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Repair steps guaranteed to keep subcompact cars from becoming big headaches

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 - 07:00
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If you’re old enough, you probably remember a time when buying an inexpensive, small car meant being banished to some kind of automotive purgatory. Buyers almost invariably ended up with a four-wheel something sporting cheap materials, a thin metal skin and whiney engine — maybe air conditioning was included. Also included was bland, boxy styling that, at best, helped one blend in with a sea of similar automotive outcasts. You wanted a cheap car, and that’s exactly what you got.

(Photo courtesy of GM) The 2017 Chevrolet Sonic and other competitors such as the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit offer plenty of power, style and safety technology in small packages, keeping subcompacts significant players in the automotive market.

How things have changed. Today’s small cars offer power, performance, safety, punchy looks and a host of techno-gadgets designed to convince millennials and first-time buyers to hop in the driver’s seat while saving some money. They still come with a few issues, for repairers, that is. Their size can force shops to throw in a few wrinkles with typical repairs. Use the following tips and steps to iron out any complications and smooth the way for a great job.

Considerations

What’s so difficult about repairing subcompacts? Their compact sizes condense standard repair issues into much tighter spaces. Alternative and mixed material parts are packed closer together, as are highly sensitive electronic systems. Sectioning will remain an issue, and so will using the right joining techniques in smaller areas. Tighter spaces also make electronic systems even more vulnerable to collision damage.

Then there’s the matter of less vehicle volume available to absorb and transmit collision energy way from an accident area. This can translate into more severe and hidden damage, making accurate damage analysis and pre- and post-repair scans even more critical.

This fact is further complicated by the sheer level of technology packed away in these might mites. Subcompacts offer many of the same options as larger vehicles, including backup cameras and lane watch and lane departure warnings. They don’t come up short in passenger protection. The 2017 Chevrolet Sonic, whose repairs are noted below, arrives with ten standard air bags--including side-curtain air bags, pelvic/thorax side-impact air bags (front and rear) and front knee air bags.

These factors can add up to a greater likelihood that repair costs might exceed totaling thresholds, especially considering the modest value of these vehicles. You could end up helping owners find ways to reduce costs to ensure they can hold on to their cars.

Sonic Booms

The 2017 (and earlier model year) Chevrolet Sonic provides many of these challenges (as do vehicles like the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit. The steps listed here (courtesy of GM) for three repairs take into account a number of material and electronic issues. Note how the steps are quite similar to those performed on larger vehicles. You’ll want to put extra attention on places where you need to inspect for or repair related damage since it may be more difficult to spot. Also, note the need to locate any and all factory welds in an accident area.

(Photo courtesy of Honda)
(Photo courtesy of GM) The Sonic and Fit come with multiple airbags, providing passengers with plenty of protection that also can drive up repair costs.

Body Side Frame Rocker Reinforcement Replacement

Removal Procedure

Before beginning, refer to the Approved Equipment for Collision Repair Warning Glass and Sheet Metal Handling Warning documentation.

Note: The body side frame rocker reinforcement is made of Ultra High Strength Dual Phase Steel and should be replaced only at factory joints.

Repairing or sectioning of this part is not recommended. Refer to Ultra High Strength Dual Phase Steel.

1. Disable the SIR system. Refer to SIR Disabling and Enabling document.

2. Disconnect the negative battery cable. Refer to Battery Negative Cable Disconnection and Connection document.

3. Remove all related panels and components.

4. Repair as much of the damage as possible to factory specifications. Refer to Dimensions - Body (4NB) or Dimensions - Body (5HB) documents, according to vehicle body type.

5. Remove the sealers and anti-corrosion materials from the repair area, as necessary. Refer to Anti-Corrosion Treatment and Repair (Base).

6. Locate and mark all the necessary factory welds of the body side frame rocker reinforcement.

7. Drill all factory welds. Note the number and location of welds for installation of the service assembly.

8. Remove the damaged body side frame rocker reinforcement.

Installation Procedure

1. Align the body side frame rocker reinforcement.

2. Drill a 8 mm (5/16 in) holes for plug welding along the edges of the quarter outer panel from the original panel.

3. Clean and prepare the attaching surfaces for welding.

4. Position the body side frame rocker reinforcement on the vehicle.

5. Verify the fit of the body side frame rocker reinforcement.

6. Clamp the body side frame rocker reinforcement into position.

7. Plug the weld.

8. Apply the sealers and anti-corrosion materials to the repair area, as necessary. Refer to Anti-Corrosion Treatment and Repair (Base) document.

9. Paint the repaired area. Refer to Basecoat/Clearcoat Paint Systems document.

10. Install all related panels and components.

11. Connect the negative battery cable. Refer to Battery Negative Cable Disconnection and Connection document.

12. Enable the SIR system. Refer to SIR Disabling and Enabling document.

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