Road trip wreck, need help from you west coast folks

Discussion in 'Mercedes Benz Diesels' started by Shadetreemechanic, Aug 4, 2016.

  1. Shadetreemechanic

    Shadetreemechanic Full Access Member

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    I am currently on a family road trip cross country in the 85 benz. All was going well with only minor issues until we tried to go see the Glen Canyon Dam in Page, AZ. Had a rental car full of Chinese tourists pull out in front of me there and the car took a good hit to the front passenger side. This was on the 31st. We had backcountry camping reservations at the bottom of the Grand Canyon that I didn't want to miss, so I slipped the tow truck driver some cash to use his winch to pull the fender back off the tire so it was drivable instead of towing. We made it to the canyon and just hiked out yesterday and now I need to figure out what to do. Car drives straight, but with the steering wheel at 1 oclock rather than centered like it used to be. I had just bought a new set of tires the day before in Cortez Colorado. I think its chewing some on the outer passenger tire but its not terrible. I have put about 300 miles on it since the wreck.
    Here is the deal. I have 2 weeks left on this trip. Headed from here (Zion National park) through vegas to King's Canyon and then will work my way down california through Big Sur to San Diego for a wedding on the 12th of August. Then the plan is to drive back to Tennessee via Tuscon, El Paso etc.
    I am going to try to have an adjuster in Vegas look at the car and fully expect a total since the whole front end is tweaked. I figure my options then are:

    Drive it back as is: At the minimum I need to get it aligned I think, Id consider fixing it and continuing to drive it when home, but I don't know whether the front frame is bent.
    Ditch car and rent something for return: Issue with that is we are pulling a pop up camper so I would have to rent something that can carry 5 folks and has a hitch.
    Buy another car out here: wife is actually excited about the idea of a rust free west coast benz, but I am not too excited about buying a 31 year old car and immediately heading cross country with it towing a trailer. Might be an adventure though. My tag office in TN told me to just take my tags off my current car and switch them over to anything I might buy.

    My questions:
    Can I tell whether the whole frame is bent on an alignment machine, or do I need a body shop to check that? Can anyone recommend one or the other or both within a hundred miles or so of my intended route?
    Does anyone know of a good benz wagon for sale along the route? I have found two on Craigslist that look tempting: https://losangeles.craigslist.org/sgv/cto/5693767144.html, and https://slo.craigslist.org/cto/5689887100.html
    Is there anyone on here I could pay to take a look at one of those or others that might be around before we arrive in Cali?

    Any help from you left coasters would be appreciated. Need direction toward good folks (like the tow truck driver in Page) but realize I am a long way from home and you guys are the only folks I know out here.
    Thanks
     

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  2. IDIoit

    IDIoit MachinistFabricator Supporting Member

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    im not in the so cal area, but here are a few in the nor cal area.
    sadly I know nothing about these. I can look but I would be primarily looking for chassis and suspension flaws.
    if you do make it up to nor cal, and decide to buy something from up here, and get rid of your current ride,
    I can assist in taking all of the good stuff off your ride and keeping it for replacement parts and getting rid of the unwanted stuff.

    http://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/cto/5682465715.html

    http://sfbay.craigslist.org/nby/cto/5673737844.html

    http://sacramento.craigslist.org/cto/5710080674.html
     
  3. Shadetreemechanic

    Shadetreemechanic Full Access Member

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    Are you in San Francisco? Sacramento seems far, but San Fran is doable. My son is super excited about the idea of actually seeing the six door. We have been following your thread together.
    The blue 85 you posted seems promising. As for looking at car, what I am interested in is rust. My 85 has typical east coast rust issues. I had already told my wife it was terminal and likely had only a couple more years in it anyway. Thanks for the offer. I'll circle back with you once I know more about insurance.
     
