Repairing Early Diesel Front End Damage

This is not expensive if you find used parts and do the work yourself!

This is a fairly common accident and one that is fairly easy to repair as long as you can get used parts. If you try to have a body shop purchase new parts it just won't be worth it (and the insurance company will total the car anyway!)

Problem & Solution

Common among these chassis:


I have repaired over 20 Mercedes with this type of damage. We often get reports from our customers whose cars have succumb to a similar fate. I thought it would prove helpful if I posted some of my own experience in tackling this type of repair. The first thing you must do is analyze the extent of the damage.  How easy it is to repair is directly related to how slow you were going when the front of the car made impact.  High speed front end damage is almost always too expensive to fix.  Note that in this accident the damage occured above the front bumper and neither of the front fenders are buckled. If the front bumper was hit and is pushed in think about getting another car. This could mean major structural damage and the necessity to replace front suspension parts. If the sides of the front fenders are buckled out it means the hit occured at higher speed and you will have more work and expense. Remember, it's all about how much the car is worth. Even light front end hits like this will total these old diesels.  If it is damage like this then buy it back from the insurance company and fix it yourself. Do NOT take it to a body shop for the full work or your wallet will be emptied!  Do most of the work yourself - then take it in to an inexpensive paint shop to have the parts you replaced color matched.

For this type of damage please note the following before you decide to take on the project:

  • You will need to start by locating a front core support from a used car. This is the metal piece that goes between the two fenders just front of the radiator and holds head light buckets. If you try to straighten the old one the hood will never close right and you will always fight getting the head lights aimed properly.
  • Always replace a bent or buckled hood. NEVER try to straighten one.  I speak from experience. Metal stretch is a big problem and you can never get it right again.
  • Plan to always replace the hood hinges. They always get tweaked in a front end accident and are impossible to straighten properly.
  • Secure a good used set of head light bucket assemblies.  The mounting points always get broken off in this type of accident.
  • Find a good used electric aux fan and A/C condensor - unless you don't need A/C and then you can leave these off the car.
  • Radiator will almost always need to be replaced.
  • Radiator fan shroud should be thoroughly inspected for cracks.
  • Always replace the engine driven fan and fan clutch.
  • Always replace the water pump with new. The shaft usually gets pushed back and will jam in the future if you try to use the old.
  • Head light doors, grill and side markers will need to be replaced if broken.
  • Replace the flexible transmission cooler lines (automatic transmission only) with new.
  • Most often the engine oil cooler will survive but inspect it and the oil cooler hoses VERY carefully. 

The following pictures will give you a closeup of the extent of the damage here.  Once again if you can get all used parts and do the work yourself it might be worth saving the car.  You may need someone to help weld in the new core support and paint the hood and front parts when you are finished - but everything else is just unbolt and replace.  It can all be done in a weekend.  Kent Bergsma