So this happened:
On the way to work on February 10 I rear-ended a lady in a Honda. She was stopped at a light as I was coming up behind her. When things got started I was still about 400 feet away, doing maybe 40 mph. I saw that the light turned green and she started to go–I thought. Just then a couple cops heading the other way lit up and wanted to turn left in front of her. I could not see the cops but I did see their flashing red & blues and yet, for some reason, did not get the point.
The lady and the cops then spent three or four seconds doing one of those ‘you-go-no-you-go’ routines we all take part in once in a while. By the time I realized she wasn’t moving I had closed to about 100 or 12o feet–still plenty of space to stop . . . on most days.
February 10 was post ice-storm. The roads were wet, just this side of icy. For an idea of the situation, look at my hood. That is ice.
Anyway. I locked the wheels up–which should not have been able to happen as the truck has ABS. I tried to steer into the right lane but she no-a-steer with the wheels locked up. Ended up making impact at, I’d guess, 12-14 mph.
Long story short: The lady drove on, apparently unhurt. My insurance should make her vehicle good as new. But the truck leaked antifreeze all over the ground. It was dead. And (per the dealer it got towed to), that’s $6000+ damage. I don’t carry collision insurance (She’s a 2002 with 168,000 miles). So I shelled out $160 to have the truck towed to the house, where it sat in the garage for a month while we endured constant ice, snow and daytime high temps in the mid teens.
Before the crash the truck was worth maybe $3,000, but I still have a garden wall to build. I was not ready to give it up. I looked up cheap parts online: the driver fender, hood, bumper cover, two headlights, radiator, condensor and busted washer fluid bottle looked like they could be had for less than $800.* I figured it couldn’t hurt to try some hillbilly body work.
Last week was finally warm enough to get out the chains and the come-along and try to pull the frame’s substructure back close to where it should be.
I was able, in a couple hours, to pull the main substructure out six inches, close to where it belongs. Measuring from the firewall to the hood stops on the fenders, they were now within a half inch of each other. The sheet metal underneath though–the inner fender and and the flat, front panel that sits behind the visible bodywork–were still not very close to right. I realized late that I had set the truck up at the wrong angle, canted toward the tree instead of away. The idea is always to pull at exactly the angle the vehicle was smashed at. I was a good 60 degrees off.
Today I tried again, canting the truck the other way and pulling the bodywork, hammering it with a sledge and prying with the “attitude adjustment bar” I keep for demolition work.
Another three and a half hours of fiddling got the tops of the fenders to within an eighth-inch of one another, in terms of distance from the firewall. I got the forked substructure that the bumper cover bolts to curled back to where it bolts to the main frame rail. I got the mounting points for the driver’s side headlight bucket to where I think they’ll work.
The other mounting points–for the bumper cover, the fender, etc.–all seem to be close to where they should be. Admittedly, it’s still not very pretty; the bottom radiator support rail is never going to be even close to straight:
I pulled off the washer bottle and called it a day. Next week I’ll remove the radiator and condensor. Hopefully by then my new parts will be here and I can start putting things back together. And hope they fit…
The inner fender well is still crumpled. It will be easy to see that the truck has been hit.
But I don’t care. I just want to get it looking decent and working safely enough to drive.
*ordered from two cheap on-line parts houses; $756 delivered. Fingers crossed.