Friday, February 7, 2014

How to fix front end crash damage on a 2001 Buick Century

   The young driver of a 2001 Buick Century underestimated her winter stopping distance on a city street and slid into the back end of the car ahead of her. The radiator came through unscathed as did, thankfully, the driver. But she carried only liability insurance, so I have the opportunity to make this car safe and legal to drive. The bumper cover is in three pieces, the plastic grill is cracked and barely hanging on. The left headlight is wrecked and the hood  is bent up.

This looks bad, but it can be fixed fairly easily and economically with scrapyard parts

  The first job is to get it in the garage and see what parts we might need to replace for the headlight replacement. She might have to live with some cosmetic imperfection but that headlight is an absolute must.
    I need to get the hood up to have a closer look at the damage, but the release is completely jammed. I removed the damaged, but still in one piece, plastic grill piece. I then unbolted a bent bracket that attaches to the fiberglass cross bracket and to the triangular bracket in front of the radiator. Removing the two 10 mm bolts allowed me to get at the hood release and manually free the hood. With the hood up we can see more of the carnage. There are three mangled parts that will need replacement. One is a fiberglass bracket the runs across the top of the front of the vehicle and provides the inside mount for the headlights. The second is the hood release mechanism. The third is a triangle-shaped bracket behind the hood release and in front of the middle of the radiator.
The black bracket (part of a fiberglass bracket), the hood release and the green bracket will need to be replaced 

   The black fiberglass piece that holds the grill emblem, and also the top of the bracket in front of the hood release, is held on in by two small (10 mm) bolts on either side. A clip nut on the left side is broken. The white plastic headlight holder on the left is broken.
   The hood release mechanism is held on by three ten millimeter bolts. Remove the cable by pulling out any slack and then slipping it under the end catch. Use a small pliers to depress the wings on the black plastic piece and twist and pull it through the hole.
   The hood bottoms on the frame before it goes all the way down on the ends. It is very bowed down on the inside to do that. It can be made safe and serviceable but I don't see how it can ever be straightened and made pretty again. We will look for a replacement.
 --Hood removal by one person. My expected helper was unavailable so I rigged up a way to do it myself. That's my "MO" anyway. I drove the car under an existing ceiling hook in my garage and ran a cam-buckle strap through the hood release hook on the hood. Then I removed the clips from the hydraulic hood lifters, pulled them off the ball joints on the hood and let them lay flat down. Now remove the 13 mm bolts on each side of the hood. The hinges will fall down and hood is now free. Then raise the hood with the strap and get it clear of the car. Ease it to the ground and unstrap it. Find an out of the way place to stash it until it can be cashed in at the scrapyard.
   I pulled all parts from a junked 1997 Century. The headlight was $25 and the brackets $15. They also have a hood and bumper cover for $50 a piece. They are even the same or very similar cover.
I pulled these four parts for $40. The hood (not pictured) cost $50

Installation and repair
  1)  The bumper cover isn't going to be replaced now, so I put a red ratcheting strap around the cover and then wrapped a very attractive contractor bag around it and held it on with black electrical tape.
  2) Install the triangular metal bracket with two 13 mm bolts on the top and a 10 mm nut on the bottom..
  3) Attach the hood release cable to the hood release mechanism.
  4) Bolt on the hood release.Three 10 mm bolts
  5) Install the fiberglass bracket with four 10 mm bolts.
  6) Plug in and install the headlight. Clip both ends on with the white plastic clips. That's pretty slick, GM.
  7)  Installed the broken but usable grill. I used two zip ties to tie on the right side which was more badly broken.
  8) Install the hood. I did it myself using the strap and ceiling hook. Bolt it on and check proper operation. I had to adjust it slightly using a bit of free play available on the hinge bolts. It also wouldn't lock down on the release mechanism. This is slotted and I adjusted it upward till the hood locked down and released properly.
    This repair cost $90 in scrap parts and took about five hours.

Now that's better. Thanks for looking at this and drive carefully. 


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