  4. IDIoit

    IDIoit MachinistFabricator Supporting Member

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    I am actually smack dab in the middle of SF and sac, 45-60 min either way.

    if it happens, I got a spot for your camper, and some home cooked meals for you and the fam.

    just beware, I have 2 huge rats that run around that scream and cry LOL
     
  5. asmith

    asmith Full Access Member

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    I can go look at the one on SLO craigslist in Nipomo. It is not far from where I live and actually right around the corner from the house I am working on. I know nothing about these cars though. I can check for rust and basic drivability.

    You may not want to or even be able to drive through Big Sur. There is a huge fire there right now that has shut down most of the campgrounds. Even as far south as I am from it, our skies are filled with smoke.


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  6. 79jasper

    79jasper Chickenhawk

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    No help to your troubles, but let me know when you get to El paso. If I'm still here, can maybe meet up.

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  7. G. Mann

    G. Mann Full Access Member

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    Suggestion:

    Find a good front end shop that will determine how out of line the front end is, and if there is frame damage.

    If the frame is tweeked, ask your new best friend, the front end guy who operates a body shop with a frame machine that knows how to use it.. take it there, have the frame pulled back to "square" as possible, then line up the front end again... You should be good to go..

    If it's a back east rust belt car... check for hidden frame damage.. rust on unibody weakens things... be safe..

    Frame shop should cost less than swapping cars.. and you could be back on the road in a day, if it works right.
     
  8. towcat

    towcat Administrator Staff Member

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    the buckle in the left fender tells me you have hidden frame damage. if you have any rust in your torque boxes on the lower part of the car, the car is done. how to find your torque boxes? look for the jack up points on the side of the body and look under. out of the three choices, the blue wagon in the middle would be my choice.
     
  9. Shadetreemechanic

    Shadetreemechanic Full Access Member

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    We are camped on the open desert tonight outside of Vegas after spending my morning with insurance chaos and afternoon with Zion national park visitor chaos.
    Damn this car sure still drives well. 75 mph down interstate 15 and the ac still blows cold even though the accumulator is now turned sideways and wrapped up in the passenger fender.
    Insurance is going to be a struggle. Because the driver is a Chinese national, he didn't have regular car insurance to cover accident. He bought a supplemental policy from Alamo rental.
    Alamo is apparently owned by enterprise and they self insure.
    The driver never filed an accident report with Alamo. I had to do that for him today. Now I wait 48 hours for enterprise's damage recovery team to review report and then might hear who could look at it for adjustment.
    My guess is that enterprise lacks a network of adjusters that most actual insurance companies have so this could be a pain.
    So it sounds like an alignment shop can tell me whether the frame is bent? I have been all under the car now. The front frame horn on the passenger side is definitely bent some, but I can see no evidence of bending further back. I think the damage I see could explain the steering being out, due to movement of the lower control arm mount. Question is whether it can be adjusted out or not. To towcat's point, I thought the drivers fender bow spelled doom as well, but the inner fender is actually still in the right alignment, the fender bowed out and left it in place like it could be the front rad support pushed it over and back.
    I am not sure what is meant by torque boxes. There are boxed supports coming off the unibody that are in good shape on the front. Back is where the rust is on this car so the rear jack points are both soft there and I had to fabricate a new floor pan and subframe mount on the passenger side last year.
    I called on the blue car in middle Cali and the blue one posted in fairfax. Have t heard back yet from either.
    As I said earlier, this car was due for replacement soon, but my plan had been to find a rust free body and spend several months working through the mechanics on it while My wife drove the old one. I hate the idea of leaving it out here to be crushed with so many good parts on it, but I do like the idea of a rust free California frame to work from and with a couple days am sure I could get one reliable to cross country by stripping my current one.@ idiot, your offer for a place to work is great. If I take you up on it I am sure your two little one and my three bigger ones could really get loud together.
    Destination tomorrow is Hume lake, ca. I have a long time buddy there who I will have set me up with an alignment shop.
    Thanks everyone for the replies and offers of assistance. I may take one or more of you up on them yet.
     
