, and a solid hit like this can easily weaken/crack/move any of them to where they may fail eventually.

This shot especially concerns me. That's a pretty serious hit to the radiator.

If it's drivable, get it to the dealership for an inspection.

I assume your relative has insurance. This should be a simple matter of you making a claim through your insurance to theirs.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:36 AM on August 15, 2012


You should make a claim on the insurance. That is what it is for. If the auto insurer makes a subrogated claim against your relative and he cannot pay, it gets no money. The financial risk is on the company, not on you. That is what it is for.

I would be careful about doing that, even if my insurance knew it wasn't my fault. Depending on circumstances, it could lead to higher premiums down the road.
posted by Doohickie at 9:23 AM on August 15, 2012


Is the relative reluctant to file the claim with their insurance company as well? Are they under- or uninsured? Their making the call to start the process would be the standard procedure here. You shouldn't have to contact your insurance agent at all.

When I was backed into a couple years ago (2008 Civic sedan) it was all handled without my agent's involvement at all, from the call by the other person to their insurance company, to the estimate inspection, to the call to the Honda dealer body shop to arrange the repairs, to my getting a rental replacement while my car was in the shop, to the check being mailed to the body shop. I just had to go to the Honda shop with my dented car on the day arranged and get picked up by Enterprise to get my rental. Best of all, the body shop did a great job. (Well, best of all is that it didn't cost me a penny.)
posted by aught at 12:14 PM on August 15, 2012


It is going to cost $a lot.
posted by sonic meat machine at 3:23 PM on August 16, 2012


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