Front End Damage: Fix It Yourself?

Front end damage
This truck needs lots of repair. photo by Matt Wright 2014


An accident that's left the front of your car or truck smashed up isn't the end of the world. You can save a ton of money if you tackle the repairs yourself. Even doing part of the job at home can save a lot of money on the whole repair.

It happens to the best of us. You’ve smashed the front end of your vehicle. Winter snow storms are prime time for rear ending another car or truck. In suburban or wilderness areas, an animal strike can do serious damage to the front of your vehicle. Please don’t tell anyone that you were texting when you plowed into that pickup truck in front of you.  Worse than that, you don’t have full coverage insurance so you’re stuck with the repair cost yourself. Before you drop your car off for a super pricey repair bill, you should consider doing the job yourself. If the damage doesn’t appear to include any frame damage, you can do the majority of the repair on your own and farm out only the really tricky stuff like painting or wheel alignment. 

There’s no way of knowing whether your frame suffered damage at home. You can usually look at the vehicle and make a pretty good guess. If the entire car or truck looks like it’s sitting much lower on one side and your bumper is doing the same, you may want to get your vehicle inspected by a collision specialist to determine how far off things have gotten. If it looks good enough to you, get ready to make some magic. 

This step by step repair will cover a bumper replacement on the most popular Chevy (and General Motors) truck on the road, the Silverado or Sierra 1500. The process will be similar on other vehicles including cars, trucks and SUVs. If you've just got a serious scratch, maybe take a look at some simple scratch repair instead. 

The first step to repair your front bumper, grill, fog lights, transmission cooler,  spoiler, or anything else that got messed up in the accident is to start removing things. Don’t go bonkers, however, slow and steady is the name of the game when you are removing damaged parts. Pay close attention to how everything is coming off the car.

Pro Tip

There are a few tricks you can use to help you put the vehicle back together without having to do the same work twice. The first is to use a digital camera or camera phone to document the removal process. As you remove nuts, bolts and parts you can take a pic of the step. When you are putting everything back together you can simply view your pics in the opposite order and you’ll know how things go back together. Another trick is to lay out the parts you are removing on the driveway or garage floor exactly as they come off. This is another good memory jogger that can really help out when it is time for reassembly. It’s tempting to tell yourself that you’ll remember where everything goes and how you took it off, but you’ll find out the hard way that even a small amount of time between removal and reassembly can leave your mind blank. 

Another thing to consider is vehicle down time. If you can't afford to be without a vehicle for any amount of time, you may be better off dropping your car or truck off at a body shop and renting something to help you get by while they fix it. Often you can get an appointment at the repair shop along with an estimate for the repair time that is fairly accurate. 

Of course, my recommendation is to bite the bullet and take the plunge! The feeling of getting it done yourself can't be beat. Even if you have to eat a little bondo dust in the process!