  10. asmith

    asmith Full Access Member

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    Man I love Hume Lake!!! I can't tell you how much time I have spent there as a student, then counselor, now mostly just to visit. As you probably know they have a full auto shop there and could probably give you a great idea of what is going on.

    Enjoy your time there.

    Let me know if you want me to go look at that car for you. Or if there is anything else you need.


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  11. Shadetreemechanic

    Shadetreemechanic Full Access Member

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    Asmith is right. Hume has a great shop. One of their mechanics was a former mercedes tech as well. We put the car on the lift and did a lot of measuring. It looks like the frame bend is confined to the passenger side, with the deformation on the drivers side coming from body panel shift.
    I also spoke with one of the car sales Brian posted, and the one in Nipomo. Neither seemed like the perfect car so given that and the fact that I have no faith I will get anything from enterprise insurance, I decided to work on the car to get it back home.
    My buddy here at hume builds rope courses, so using his ropes and come a longs, we built a frame machine of sorts by chaining the car to various trees in his yard. Pulled passenger side back out so that the passenger door opens and fender is straight enough for the hood to close. Then we pulled sideways to straighten the drivers side and get the hood release lined up with the hood.
    There is more work to be done, but we shifted the front clip over almost 1/2 inch. Also used copious zip ties to realign headlights. Final issue I don't think I mentioned was the impact broke the top of the radiator at the connection to the expansion tank. We have been running since AZ with blue glue and a screw instead of an expansion tank. On this car the expansion tank is pressurized and is also the filler port, so we have had no way to vent or add coolant. It has been running hotter than I liked.
    Finding a radiator for a 31 year old benz is not an easy task. I finally found Sebring West automotive in Fresno. They have an amazing inventory of old European stuff and the parts counter is open seven days a week. I did have to give up my left nut for the radiator, but they were the only ones who had one. The frame work definitely helped as the new radiator went in with only about a 1/4 twist to line up with the mounting areas.
    We are headed to the coast today and down highway one.
    Asmith, we will probably stop and look at the nipomo car, to see if its better than described. if you are around we could grab a beer.
    Thanks all for the offers of assistance and advice.
    IMG_20160806_200024055.jpg IMG_20160806_200213293.jpg IMG_20160807_101038746.jpg
     
  12. asmith

    asmith Full Access Member

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    good to hear they could help you out. everyone there are amazing people and willing to give you the shirt off your back. I just sent you a PM with my number. when are you going to be coming through? would love to meet up if i can work my schedule around.
     
  13. Shadetreemechanic

    Shadetreemechanic Full Access Member

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    We made it back home to TN Thursday night. Total trip 6187 miles. I was unprepared for how little signal I would have on California 1. @ Asmith, I didn't even see your message until we were in San Diego. Big Sur was beautiful, but that mountain kept me out of signal for the entire time, and from there we went to Lake Cachuma which also was signalless. BTW, the blue wagon in Nipomo is covered in rust. It was way worse than the one I was driving.
    Still no offer from insurance. I did finally get a final claim number after going through rental car's inhouse insurance rep who forwarded to private subcontractor who forwarded to second private subcontractor. I have an adjuster now in Missouri who contracted with yet another insurance company in San Diego that came and took photos of the damage.
    We ended up heading back via El Centro, Tuscon, and then over to Las Cruces so we could hit Carlsbad caverns and White Sands national monument.
    Ill try to do another thread in the MB section with some pics and stats of the trip. The international IDI is a great motor, but the 617 benz may be the best diesel motor of all time.
     
  14. compressionignitionrules

    compressionignitionrules Full Access Member

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    I've owned 2 300D sedans and I'm not surprised this car made the trip home again at all. these cars are built way past strong, even when they are rusty. the 300TD estate with a diesel had to be close to 4000lbs in stock trim.

    that sounds like an awesome trip you made even with a minor little bender:hail along the way. they don't call them a million mile car for nothing.

    it would have been nice to bring home a west coast wagon but there can be some hidden rot along the coast too.......... desert states;Sweet
     

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